“We brought the funeral to your own door:” 1910

https://collection.maas.museum/object/76876

THE ODDEST FUNERAL

The queerest funeral I ever heard of occurred in a neighboring village. It was the child of a very odd couple. The mother of the child was seventeen years old when she was married to a man of almost sixty. He was poor and crippled and prematurely old. It was a strange mating. She was not a refined girl. She had no opportunity to cultivate refinement. Her people were unrefined and illiterate. She went to work at a farm house and there met the man whom she married a year later. He was employed on the farm, so they returned to the farm and resumed their residence there as they had been living previous to their marriage.

Hired help on the farm do not have much spare time, and they soon begin to think that all the world is just as busy as they are, and I suppose it was this idea in the mind of the young mother that suggested the odd funeral for their dead child. The baby lived to be three months old. It never had been well and strong. ‘The father wanted to have a funeral and hearse, but the bereaved mother said it would be expensive; and, besides this, everybody was so busy, it being housecleaning time, that they would not want to knock off; to attend the funeral of such a little [one.]

“But I want our friends to see poor little Jimmy before he is laid away in the cold, dark grave, so we’ll borrow the horse and buggy and go to town and get a little white coffin and we’ll bring it down to the farm and put our dead baby in it, and tomorrow, John, you and I will take Jimmy in the buggy and go around to all our intimate friends and call them to the door to see the corpse. We won’t get out of the buggy at each house, because it is no longer fashionable for the mourning friends to get out of the carriage at the cemetery.”

John agreed to this, so they drove to town and purchased the little coffin, and on the way back they stopped at many houses to notify the friends that their baby was dead. John drove and the wife and mother held the little box on her knee, very often breaking down and weeping bitterly. In her own peculiar way, she felt very badly. Next morning the parents started out for the burial ground near the mother’s old home, six miles away. Had they driven directly to the cemetery and buried the child’s body it would not have, appeared so strange, but it was late in the afternoon by the time they arrived at the burial ground. It was pathetic, yet ridiculously strange and absurd. They would drive up to a friend’s door, and in her peculiar, shrill voice would call out:

“Hello, Misses Jenkins, Mrs., Jenkins! Come here! Oh, there you are–good morning, Mrs. Jenkins! We are going to bury our baby today and we thought you would like to take a last look at dear little Jimmy. We knew you all were so busy and could not take time to come to the funeral, so we brought the funeral to your own door.

“Don’t the little darling look sweet! And just to think that we must lay him in his little grave and never see him again! I thought you would want to see him, just because you were my friend before I was married, and because you have a baby of your own sleeping out under the sod, where the moonbeams fall so silently during the night, and the birds and the sunlight come in the morning, and the snow comes in the winter and hides the place for months, so that we may forget the little body wasting away to dust.”

Then they would drive on to another street and stop in front of a house and call out the inmates to see little Jimmy, and discuss death and bereavement and the coming resurrection and the celestial crown. The father never said a word, but allowed his wife to do all the talking, as she had done all the planning and arranging the funeral. Out in the country a friend induced them to stop and, eat dinner, placing little Jimmy’s body in the parlor. Several of the neighbors hearing of this, sent their children over to look at the dead child, and the mother took much pleasure in showing the corpse, even though a fresh fountain of sorrow opened at each exhibition.

It was late in the afternoon when they drove into the cemetery, where a number of the mother’s old time friends had gathered to await the arrival of the funeral. They had been there several hours, and some had gone home before the arrival of the coffin.

Here the little white box was opened for the last time and the dead, face fondled by the mother’s coarse hand before the coffin closed for all time. Then the sexton lowered the child into the little narrow grave, and the father led the weeping mother from the place.

Some people look upon the affair as ridiculous in the extreme, but it appears so only because it is a new departure, That mother felt just as badly as though the baby had been hauled to the cemetery in a white hearse, and she and her husband rode in a closed carriage. It came as near to being a private funeral as their circumstances would allow, but it will hardly become fashionable.

Jake Haiden [Jacob Huff] “The Philosphy of Jake Haiden” column for the Reading Times and “Faraway Moses” articles in Pennsylvania Grit

Reading [PA] Times 25 August 1910: p. 4

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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