There was sorrow in the house, for a four-year-old boy was dead. The parents had two older daughters, sweet, good girls, but the only son was dead. Most of all the mother suffered. Night and day she had cared for the sick child. She cried aloud in her agony and in her grief she turned from God with a heart black with despair. Her thoughts were all with her dead child and his innocent, childish prattle.
The day of the funeral came. Then she demanded to see her child, but her husband replied, "We have closed the coffin; it had to be done."
She was overcome with bitter tears at that.
The coffin was carried to the grave. The mother resigned herself to sorrow. Her family watched her with moist eyes . They themselves were grieving.
They persuaded her to lie down in her bed as quietly as though she were actually sleeping.
One night her husband listened to her steady breathing and really thought that at last she had found repose. With folded hands he thanked God, and soon fell into a sound, deep sleep. So he was not aware that his wife rose, dressed herself, and went quietly out of the house, to seek the grave of the child. She walked through the garden and into the field beyond, where a footpath led to the churchyard. Nobody saw her, and she saw no one.
It was a beautiful, starry night in September, and the air was mild. When she reached the little grave it was like one huge bouquet of fragrant flowers. And as she sat beside his bed her tears flowed freely and fell on the grave.
"You wish to go down to your child!" said someone shrouded in a heavy black mourning cloak. His stern face inspired trust, and his grave eyes sparkled with the light of youth. "Do you dare to follow me?" he asked further. "I am Death!"
When she bowed her head, he took that for a yes. Suddenly she sank with the black mantle of Death spread over her until the churchyard lay like a roof above her head. The black folds of the mantle fell aside. There was a twilight all around. Before her appeared her child. He smiled at her. She uttered a cry.
"My sweet mother! My own mother!" she heard her child say. "Look, Mother! There is nothing as beautiful as this on earth!"
The mother could not see it. She could hear the music and tones he heard there either.
"I can fly now, Mother!" said the child. "Fly, but when you cry it calls me back, I can no longer fly. Will you not let me?"
She kissed him, holding him tightly. Then she slowly remembered the beloved ones she had left in her home, she had nearly forgotten them for the dead.
"Mother," said the child, "The sun is rising!"
Then an overpowering light streamed out and she herself was carried upward, and when she lifted her head she saw she was lying on her child's grave in the churchyard. But in her dream there her understanding had been lighted and her torn heart had found relief at last.
The sun came out. Light was all about her; light was once more in her heart; she felt the goodness of God and hurried home. There she bent over her husband and woke him up with a warm, tender kiss. Now they could speak together of their loss.
Then she kissed her daughters.