Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn President Bill Clendaniel Retires | Page 10

Stories behind the Stones :

“ Everything that human love could do was done ”

By Brian A . Sullivan , Archivist
A cluster of humble sandstone monuments in the Eliot family lot on Pyrola Path features simple inscriptions that provide us with clues about the lives of the individuals who rest there . But the diary of one — educator Samuel Eliot ( 1821-1898 )— tells us more about the poignant story behind two of the stones : those of his sons , George Otis Eliot , who died at the age of two , and William Samuel Eliot , who died at twenty .
On December 26 , 1863 , as Eliot left on a journey to Europe with his wife Emily ( 1832-1906 ), for health reasons , he wrote ,“ She must be taken to warmer latitudes … God keep us , and those we leave behind us , and reunite us in good time .”
But a reunion was not to be . On April 1 , 1864 , while in Spain , the Eliots received heartbreaking news about one of their sons . Samuel wrote in his diary ,“ George died on the night of the 11-12 of March , aged 2 years , 6 months and 10 days , a life of joy , and beauty , and purity , one for which we are very thankful . Everything that human love could do was done — but God saw fit to take him to Himself …”
Months before , George had accompanied his parents on a visit to upstate New York .“ His next journey ,” his father wrote ,“ was to Heaven in the spirit , and the silent , deserted body , to Mount Auburn … Little recollections throng the memory … I hope I shall never forget the sight — I so often saw with love and joy — his beautiful face , at the window — radiant with pleasure as he saw me coming to the house … It will be so [ again ] if I am worthy to follow him to Paradise .”
Under doctor ’ s orders , Samuel and Emily continued their journey and returned to Boston on September 2 , 1864 — George ’ s third birthday .“ We keep remembering and loving him here ,” Eliot wrote that day .“ Are we to wish him back again ?… No , but the heart bends , though breaks not , [ and ] is yearning after the welcome that his sweet face and voice and love would have given us today , had he been spared .”
A decade later , George ’ s brother , William Samuel Eliot , a senior at Harvard College , was rapidly succumbing to tuberculosis . He managed , however , to complete his degree requirements and , on Class Day — through the kindness of his classmates — was carried to a window in Harvard Hall so that he could observe their traditional dance around the Class Day elm .
That summer , William ’ s decline was precipitous , compelling his father to confide to his diary on September 2 , 1874 :“[ He ] is very ill , more ill than he was last year , and it may be that the time when the two [ brothers ] are to be together again , is very near .”
On November 15 , 1874 , William died , and was laid to rest at Mount Auburn next to his younger brother . The following March — on the anniversary of the death of little George — his father wrote :“ Eleven years and the first of these days when the brothers are together . What a fair light , and hope , they would have been here . How much fairer , we may be sure , are they there !”
Eliot family lot on Pyrola Path
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