I recently found a 200-year-old article about a family member who died in 1810. She was a daughter of my 4th-great grandfather, making her my 4th-great aunt. I offer her story, written by her husband, as an example of how to live, and how to die. I look forward to meeting her some day!
Words in [brackets] were added by me. The spelling and punctuation have been left as they were originally written in 1813. I added a few comments at the end.
Memoir of Mrs. Ruth Roach, [maiden: Dixon, daughter of Charles Dunbar Dixon III and Susanna (Coats) Dixon], Of Cumberland, Nova Scotia. written by her husband. [Thomas Roach on the passing of his wife, Ruth Roach. Published in the Wesleyan-Methodist Journal, London, VOL. XXXVIII. May, 1815, p. 359ff]
My late dear partner was the third daughter of Charles Dixon, Esq. who removed from about Hutton Rudby, in Yorkshire, to Nova Scotia, in the year 1771, with many others, several of whom, as well as Mr. Dixon, were members of the Methodist Society, and were among the first fruits of the labours of that man of God, the Rev. John Wesley.
My dear wife was brought up by her parents in the fear of God, and in a strict observance of the duties of religion. In her youth she manifested a love to the ways of God, and to his people, especially to his ministers, as the heralds of salvation. When about eighteen years of age, she joined the Methodist society, and soon found the Gospel to be the power of God to her salvation. Being of a very diffident [distrustful, reserved, hesitant] disposition, and afraid of deceiving herself, she was for a long time, previous to her joining the society, in great distress of mind; at length, after many months of sorrow, chiefly spent in tears and prayers, she was enabled wholly to trust [line of perhaps 8 words or so blotted out]. Her upright and exemplary conduct was manifest to all; and she was considered by all who knew her, as “an Israelite indeed.”
After some years acquaintance, during which time many prayers were offered up to God for his blessing and direction in the most important of all steps in life, we were married on the 30th of October, 1798; and during more than sixteen years that we lived together, I never once had cause to think otherwise than that our union was of the Lord. I found her to be what I had always thought her, a humble, modest, meek, and sincere follower of the Lord Jesus; attentive to her whole duty, not only to her God, but to her family and children. She was indeed a most affectionate wife, and a tender, indulgent mother; attentive to all her relative duties, even to an extreme. She was always industrious and diligent in her family, and in attending constantly to her domestic concerns, and to that apostolic direction, to be not only “chaste,” but “a keeper at home.” Yet she always attended the ordinances of God, and the means of grace, as far as her health and the cares of her family, would permit. Many were the afflictions which my dear partner in life endured; being of a very delicate constitution, and for some time previous to her death, almost constantly visited with a severe pain in her breast, accompanied with a cough and shortness of breath, which at length terminated in her death.
On Saturday, the 24th of March , my dear wife complained, in the morning, of a severe pain in her side, but endeavoured to attend to the concerns of the family as usual; (her father and mother were at that time with us on a visit;) but before noon of that day, she was oblidged to take to her bed, being attacked with violent pain, chiefly in her left side. The only physician in that part of the country, (Doctor Rufus Smith, who married her sister) being from home, she was without any medical aid till Sunday evening, at which time being bled, and taking some medicine, she appeared better; but in a few hours the pain returned with greater violence, accompanied with a fever, so that she had a restless night. The next morning, the doctor visited her again, and took from her more blood; but still the pain in her side, and her disorder continued and increased through the night. But though her pain was excruciating, she endured it with the greatest patience and resignation to the divine will.
On Tuesday, the doctor bled her a third time, and left a blistering plaister to apply – indeed every means was used, in order to preserve a life so truly valuable and desirable to her family and numerous friends; but her disorder had taken too deep root, to be removed by any medicine. I then, for the first, began to fear that God was about to take from me my greatest earthly comfort. I inquired of her the state of her mind, and she informed me, with her usual sweetness of temper, that she lamented her not having lived more devoted to God; yet, said she, “I find him a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. The Lord is the portion of my soul, and I trust he will never leave me nor forsake me.” – My whole soul was in an agony, which she observing, in the most tender and affectionate manner, requested me not to be distressed; expressing, at the same time, how near her heart my happiness lay; and adding, “I trust God will spare me a little longer, for the sake of my dear little family;” for all of whom she then prayed most fervently. Indeed the happiness and salvation of her children were, at all times, deeply on her mind. Often in the night, when she supposed all were asleep, have I heard her, with tears, earnestly intreating God to bestow his grace and blessing upon each of them.
On Wednesday she grew much worse, and the pain, at times, was so excessive, that she had to be bolstered up in a chair, not being able to lie in bed; and hot cloths, sand, &c. were constantly applied to her side, to remove or mitigate the pain; but all the means made use of, were ineffectual. That night she was so ill, that we often thought she was dying: her pain through the night made her, at times, a little delirious. After having, on our knees, implored God on her behalf, she said to me, “My dear, will not God give me some relief from this pain, before he takes me hence?”. – I endeavoured to console her mind, by assuring her of God’s goodness and faithfulness, in taking care of his people; and that God, no doubt, would make all his dispensations work for her ultimate good. She then expressed a great desire to see her children that were from home; the three eldest, a son and two daughters, being at a boarding school, the former at the distance of forty miles, and the latter at Windsor: from which it was then impossible, either to receive or convey information, as the bason of Minos [now called Minas Basin] was filled with ice, and all communication stopped. She then said to me, “My dear, you must be both a father and a mother to my dear children, especially the two youngest;” repeating, “take care of my dear little Edward, (then about two years old,) and my poor little Tommy. He was then about four years old, and lame. She, at the same time, prayed earnestly for the salvation of all her children, and mentioned, with concern, her leaving them in such a sinful and wicked world. I endeavored to relieve her mind on that subject, by reminding her of the special goodness and providence of her heavenly Father towards her all her life, and that he would also care of her children in like manner. To Mrs. B------, a christian friend, who had continued with her during most of her illness, she expressed her hopes of a happy immortality, and her confidence in God her Saviour.
I could not bring my mind to the idea of parting with her, and still, at times, entertained hopes that God would spare her to me; but on Thursday morning, she grew so ill, that all my hopes failed; and I sent a man and horse for her eldest son, who, alas! came too late to see alive, one of the most tender and affectionate of mothers, though she had expressed a great wish to see him.
Mr. Knowlan, the missionary, who had been several times to see her during her short but severe illness, came this day, to whom she spoke freely respecting the things of God, and the concerns of her soul, saying, with peculiar emphasis, when he first entered the room, “I want dying faith!”
In the afternoon of that day, seeing evidently that she soon would take her leave of all earthly things, her disorder having terminated in an inward mortification, my distress became insupportable; my heart was harrowed to the bottom; and I could only intreat of God, to prepare me for the awful event. I could not bear to leave her for a moment. She repeatedly mentioned to me her prospect of glory, and the preciousness of Christ; and again prayed for her children; and intreated of me, that I would continue to bring them up in the ways of God; saying, it was a consolation to her, that she was leaving them with a father who had so diligently instructed them in the way to heaven: and then said, “My dear, tell Susannah (her eldest daughter, then in her fifteenth year) she must be a mother to my little children; and give as my dying charge, to her and her sister Jane, that I intreat them to love and fear God, and walk in his blessed ways.” She then intreated God to bless all her children; to give them his heavenly grace; and to guide them to the end.
Seeing she was dying, my soul sunk in grief, and my distress was beyond description. I brought her four children that were at home, to her bedside, (the youngest in my arms,) whom she embraced, and lifting up her dying eyes to heaven, she begged of God to bless him with his grace and salvation. The same she did to her little Tommy; and taking the other two (Charles and Mary) by the hands, she exhorted and intreated them to be loving to each other, and obedient to their parent; and prayed for God’s blessing upon each of them. After this, summoning all her strength and resolution, she begged of God to open her mouth, and enable her to speak for him, and praise him with her latest breath. And, blessed be his holy name, he granted her request, so that she spoke of God to all present, in such a manner as astonished every one. To her sister, Smith, (whom the doctor had brought that day, as he expected her sister was dying,) she said, “My dear sister, you also must pass through this same dark valley and shadow of death; and exhorted her to prepare for it. After this, she took her dying leave of all present, saying to each, in a manner, and with an emphasis that went to my very heart, and which I can never forget, “Farewel ! farewel !” and then, with uplifted eyes, added, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”
Seeing my dear wife was just departing, taking her cold dying hands in mine, which she pressed with all her remaining strength, I asked her if Jesus will still precious, and if her views of glory increased? She with some difficulty answered in the affirmative, and took her last dying leave of me, and, without a struggle or groan, resigned her happy spirit into the hands of that gracious God whom she had so many years loved and served! Mr. Knowlan, and all in the room at the time, were improving the mournful event on their knees. Thus did this saint of God take her everlasting flight from this world of sorrow, to the paradise of God, about six o’clock in the afternoon of Thursday, the 29th March, 1810, in the thirty-eighth year of her age [meaning she was what we’d call 37 years old], leaving an afflicted husband, with seven children, to deplore her irreparable loss. But their loss is her eternal gain. May I die the death of the righteous: may my last end be like hers!
On the Sunday following, Mr. Knowlan endeavoured to improve this severe dispensation, to the greatest number of people ever before collected on the like mournful occasion in that part of the country [some records indicate 500 attended her funeral]; from Psalm cxvi. 15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of his saints;” and after sermon he consigned her mortal remains to the grave, amidst the tears of her numerous relations and friends.
If you don’t have Ruth’s faith – if you can’t really comprehend what Mr. Roach wrote about his godly wife – if you haven’t been born again, made a new creature in Christ, and found complete forgiveness of all your sins by faith alone in Christ alone (not by works!) – then please!, read my little “gospel” (good news) page at www.RUforgiven.org . For the glory of the risen Son, Dave.