Saturday, December 12, 2009

Go Then, My Dove

Cotton Mather married Abigail Philips, the first of his three wives, in 1686, when he was 23 and she was 16 years old. They were married 16 years before she passed away in December 1702 after a miscarriage and long illness. The grief he felt at losing his "consort" was immense. As much as he desired for her to be in heaven, letting go of his beloved was perhaps the most wrenching experience of his life. His diary records the thoughts of his heart on that last day they had together on earth before being reunited in heaven.

At last, the Black Day arrives, Tuesday, the first day of December. I had never yett seen such a Black Day, in all the Time of my Pilgrimage. The Desire of my Eyes is this Day to be taken from me. Her Death is lingring, and painful. All the Forenoon of this Day, she lies in the Pangs of Death; sensible, until the last Minute or two before her final expiration.

I cannot Remember the Discourses that passed between us. Only, her Devout Soul was full of Satisfaction, about her going to a State of Blessedness, with the Lord Jesus Christ, and as far as my Distress would permitt me, I studied how to confirm her Satisfaction and Consolation.

This I Remember, that a little while before she died, I asked her to tell me Faithfully, what Fault she had seen in my Conversation, that she would advise me to rectify. She replied, (which I wondred at,) That she knew of none, but that God had made what she had observed in my Conversation, exceedingly serviceable unto her, to bring her much nearer to Himself.

When I saw to what a point of Resignation I was now called of the Lord, I Resolved, with His Help therein to glorify Him. So, Two Hours before my Lovely Consort Expired, I kneeled by her Bed-Side, and I took into my two Hands, a dear Hand, the dearest in the World. With her thus in my Hands, I solemnly and sincerely gave her up unto the Lord: and in token of my Real Resignation, I gently putt her out of my Hands, and Laid away a most Lovely Hand, Resolving That I would never touch it any more.

This was the Hardest, and perhaps, the bravest Action, that ever I did. She afterwards told me, That she sign'd and seal'd my Act of Resignation. And tho' before that, she call'd for me, continually, she after this never asked for me any more.

She continued until near two a clock in the Afternoon, And the last Sensible Word that she Spoke, was to her weeping Father, Heaven, Heaven, will make amends for all.

When she was expired, I immediately prayed with her Father, and the other weeping people in the chamber, for the grace to carry it well under the present Calamity, and I did Consummate my Resignation, in terms as full of glory to the wisdome and Goodness and Alsufficiency of the Lord, as I could utter.

She Lived with me just as many years, as she had Lived in the World, before she came to me, with an Addition of the seven months, wherein her Dying Languishments were preparing me to part with her. When I had been married unto her just sixteen Years, (and as near as I can recollect, on that very week, sixteen Years, that I was married unto her) God began to take her from me. I then said unto my Father, I seem to feel in my Mind, the Bodings of a dark Cloud hanging over my Family. The Cloud came on, and now, see what was in it!

At her funeral, he shared with the mourners a poem he had written, which memorialized his wife's last words.

Go then, my Dove, but now no longer mine;
Leave Earth, and now in heavenly Glory shine.
Bright for thy Wisdome, Goodness, Beauty here;
Now brighter in a more angelick Sphere.
Jesus, with whom thy Soul did long to be,
Into His Ark, and Arms, has taken thee.
Dear Friends, with whom thou didst so dearly live,
Feel thy one Death to them a thousand give.
Thy Prayers are done; thy Alms are spent; thy Pains
Are ended now, in endless Joyes and Gains.
I faint, till thy last Words to Mind I call;
Rich Words! Heavn', Heav'n will make amends for all.


  1. With such piety and devotion these saints of old expressed and behaved themselves. That is very touching, Andrew, and it reminds me of how tightly I sometimes cling to those I love. May we read and yearn to draw nearer to God. Would that one could die with such grace,dignity and devotion to our Maker in complete confidence of going to our Heavenly Home .

  2. Andrew my computer won't always let me comment for some reason, but I am always grateful for these serious reminders to keep heaven in view even in our earthly loves. What a beautiful testimony for her to be able to give of her husband, and her husband of her -- and her of her own eternal hopes, cheering others even when she died.