Literary DCGD #34: Farewell to my Mother

September 1, 2013 | 3 comments
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When we discuss the Mormon trek, the focus is almost always on the physical suffering that many of the immigrants endured while traveling west. While certainly the physical struggle to cross the plains (covered in Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 34) was difficult, the pioneers suffered in other ways also. For example, many left family behind, generally compounded by their conversion to Mormonism, and often assuming that they would never see their family members again. The poem below describes just such a situation.

This poem is found in the memoir of Emily Pickering Anderson (1853-1930). She describes its genesis this way:

Miss Rhoda Watson, later becoming Brother Smith’s wife, was from the same branch as I and asked me to sit in a lifeboat which was on the deck of the ship. I said that I wished that I could compose some lines of poetry to send back home to my mother. She readily picked it up and together we composed the following:

Rhoda (1846-1919) and Emily evidently became friends while immigrating on the Minnesota in July 1868 (when Emily was 15 and Rhoda 22). Joining the Church may have been the cause of dissension in Emily’s family, because her father accompanied Emily and her older sister to Utah, while their mother remained in England. Her father died in 1870, less than 2 years after arriving there. Her mother died in 1914.

Both women married soon after arriving in Utah — Rhoda to Adam Craik Smyth in October 1868 and Emily to Anders Christian Anderson in October 1869, a month before her 16th birthday. How much of the poem each of the women composed isn’t known, nor do I know if either woman wrote more poetry later. Rhoda had two children, and settled in Manti after living in Salt Lake and in Cache county, Utah. Emily had 10 children, and also settled in Manti after living in Salt Lake.

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Farewell to my Mother

by Emily Pickering and Rhoda Watson

My mother dear, the time draws nigh,
When you and I must part.
It draws from me a heavy sigh;
I write with aching heart.
My native land is dear to me
But thou art dearer still.
Yet I shall gladly haste away,
It is my Father’s will.
And my Father’s own due time
I’ll gladly haste away.
Old England has no charms for me,
I have no wish to stay.
We’re going where we can make a home,
Far in the distant West,
Where want and misery is not known;
The weary there can rest.

 

And when we are in Deseret,
My love for you the same shall be,
Your kindness I shall ne’er forget.
Mother, farewell, remember me.
And when we are in our mountain home,
Our friends we’ll bear in mind.
Our constant prayer will be for them,
In the darkness left behind.
And now I leave my native land,
Without a parting sigh.
Home of my youth and childhood,
Forever now, goodbye.

July 2, 1867; in Anderson, Mary Pickering. Reminiscence.

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By the time that Emily Pickering and Rhoda Watson immigrated to Utah, preparing for the voyage was something Church leaders knew well how to do. The sea voyage was less than 2 weeks long, and the railroad had reduced the distance to be traveled on foot substantially. Traveling the entire distance by rail was just a year away.

But there is no way to really prepare for separation from a loved one for the rest of your life.

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3 Responses to Literary DCGD #34: Farewell to my Mother

  1. Amy T on September 1, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    What a great poem.

    “Far in the distant West,/Where want and misery is not known…”

    Isn’t this the emigrant’s dream: streets paved with gold?

    Many pioneers settled in fairly quickly, but as Pickering and Watson wrote this poem, many of the Cotton Missionaries were literally starving down in Washington County, Utah.

    One of those missionaries was Englishwoman Ann Prior Jarvis. She wrote about having to leave her widowed mother in 1857. This passage echoes the theme of the poem, so please forgive its length. It is edited for punctuation and capitalization.

    Soon after that time my mother had a dream about me. She thought my husband went to her and told we were going to the Valley. Oh, she said, I never can say good bye to my darling child. The dream troubled her so much she thought if she left the cottage she had lived in over 25 years and go and lived with my sister she could bear the parting better, so she went to live with my sister.

    When I would go and see her she would feel bad and say, I have no home now for you to come to… [Ann’s husband George Jarvis was a sailor and had just returned from a trip to China. Ann and her children often moved in with her mother during his voyages.]

    Her dream was realised in a short time. When the time came my mother would come and see me. After she would go home [George] would say, “Have you told your mother?” I would I could. He thought it was wrong not to tell her so he went to her one day and when he told her she fell on her chair and said, “I can never say good bye,” and what else she said he never would tell me.

    In dark hours of trial she has been with me in my dreams to comfort me. She would have come with me although over seventy years old — I am glad she did not — I am told she often said my religion was right before she died. She was a good woman; I know she was a noble woman and to think I shall see her again when I lay my body down, it almost makes want to go. I shall never have a friend quite so true to me under all circumstances, peace to her memory. She said when I do die I can not have you with me. Her words were true as I was in St. George….

    When we parted she said it was worse than death. Oh, the agony of mind when we part from those we love. Knowing I was obeying Gods command comforted me, and I never realized how my poor mother felt, until I had my children leave.

  2. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2013 at 7:53 am

    “I never realized how my poor mother felt, until I had my children leave”

    Now that is a sermon in a sentence…

    Thanks for the great addition, Amy.

  3. Zeke Smyth on November 2, 2013 at 4:48 am

    Kent what other info do u have on the girls ?