Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898) on the Death of his Son

Quoted in Ryken Commentary (p. 316)

UnknownWhile Dabney was away on church business he learned that his son came down with a serious illness. He travelled all night to reach his dying son’s bedside. This is from a letter to his brother:

We used prompt measures, and sent early for the doctor, who did not think his case was dangerous; but he grew gradually worse until Sunday, when his symptoms became alarming, and he passed away, after great sufferings, Monday….A half hour before he died, he sank into a sleep, which became more and more quiet, until he gently sighed his soul away. This is the first death we have had in our family, and my first experience of any great sorrow. I have learned rapidly in the school of anguish this week, and am many years older than I was a few days ago. It was not so much that I could not give my darling up, but that I saw him suffer such pangs, and then fall under the grasp of the cruel destroyer, while I was impotent for his help. Ah! When the mighty wings of the angel of death nestle over your heart’s treasures, and his black shadow broods over your home, it shakes the heart with a shuddering terror and a horror of great darkness. To see my dear little one ravaged, crushed and destroyed, turning his beautiful liquid eyes to me and his weeping mother for help, after his gentle voice could no longer be heard, and to feel myself as helpless to give any aid – this tears my heart with anguish.

Dabney would later express his confident hope in the resurrection

Our parting is not for long. This spoiled and ruined body will be raised, and all its ravished beauties more than repaired….Our little boy, we hope and trust, is now a ransomed spirit….This is a hope inexpressible and full of glory. As I stand by the little grave, and think of the poor ruined clay within, that was a few days ago so beautiful, my heart bleeds. But I ask, “Where is the soul whose beams gave that clay all its beauty and preciousness?” I triumph. Has it not already begun, with an infant voice, the praises of my Savior?….He is in Christ’s heavenly house and under His guardian love. Now I feel, as never before, the blessedness of the redeeming grace and divine blood, which have ransomed my poor babe from all the sin and death he inherited through me.

(James W. Bruce, III, From Grief to Glory: Spiritual Journeys of Mourning Parents, 37-38)

One thought on “Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898) on the Death of his Son

  1. Very descriptive of anguish..I have heard a statistic that after a child dies many marriages break up because of the pain. I hope he addresses this as well.

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