Tears are sacred. They are evidence rather of power than of weakness, for they have an eloquence that the greatest orator may not develop. Chiefly this is so because they speak of love, through overwhelming grief and deep and abiding conviction of loss. Thus bereaved, is there an argument wanting to evince the fact that man is more than mortal? Grief, strongly excited, is the peculiar property of man, and whether it be the easily moved tears of wife or mother, or the sternly repressed but moving sympathy of man—let the mourner be respected, almost envied even; he has manifested the strongest proof of unselfishness. When we contemplate grief in the abstract there is a pleasure in such thought—an awful pleasure—for it gratifies us to know that there are those who will weep for us. Some there be who are loth to live, and many are so because they have not one friend to mourn for them—their life is desolate because of that fact.

Again, tears are the sincere expression of the heart and soul. Sorrow or joy, and guilt and innocence too, cause tears. And they make clean the soul. Also they appeal, more nearly than can the most impassioned utterance.

Sometimes they mellow and calm a sad, worn heart; often they relieve, when no other agency can, the contemplation of some fearful catastrophe wherein human beings were as straws in the wind, went down like wheat before the scythe of the reaper, the reaper Death:

There is a reaper whose name is Death,
And with his sickle keen
He reaps the bearded wheat at a breath,
And the flowers that grow between.

Death, the profoundest of all facts, after the conviction that there is a God—Death is the minister that calls forth tears and they have stolen forth o’er battlefields and over pestilence camps; as well as by the private bier in humble home and in neglected quarters. Also in the waste sands of the desert, or on the far off isles of the sea, when storm-cast mariners have dug the shallow trench and laid to rest the comrade who has borne the hardship and privation of the shipwreck and the storm, the agony for water and the craze for food. Comrades who have proven one another through such trials weep with sincerest pity when they lose one of their number. Nor need they be ashamed of showing grief. Let manhood quench not the flow that is the sincere testimony to his sentiment and affection, that is a sincere evidence that his grief is genuine.

When through the dreary, storm-bound and deserted streets the melancholy cortege winds, when from the homes where but just now the besom of destruction swept and porch and rooftree crashed, and the life of the loved one was in an instant stricken out, when from these homes is heard steal forth the sobs of mourning and the melancholy signs of woe, in all this sad and trying spectacle after the flood, be sure that tears are doing their healing work, relieving the souls of those who shed them. Through the Miami Valley and in the Indiana towns where the fury of the tempest of the last great cataclysm thundered, there was mourning for the hosts of dead that so pitiably went down. Like a stealthy thief in the night the mighty flood had stolen upon them, unnoted of any, scarcely projected by the scientific watchers of the weather who are looked upon to give timely warning when the elements brood and gather for a storm. Some sleeping in their beds, some gathered in happy entertainments, the wind and rain and lightning fell upon them all and took its toll of lives by hundreds. "Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted," says the sacred writer. It may be considered certain that, throughout the length and breadth of the storm-stricken area, there are households without number rendered desolate by reason of the frightful visitation which the Lord saw fit to send upon his people.

But , sorrows are like the tempests. When afar off they look black, they are frightful while they last, for a moment of agony, being convulsive reminders of the fact that all flesh is grass and that as a flower of the field man fadeth; but anon the heavens are cleared and smile once more, the dayspring comes, beautiful and peaceful nature resumes her normal sway, and we are enabled to feel that somehow, somewhere there must be an explanation, an alleviation for this great grief that has been sent upon us. It must be remembered, too, that sorrow is like night. Day makes the soul happy, but night brings out the stars and reveals to man the vastness of the universe.

An altered world, an altered sky is presented to the one who has known grief. The whole conception of God’s plan and purpose may be enlarged for such an one. For this is the compensation of sorrow: that it draws us out of ourselves, makes us see with an extended, clearer vision and makes us to know things deeper than we had dreamed before our hearts were wakened and attuned to grief. For sorrow is the teacher of the intelligence. From it, as bees draw honey from a dry, unsavory herb, man may extract that which shall enrich his understanding and inspire his soul.

Great events where sorrow also comes are stamped on the consciousness indelibly. And there is a tenderness evolved that makes it seem that cold, impassive nature were somehow allied with man. Almost in a fit of human rage she seemingly has wrested trees from their roots, the buildings from their foundations and wrought maliciously in the destruction of property. Hence here is the time for man to realize his superiority to nature, his ability to conquer all that she may visit on him, even grief. Man and nature are equal contenders, one to conquer the earth and subdue it, in the Bible’s phrase, the other to exalt or depress man seemingly at its pleasure. Over all is the one just God, to whom man, confessing his utter dependence and need, may turn for refuge. And so, redeemed, exalted, purified, man may return from his communion with the Lord and take upon himself a greater responsibility of care for the dependent, the suffering and the outcast.

David was such a man. He felt at first the anger of the Lord and knew his own unworthiness. His well beloved son was ingrate to him and his heart was pierced with woe. But out of his affliction came the Psalms, which have comforted untold thousands of despairing hearts since David’s time. Sorrow was the exalter and the redemptor of the writer of the Psalms! So, in a less degree, may each and every one who felt the fury of the elements and had their loved ones taken from them—so may they rise to the occasion of the deeper life which loss and suffering gives entrance to. Privileged to behold and be near unto a vast undertaking of nature, and to be stricken with the sorrow which that undertaking wrought, the sufferers from the recent storm may be assured that there has nothing happened that has not been ordained by an all-merciful and Higher Power; they may creep close to that Power in spirit and say, "Not my will but Thine be done!"

For the simplest and most certain use of sorrow is to take our thoughts and our sentiments back to the Loving Father. We are not conscious of our need of Him in prosperous days; we rejoice in sunshine and in the former and the latter rains, and pile up wealth, careful of that. But sooner or later the dread summons comes for some loved person who was all the world to us. Then in sorrow are our eyes opened and we know of deeper things than was our privilege before. Then are we conscious of a world beyond our own, a land that we must strive to attain. Then is revealed the possibilities of our own unguessed nature yearning unto God, his creature waken to the knowledge of his love. Sorrow is the interpreter of the all-loving Lord, his minister and his exhorter leading man to love and worship him.

This is revealed in little in every home wherein a death occurs. After the great storm which in this volume is described, it is set forth on a profound and moving scale. Sorrow has revealed this fact to the dwellers in Omaha and its vicinity, in the Miami Valley and its adjacent region; their utter dependence upon God. In time of destruction such as they have undergone, what other refuge have they to attain? Help —there is none in a catastrophe like this. In the twinkling of an eye it comes, destroys, is gone! No refuge possible but the unseen One who holds them in the hollow of his hand.


"O Merciful God and Heavenly Father, who has taught us in Thy holy word that Thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men, give ear to the prayers which we humbly offer to Thee in behalf of our brethren who are suffering from the great water floods. Cause them in their sorrow to experience the comfort of Thy, presence in their bewilderment the guidance of Thy wisdom.

"Stir up, we beseech Thee, the wills of Thy people to minister with generous aid to their present needs, and so overule in Thy providence, this great and sore calamity that we may be brought nearer to Thee and be knit more closely one to another in sympathy and love. All which we humbly ask through Jesus Christ our Lord., Amen."

[The above prayer was used in many churches on the Sunday following the flood at the suggestion of Bishop David H. Greer of New York.]

Chapter 1

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© 2001, Lynn Waterman