On Thanksgiving morning, six young men stood in quiet conversation, on the corner of Clark and Washington streets, in the great and busy city of Chicago.
“I propose a walk out to Graceland, the beautiful city of the dead.” Thus spoke the leader of the company; and all agreeing, they journeyed forth. There are many beautiful monuments in that quiet city; and many a noted one from among the learned and the wealthy, from bank and store, from pulpit and bar, from church and state, has been borne there to rest; but the visit of these six young men at this time to this land of sacred, dust, is not for the purpose of the great and grand monuments, or visiting the graves of the rich. They have reached the beautiful entrance of Graceland, and, passing under the imposing archway through which a stream of sorrow flows day by day and hour by hour, they turn to the right; and following the principal drive for little more than a block, they reach an elevation where they stop to rest and meditate. And for these young men there is no more appropriate spot on earth to meditate than just here.
Reader, even though you are not interested, yet perhaps you would like to see and know something of this spot. Then draw near, see the place, and hear the words of these young men. It is a small, three-cornered lot, forming an almost perfect equilateral triangle, with three oak trees, one standing near each of the angles. Near the center of the lot is a single grave, that all through the summer months resembled a bed of the richest flowers; but today the flowers are gone, and two well-wrapped rosebushes are all that remain of the summer beauties. When the foliage is full upon the trees, this grave is covered with their mellow shadow all the day. At the head of the grave is a plain low head-stone of Italian marble. On the south end of the stone are these letters, “Sec. W.F.M.S.; " on the top of the stone the letters, " S. E. F.," and just beneath these, in large letters, “ Dear Mama." On the front of this stone arc these words: " Resting in the Everlasting Arms." Near the head of the grave and immediately under one of the trees, is a rustic chair, cut out of solid stone, that extends its mute invitation to every weary, sorrowing pilgrim to stop and rest.
Reader, do you ask whose dust lies here? Let these young men answer. The leader of the company says
"Here lies the dust of a holy woman, who found me two years ago, a stranger in the great city of Chicago-a stranger to all the people, but what was much more, a stranger to God. That lady invited me into her Bible-class, and though my garments were threadbare, she invited me to her home. She talked with me of Jesus and the better life. She pointed out to me the way up to a noble manhood, and by her leading I was constrained to give my heart to God; and this day Jesus is mine, and l am his.”
“And I,” says a second of these young men, “well remember the day when I landed in Chicago, a perfect stranger, direct from England. On my first Sabbath in the city, I was invited by a young man whose acquaintance I had made, to visit this lady's Bible-class. I hath no sooner entered the church than she had me by the hand, inquired of me whence I came, where I lived, and invited me to become a member of her class. Her sweet womanliness, her face of sunshine, and the music of her voice, charmed me into obedience to her wishes. I was constrained first to give my name to the class; afterward I gave my heart to God, and my name to the church. Praise God for such a friend"
A third young man speaks, and says “I came to Chicago from Toronto, Canada. I, too, was homeless and friendless. I heard of this lady, and her work for young men who were strangers in the city. I went to her class, and the first Sabbath took a back seat, and strove to hide myself but the eyes of this lady missed no young man who appeared to be alone or friendless. At the close of the lesson she came to me, and, as if I were her own son, she sat down beside me, and questioned me concerning my temporal and spiritual condition. I told her I had once been a Christian, and a member of the church, but that I had wandered far away into sin. She looked me in the face and said, while the big tears stood in her eyes "My Jesus is anxiously hunting and calling for his wandering sheep; let me lead you back into the fold." Yes; and she did lead me back into the fold, and this day I am one of the Great Shepherd’s flock.”
“I will tell you how it was with me," said a fourth. “I came from my Iowa home, and found myself in Chicago, without friends, without money, and without work. After tramping from early one morning until four o’clock in the afternoon without finding work, and without anything to eat, I called at this lady’s home, and asked for something to eat.
She gave me a little work to do, and while I was doing the work she ordered a dinner prepared for me. While I was eating, she questioned me as to my home, my purpose in the city, and my religious life. She said little at that time about my religious life, but finding me desirous to find work, she exerted herself for me; and through her influence, in two days I had a situation which I have been able to hold from that time to this. After she had found me good work with fair pay, she invited me into her class and her home, and afterwards she led me to Christ."
“And I,” said the fifth young man, "have more reason to thank God for this lady than ye all. Two years ago I was a poor drunkard. This lady found me at the Young Men’s Christian Association rooms, and asked me to call at her home. She prayed with me, she entreated me for Jesus’ sake, for my dear mother’s sake, and for my own sake, to reform. She induced me to sign the pledge; placed her hands upon my head, and offered, oh such a prayer for me. Then and there new strength came into my life; and from that day to this, by the grace of God, I have been able to live a sober life. Boys, I tell you, this dear woman was a mother to me.”
The sixth young man spoke and said “ Under God, all I am today, or hope to be in the days to come, I owe to this noble woman. No wonder they have cut the name ‘Dear Mamma’ on the headstone, for she was a mother to us all.”
The leader said : “You see on the head-stone, 'Resting in the Everlasting Arms.’ This reminds us that she sang, Safe in the Arms of Jesus.’ Boys, let us sing that hymn."
And they did sing it, with the tears streaming down their cheeks; after which they kneeled around the silent grave, and in voiceless prayer gave themselves anew to God.
Reader, would you know whose dust lies here? Over the back of the rustic chair hangs a scroll; draw near and read: “Born, July, 1838; “ " Departed, April, 1883." Read on: “Her work for God and humanity is her monument." Whose dust lies here? Ah! this is the grave of Sara Houghton Fawcett. And these young men, whom she had led to Jesus, came hither this Thanksgiving day, to offer their tribute of praise and thanksgiving to God for the memory they have of the blessed woman whose dust rests here by the chair of stone. She is not dead -“not dead, but departed.”
“There is no death! What seems so is transition,
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life Elysian,
Whose portal we call Death."
- N.W. Christian Advocate
Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer - 1893