Jesus Is Gathering Buds
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2005
A bud the Father gave us,
A pure and lovely child.
He gave him to our keeping
To cherish undefiled.
But just as he was opening
To the glory of the day
Down came the heavenly Father
And took our bud away.
Author and Title Unknown
I come from a very large family - all fine people, well and good. I had two Aunt Elizabeth's who both died shortly after their birth. My two aunts were the first child for both of my Grandmothers. They were born back in the day when you had your children at home. The dining room table did double duty as the labour and delivery room. I never heard either of my Grandmother's mention the Elizabeth's and I wonder what sense of sadness both of them felt at the loss of their first child. If they hadn't been recorded in the family geneology and memorialized with a small marker in the family cemetery, I wouldn't even know of them. I may never have known them but I do think of them often. One Grandmother went on to have ten more children. She had three sisters. My other Grandmother had five more children. She had come from a family of 10 brothers and 2 sisters. I told you I came from a big family.
Epitaph upon a Child that died
by Robert Herrick
Here she lies, a pretty bud,
Lately made of flesh and blood:
Who as soon fell fast asleep
As her little eyes did peep.
Give her strewings, but not stir
The earth that lightly covers her.
My Grandmother with the 10 children had 7 boys and three girls. One of her sisters lived close by and she had four children; 3 boys and 1 girl. Between them they had the town baseball, hockey and football teams. Those young men - and they were a good looking bunch - were together all the time, every day of their lives. One of the cousins, Doug, was a great hockey player - I mean like NHL material to hear the rare story about Doug that comes up at a family gathering. When they were teenagers Doug came down with a case of Trench Mouth which is a very painful bacterial infection and ulceration of the gums. His condition didn't respond to treatment and his gums turned black. Doug became quite ill and was finally diagnosed with leukemia - in post WWII they didn't have the advanced leukemia treatments that we have now. Doug took a bad turn at home. The doctor was called and my cousin Doug was carried on a chair by his father and cousin to the car to be taken to hospital. The doctor turned to Doug's mother and said, "Your boy's not coming home." Doug died two weeks later. There are treatments for leukemia now and there are many people living now who have survived this devastating illness. We are seeing success with Bone Marrow transplants and hundreds of people in Canada benefit from this every year. Fewer than 30% of people with leukemia have a suitable donor in their family. Please consider visiting Canadian Blood Services to register as a Bone Marrow or a Blood donor. Remember Doug and know that maybe your kindness will prevent another doctor from having to tell a Mother that her child won't be coming home.
My other Grandmother had a niece she especially liked named Florence. I remember meeting her at a family reunion and we caught minnows in a jar out of the creek that ran through the property. It is one of those vague childhood memories, a strong moment where I can see her reaching into the creek with the jar to catch the minnows for this silly cousin who had never seen a minnow before. She was lovely and fresh in that moment. A nice smile, fun loving and kind hearted. Florence was 16 and she had her driver's license. It was a hot summer afternoon and she loaded the neighbour's children into the station wagon - there were 8 of them all under the age of 10 - and took them to the truck stop for ice cream. What a lovely treat that must have seemed like on a hot day. They left the truck stop with their ice cream. Florence turned in front of a transport truck and in a brief few seconds on a hot summer day while eating ice cream, Florence and all the children died. Cars didn't have seatbelts in those days. It was a tragic and heart wrenching moment. One could only imagine the horror and the grief. No one knows what really happened that day, what strange set of circumstance or fate that would create such a devastation. I think of that girl by the creek often and sometimes I think that was a blessing that she died too - it would have been too much to try and live with, whether it was her fault or not.
Epitaph on an Infant
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"How often does the heav'nly Shepherd
His peculiar love display;
When He comes His flock to visit,
And a lamb He bears away; -
Away to those sweet fields above,
Where the lov'd ones hear His voice,
See His face, and weep no more, -
For in heav'n they all rejoice."
"Ere sin could blight, or sorrow fade,
Death came with friendly care,
The opening buds to heaven convey'd,
And bade them blossom there."
My father's oldest sister is a very special woman. She had 4 children, 3 boys and a girl. One of the boys was named after Doug, her daughter she named Helen, after herself. I don't remember Helen but there is a nice picture of Helen, her brothers, my brother and myself that was taken when she was 6. I was just a baby sitting on her oldest brother's knee in the picture. Helen had a very pretty angelic face. She had a sweet look about her and a sunshiny sparkle in her eyes - I have no doubt a bit of mischief in her as well. Helen contracted encephalitis about 6 weeks after this picture was taken. She was dead another 6 weeks later. My Mother told me this story of Helen after my friends' son, Russell, had died at the age of 6 from a massive brain tumour - Neuroblastoma. He had been a constant playmate to young daughter and Russell was a vibrant, playful and loving young man. They were loving and devoted parents and I felt powerless as this tragedy enveloped their family. His sad passing and their deep sorrow had left me with feelings of grief, gloom, overwhelming foreboding and a strange aching coldness around my heart. A child's funeral is powerful and humbling. It also leaves you questioning Gods' part in all of this and why He would allow such horrible things to occur.
Little Helen's funeral was a very sad affair. This was a large family. Everyone was married and had young children of their own. There were 25 grandchildren under the age of 14. There was a bumper crop in the age 2-5 range and Helen's death had hit everyone hard. People were all still in deep shock. A woman with a powerful voice and presence, who sang Christian and Gospel music, was the soloist at Helen's funeral. To a church packed full of shell shocked mourners she sang a song. Have you ever noticed that there are songs, like sorrows and scars, which will never leave you. I have never heard this song but I can feel it's impact to this day. The song she sang was called "Gathering Buds". She sang verse after verse after verse after verse and it just went on and on and on and on. Each verse with delivered with more power than the last, until the whole church was on their knees weeping openly. She had reached down into everyone with the power of this painful lament and ripped their grief to the surface. This song and the power of her voice opened the floodgate of much needed emotional release.
I have looked on the internet for the lyrics and found the following wordings for the traditional Bluegrass Gospel song called "Gathering Buds" by James D. Vaughan. This song was recorded by Doc Watson (the world's greatest flat picker) on his album "On Praying Ground" which was recorded in 1990. Vaughn also wrote "Will the Circle be Unbroken". I hope that this is the right song, here are the words.
Jesus has taken a beautiful bud
Out of the garden of love
Borne it away to the city of God
Home of the angels above.
Gathering buds, gathering buds
Wonderful care will be giv'n
Jesus is gathering, day after day
Buds for the palace of Heaven.
Full blooming flowers alone will not do
Some must be young and ungrown
So the frail buds He is gathering too
Beautiful gems for His throne.
Fathers and mothers, weep not or be sad
Still on the Savior rely
You shall behold them again and be glad
Beautiful flowers on high.
Blooming in beauty in Heaven they are
Blooming for you and for me
Follow the Lord, tho' the city be far
'til our bright blossoms we see.
I do not know if Jesus is gathering buds and if I get to Heaven I'm definitely checking out that garden. I also don't find that to be a particularly comforting thought but I try to remember that the pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again. No matter who we have lost they still are a part of our life that is forever in bud. I guess those are the buds that I am gathering.