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Quotations about Death of a Child,
Loss of Son or Daughter

Why do the loveliest of earth
      The soonest pass away,—
Like radiant flowers of summer birth,
      earliest to decay?
They come, like angel forms, to bless
      Our visions for a while;
They make our daily burden less,
      And half our tears beguile.
They grow so deeply in our hearts,
      We make them idols there;
Till God, in love, asunder parts,
      The ties which bind them here.
~Author unknown, 1800s

It is hard to believe it: that we shall no more hear the glad voice, nor meet the merry laugh that burst so often from its glad heart. ~Samuel Irenæus Prime, Thoughts on the Death of Little Children, 1866

Earth has one angel less, and heaven one more... ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

It was not very long before that room again knew her, often; sitting there alone, as patient and as mild as when she had watched beside the little bed. When any sharp sense of its being empty smote upon her, she could kneel beside it, and pray GOD — it was the pouring out of her full heart — to let one angel love her and remember her. ~Charles Dickens

      Sometimes you must give your child back to God, and this giving is very hard. But you can keep the memories of your darling. You can keep the hours of happiness you had with your little one. God gives you in exchange a key — the golden key of faith and love.
      Your little child has taught you to follow it. There will not be a sunrise or a sunset when you will not in imagination go through the gate of heaven after it. There is no door so fast that a mother's love and a father's love will not open it and follow a beloved child. This child will guide you a thousand times into a realization of the great spirit-land, and into a faith of the invisible. ~Henry Ward Beecher  [a little altered —tg]

The sunshine from our house is gone,
And from our hearts their peace and joy;
We feel so terribly alone
Without thee, dearest boy!
~William W. Story, "To a Departed Child"

The whole heaven is full of little cherub faces. ~Henry Ward Beecher

The loss of a sweet and beloved child is a sorrow of which none but those who have suffered can have the least realizing sense; it is unlike that of any other relation; it is not like the tearing off simply of a limb, but unwinding and breaking to pieces the little tendrils that have grown around the heart and become part of one's self. It is the opening of all the feelings, and pouring sorrow in at every pore. ~Nathaniel R. Stimson, "The Loss of a Child"

We mourn for thee when blind, blank night
      The chamber fills;
We pine for thee when morn's first light
      Reddens the hills;
The sun, the moon, the stars, the sea,
All, to the wall flower and wild pea,
Are changed — we saw the world through thee...
~D. M. Moir, "Casa Wappy"

We thank God for sending this little gift into our lives. We thank God for the light which our child kindled here on earth, and which burned with so pure a flame. ~Henry Ward Beecher  [a little altered —tg]

Whene'er I close the door at night,
And turn the creaking key about,
A pang renewed assails my heart—
I think my darling is shut out;
Think that, beneath these starry skies
He wanders, with his little feet...
Within the darkened porch I stand—
Scarce knowing why, I linger long;
O, could I call thee back to me,
Bright bird of heaven, with sooth or song!...
~Julia Ward Howe, "The Lamb Without"

My son, thou wast my heart's delight,
Thy morn of life was gay and cheery;
That morn has rushed to sudden night,
Thy father's house is sad and dreary.
~Daniel Webster, "The Seraph Child," 1825

It is no little thing, when a fresh soul
And a fresh heart, with their unmeasured scope
For good, not gravitating earthward yet,
But circling in diviner periods,
Are sent into the world,—no little thing,
When this unbounded possibility
Into the outer silence is withdrawn...
~James Russell Lowell, "On the Death of a Friend's Child," 1844

To those who are weeping over empty cradles and tenantless little beds:  These little missed ones — O, how they are missed! — are chosen lambs, gathered into the fold of the Good Shepherd; beauteous buds, and sweet, half-opened blossoms... they are set as living stars in a crown of immortal beauty. They are transformed by heavenly magic into spirits to watch over you:—
      “How changed, dear friend, are thy part and thy child's!
      He bends over thy cradle now, or holds
      His warning finger out to be thy guide;
      Thou art the nursling now.”

~William Simonds, Our Little Ones in Heaven, 1858  [A little altered. He is quoting J. R. Lowell, "On the Death of a Friend's Child." —tg]

As I kiss your pictured face, so dear,
      As I look into your eyes, so clear,
      I feel your presence and know you're here
      With your loving arms around me!
I gaze at you in the golden frame;
      And it seems I hear you speak my name,
      Saying, "Mother, dear, I'm just the same;
      Don't weep, for we're still together!"...
Dear one, as I kiss the glass, so cold,
      That covers your pictured face, I'll hold
      Knowledge, more precious than all the gold,
      That you'll be near me forever!
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "The Picture," 1940s

Calm on the bosom of thy God,
Young spirit! rest thee now...
~Felicia Hemans, "A Dirge"

Death, at all times, even under the least trying circumstances, is a sad thing, and leaves its mark deep in the memory of the living; but the death of a bright, cheerful, happy child, whose laugh has rung out sweet and clear as the song of the morning lark, and echoed through every room with a sweeter music; whose tottering steps and prattling tongue ever gave joy to the household, and whose pleasant, gleeful mirth touched every ear... who gave delight to all, and was really a well-spring of pleasure to the soul, — leaves an impression never to be effaced. It changes joy into sadness, and gives a gloomy, dark and sorrowful shade to everything that before was pleasant and agreeable. The doors creak louder on their hinges — the unfrequented rooms are stiller, darker, gloomier — the wind has a deeper moan — the very sunshine and the storm seem to speak in subdued tones. The vacant chair at the table, the empty crib, the little shoes on the shelf, the hat on the hook, the broken toy, the little wagon — all say "He is gone." ~Nathaniel R. Stimson, "The Loss of a Child"

Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form;
Then, have I reason to be fond of grief?
Fare you well: had you such a loss as I,
I could give better comfort than you do.
I will not keep this form upon my head,
When there is such disorder in my wit.
O Lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son!
My life, my joy, my food, my all the world!
My widow-comfort, and my sorrows' cure!
~William Shakespeare, King John, c.1596  [III, 4, Constance]

I held thee on my knee, my son!
And kissed thee laughing, kissed thee weeping;
But ah! thy little day is done...
thou art in thy tomb before me.
~Daniel Webster, "The Seraph Child," 1825

His heart grew gentle and peaceful, and his thoughts went far back to a distant green grove where his own little one was sleeping. "Seems to me I've loved all little ones ever since," he said, thinking far back to the Christmas week when his lamb was laid to rest. "Well, she shall not return to me, but I shall go to her." ~Harriet Beecher Stowe, "Betty's Bright Idea," 1876

      His was the morning hour,
And he hath passed in beauty from the day,
      A bud, not yet a flower,
Torn, in its sweetness, from its parents away;
The death-wind swept him to his soft repose,
As frost, in spring-time, blights the early rose.
~Willis Gaylord Clark, "Death of the First Born"  [a little altered —tg]

...those who have lost an infant, are never, as it were, without an infant child. They are the only persons, who, in one sense, retain it always... The other children grow up to manhood and womanhood, and suffer all the changes of mortality. This one alone is rendered an immortal child. Death has arrested it with its kindly harshness, and blessed it into an eternal image of youth and innocence. ~Leigh Hunt, "On the Deaths of Little Children," c. 1850  ["They only who have lost a child in infancy are sure of a babe forever." —tg]

O! say not 'twere a keener blow
To lose a child of riper years,
You cannot feel a mother's woe,
You cannot dry a mother's tears...
~Thomas Haynes Bayly, "The Loss of a Little Child"

I think every parent must have a sense of failure, even of sin, merely in remaining alive after the death of a child. One feels that it is not right to live when one's child has died, that one should somehow have found the way to give one's life to save his life. ~Frances Fineman Gunther, in John Gunther, Death Be Not Proud, 1949

Have we not knelt beside his bed,
And watched our first-born blossom die?
Hoped, till the shade of hope had fled,
Then wept till feeling's fount was dry?
Was it not sweet in that dark hour,
To think, 'mid mutual tears and sighs,
Our bud had left its earthly bower,
And burst to bloom in Paradise?
~A. A. Watts, "The Gathered Bud"

The little tender innocent blue-eyed daughter of my heart — the life of my own life... is gone!... Never can I see another day of peace on earth!... A precious being — my Angel-child... In the deep grave of the silence of her voice the music of the world is buried! I have lost the whole world — there can be no more spring nor summer — but an endless winter cold and chilly to the heart! ~Thomas H. Chivers, letter to Edgar A. Poe, 1842

The sweetest voice is hushed,
The loveliest smile is gone;
The foot of Death has crushed
My child — my dearest one.
Was there no other place to tread,
That he must trample on thy head?
That foot is on my heart,
With all its fatal weight
It mangles every part,
And lays me desolate...
~Dudley Phelps, "The Death of a Daughter"

Love is love even there and everywhere. When the explorers among ancient tombs came upon a child's body, and over it this inscription, "Oh, my life, my love, my little one," every father's heart gave a great sob, and again the stones were wet with tears where father's tears had fallen three thousand years before. ~Rev. James Henry Ecob, D.D. (1844–1921), "The Gospel for the Twentieth Century," 1901

...Though much it seems a wonder and a wo
That one so loved should be so early lost,
And hallowed tears may unforbidden flow
To mourn the blossom that we cherished most:
Yet all is well; God's good design I see,
That where our treasure is, our hearts may be!
~J. G. Saxe, "Bereavement"

An infant's soul — the sweetest thing on earth... ~Anonymous, 1800s

To see budding loveliness, with all its artless ways and its treasures of unfolded hopes, nipt in a night by the frosty touch of the destroyer — to witness the death-agonies of helpless, confiding, mutely-appealing innocence, without the power of relief— to commit to the dust in its feeble infancy the child upon whose strong arm and loving heart you had hoped to lean in the days of your own weakness and decay— this is more than a sad reversal of the order of nature; it is, to the sensitive and affectionate heart, one of the sharpest pangs it is capable of enduring. ~William Simonds, Our Little Ones in Heaven, 1858

My babe is cradled in the tomb;
Like some fair blossom torn away
Before its perfect bloom.
~Thomas Haynes Bayly, "The Loss of a Little Child"

A light is from our household gone,
A voice we loved is stilled.
A place is vacant at our hearth
Which never can be filled;
A gentle heart, that throbbed but now
With tenderness and love,
Has hushed its weary throbbings here,
To throb in bliss above...
~Anonymous, "My Child," 1800s

Fate gave the word, the arrow sped,
And pierced the darling's heart;
And with him all the joys are fled,
Life can to me impart.
By cruel hands the sapling drops,
In dust dishonored laid:
So fell the pride of all my hopes,
My age's future shade...
Death, oft I've fear'd thy fatal blow,
Now, fond I bare my breast;
O, do thou kindly lay me low
With him I love, at rest!
~Robert Burns, "A Mother's Lament for the Death of Her Son"

How beautiful will brother be,
When God shall give him wings,
Above this dying world to flee,
And live with heavenly things!
~Caroline Gilman, "Mother, What Is Death?"

I'm thinking of my child, my little one, who's under the roots of the grass. Those others have still got them in the flesh walking about, yet they've gone off to look for a better place. But for me, all that was dear to me has become the grass and water of this place, and I'll stay here until I become part of this earth as well. ~Jean Giono (1895–1970), Regain, 1930, translated from the French by Henri Fluchè and Geoffrey Myers, Harvest, 1939  [a little altered –tg]

The night is late, the house is still;
The angels of the hour fulfil
Their tender ministries, and move
From couch to couch, in cares of love...
His will be done, His will be done!
Who gave and took away my son...
But for Charlie's sake I will arise...
Eat, and be glad, and praise the Lord...
For Charlie's sake my heart is dressed,
As for its birth-day in its best;
For Charlie's sake we leave the rest
To Him who gave, and who did take...
~John Williamson Palmer, "For Charlie's Sake," 1861

Thou bright and star-like spirit!
That, in my visions wild,
I see mid heaven's seraphic host—
O! canst thou be my child?...
~Thomas Ward, "To an Infant in Heaven"

Come back to me, my child! I call thee ever,
All the day long I listen for thy voice, —
The ringing laugh that made my heart rejoice;
I miss it 'midst life's languishment and fever!...
Come back, my child! I wander hopeless-hearted
Where'er thy little feet have dancing strayed;
Sad is the home whence thy sweet face hath parted,
Silent the nursery where thou 'st prattling played!
Earth wears for me but one unvarying gloom,
O'ershadowed by the thought that thou art in the tomb!
Come back to me, my child! though but in dreams, —
Thine angel-image let me clasp once more!
If, haply, o'er my couch still slumber gleams...
~Elizabeth Jessup Eames, "My Child," 1846

I rocked her in the cradle,
And laid her in the tomb.
~Anonymous, 1800s

Farewell, then, — for awhile, farewell —
Pride of my heart!
It cannot be that long we dwell,
Thus torn apart;
Time's shadows like the shuttle flee;
And dark howe'er life's night may be,
Beyond the grave I'll meet with thee...
~D. M. Moir, "Casa Wappy"

My boy — ah me! the sweetness,
      The anguish of that word! —
My boy, when in strange night dreams
      My slumbering soul is stirred;
When music floats around me,
      When soft lips touch my brow,
And whisper gentle greetings,
      Oh, tell me, is it thou?...
I know this life so cherished,
      Which sprang within my heart,
Which formed of my own being
      So beautiful a part;
This precious, winsome creature,
      My unfledged, voiceless dove,
Lifts now a seraph’s pinion,
      warbles lays of love...
~Emily Chubbuck Judson, “Angel Charley,” 1850

I am all alone in my chamber now,
And the midnight hour is near...
Over my soul, in its solitude,
Sweet feelings of sadness glide;
For my heart and my eyes are full, when I think
Of the little boy that died...
~Joshua D. Robinson

      Mother, thy child is blessed;
And though his presence may be lost to thee,
      And vacant leave thy breast,
And missed, a sweet load from thy parent knee;
Though tones familiar from thine ear have passed,
Thou 'lt meet thy sweet child with his Lord at last.
~Willis Gaylord Clark, "Death of the First Born"  [a little altered —tg]

She sits beside the cradle,
And her tears are streaming fast,
For she sees the present only,
While she thinks of all the past;
Of the days so full of gladness,
When her first-born's answering kiss
Filled her soul with such a rapture
That it knew no other bliss.
O! those happy, happy moments!
They but deepen her despair,
For she bends above the cradle,
And her baby is not there!...
~Robert S. Chilton, "The Empty Cradle"

There's many an empty cradle,
      There's many a vacant bed,
There's many a lonely bosom,
      Whose joy and light are fled;
For thick in every graveyard
      The little hillocks lie —
And every hillock represents
      An angel in the sky.
~Anonymous, "Little Graves," 1800s

I shall miss him when the flowers come
In the garden where he played;
I shall miss him more by the fire-side,
When the flowers have all decayed...
~Joshua D. Robinson

Happy children! thus to flee
Early to their home above!
Happy those below, to be
Upward drawn by chords of love!
~Anonymous, 1800s

I lay my tasks down one by one;
I sit in the silence in twilight's grace.
Out of the shadows, deep and dun,
Steals, like a star, my Baby's face...
~Mary Clemmer (1831–1884), "The Childless Mother"

I will take up my work once more,
As if I had never laid it down.
Who will dream that I ever wore,
In triumph, motherhood's sacred crown?...
~Mary Clemmer (1831–1884), "The Childless Mother"

Thanks, dear Shepherd! my lamb is safe,—
Safe from sorrow, and safe from sin.
Nevertheless, the way is long,
And tears leap up in the light of the sun.
I'd give my world for a cradle-song,
And a kiss from Baby — only one.
~Mary Clemmer (1831–1884), "The Childless Mother"

      Oh, where 's my pet, my pet?
      My eyes are all unwet,
Dried by the fever of my long despair;
My empty hands ache for their wonted care,
      The child that made life fair.
      Where are the carolling feet,
      Playing with the music sweet,
Playing beside me on the parlor floor?
Their music dies on the far spirit-shore,
      Their music 's mine no more...
      Still, in my weak despair,
      Through the vast voids of air,
My sick soul calls thee with a voice forlorn;
I bleed for the young life from my life torn,
      The love from my love shorn.
      I want the warm child-lips,
      The rosy finger-tips,
Nestling in mine once more at twilight fall,—
Listening to hear the quick step in the hall,
      To hear the evening call
      Of the belovèd voice,
      Which made our hearts rejoice.
I yearn to see the twinkling little feet,
All tremulously eager, fly to greet
      Papa, with kisses sweet...
      The long unbroken gloom,
      The silence of this room,
How can I bear it as the days move on,—
As years creep on how can I live alone,
      Shorn of my beautiful one?...
      Child, gone into the sky,
      To me, thou 'lt never die,
The mother-life will never cease to bleed,
The mother-heart can never cease to need
      Its missing morning meed...
~Mary Clemmer (1831–1884), "The Lost Pet"

Acknowledgment:  Thank you, Mr William Simonds! You gave me a great head start on my task.

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published 2016 Jun 30
revised 2020 Oct 30
last saved 2023 Dec 12