A TRIBUTE TO "MOTHER CUSTER"
Herewith is presented a tribute to the memory of the wife of General George Armstrong Custer, who died one year ago.
This beautiful theme was read by a dear friend of Mrs. Custer, before a number of people at a recent meeting in Brooklyn . It is:
Does the passing of our friends mean gain or loss?
In the sorrow of the moment of parting, we see only loss: one ignores entirely the positive statement, "to die is to gain." We are aware of but one sad fact-a vacancy, a void that can never seemingly be filled. A little later, after the sorrow has lost its sharp edge, we are able to take a more just appraisal of the life of our friend-its acts and motions, its contact with the influence upon family and society; to balance up the account of that earth-life and perceive in a partial way the wonderful legacy that has left behind.
What can a life here gain permanently for itself and others? There is but one reply-Nothing is lasting except riches that can be hoarded in the soul. St. Paul simplifies the whole matter when he cites the fruit of the spirit as "Love, Joy, Peace".
A life filled with beneficient service has simply passed through a gate way to better facilities for a wider service, all of which there or here, as Browning says, "Ranks the Same with God."
A year has passed since a beloved friend of Monroe left this earth life. Many were the attestations of love, respect and deep sorrow that were offered at the time of her passing. Today is the anniversary of her advent into "the life beyond" and I would offer a tribute to her memory.
One of the gladdest of poets has written: "This glads me most, that I enjoyed the heart of the Joy". "The heart of the Joy" in everything was the keynote of my friend Mrs. Custer's life. She was glad and proud even of her birthday. Why? Simply because she had a birthday. She was glad to have been born-glad to be alive. Think of that attitude of mind in these days when people are doubting whether life is worth while. She enjoyed her school days. How she loved to recall them, shared as they were even then, with the youth who later became her husband, his sister and that brother whom all the nation knows as one of the gallant sons who fought to the finish and died in the "last charge". General George Armstrong Custer.
The young girl's life was the typical western form of life, but the hardship made no impression on her buoyancy of spirit and the happiness that she made all things yield her. Hidden in these meager facts is a life unusual in the fullness of its joy and in the bounty of its giving. Life was never a burden but a privilege, an opportunity for doing things and so her field broadened beyond the limits of home.
Mrs. Custer was the first President of the Ladies Aid Society of the Evangelical Church and for forty years a teacher in its Sunday school. The girls she started with in the latter grew to womanhood, married, had children, grandchildren but the bond between the teacher and her first pupils was never broken. The Custer home was "open house", not only to ministers of the Gospel and Elders in the church but to all who were needy. The devout sought its hospitality because of the blessing they never failed to get from "Mother Custer."
Tramps were sure of refreshments and I know of one needy soul who would spend the night but remained ten years. During Quarterly Meetings the house was an Inn for the saintly fathers and mothers of the church and their families. Loyal though she was to her church her activities extended beyond it. That peculiar quality of love and helpfulness that stamped her life was for all as free as are the sun's rays. Children and young people were drawn to her for advice and comfort. No less useful was she in more practical matters, as was shown in her interest in the Grange. Here was the open door, the open heart, the open hand and one can measure the rainfall more easily than the benefits from this woman.
What is our legacy, then? Shall we name even the material benefits, the helpful associations, in the light of that greatest one of all? To me, the rich legacy of her life to us is this: the memory of a woman, the main spring of whose life was such that the thought of her thrills our hearts with joy.
A memory that stirs the pulse with a desire to feel as she felt, to act as she acted, to know life's secret as she knew it. Shall we not, then, on this anniversary of her advent, count her life as "gain" for us, and for her, continued "gain" as she fares forward in Love and Joy, there, as here?
(Monroe Evening News, June 20, 1922.)
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