Katie E. Merrill’s Grave
‘Tis a lonely spot yet I love it well –
There’s a sad, sweet charm – there’s a quiet spell
Round the place, as if angels loiter near
Whose whisperings I in fancy hear –
And they speak of a soul unstained and pure,
Of her rest in heaven which is now secure.
They tell of a daughter gentle, kind,
Truthful and earnest of heart and mind;
Of a sister loving, generous, mild,
With the trusting faith of a little child,
Of a wife so virtuous, chaste and true –
With a heart as pure as heaven’s blue.
They are speaking now of the form that came
At the hour of death her love to claim:
How she raised her large round eyes and smiled
With a mother’s joy in her only child,
Then bidding her dear friends all farewell,
How she went with her babe above to dwell.
While I list to the voices low and sweet,
I gaze on the green mound at my feet –
Where palm-trees ever cast their shade,
Where flowers spring and bloom and fade,
Where the ocean’s low, sad voice is heard,
As also the wail of the crying bird –
And I know that the words I hear are said
Of the sleeper there, the honored dead.
As if by some strong impulse led –
For the words thereon I have often read –
I walk to the slab of white, once more
And read the dear names o’er and o’er
Of Katie, as well as her baby boy
Who filled life’s parting hour with joy.
‘Tis a sacred spot, this little mound
Where Katie rests in the cold, cold ground.
It is watched and kept with loving care,
And I often in silence ponder there;
And the angels are whispering: “All is well
In the courts on high do their spirits dwell.”
(Fagalii Samoa, March 10th, 1893)
Katie Eliza Hale Merrill (1871-1891) accompanied her husband Joseph Harris Merrill on his mission to Samoa, arriving there on March 12, 1891. A letter to Katie’s parents from Louise Calder Lee, wife of Mission President William O. Lee, tells what happened soon after:
Soon after Katie arrived in Samoa it became apparent to us that the country and climate did not agree well with her. Brother Lee and I were soon to be released as missionaries to return home, and we thought it would be best for Katie to return with us as her health continued failing. But after considering the matter carefully, Katie decided she would remain with her husband, and with him fulfill the mission to which they had been called, even if she should die there …
Katie was such a congenial, charitable sweet girl; and we exchanged days about doing the work. May 23rd, she complained of a headache, but still wanted to do her work, as it was her day; in the afternoon I insisted on doing it and her taking a rest.
From that time on, Katie was never well, but grew weaker and weaker, day by day. On Sunday, June 28th, the gentle patient sufferer gave premature birth to a son. It was very small, but as perfect and pretty baby as I ever saw. Katie exclaimed, ‘Thank the Lord! It is alive, and a boy; Oh! I am so glad! Do let me see it and kiss it!’
At 2:00 p.m. on Monday, the baby quietly passed away without a struggle. The doctor said he had no hope of it from the first. We did not tell Katie of it as she was so weak. Before washing and dressing the little one for burial, I went to her beside. She had told me repeatedly she had no pain but was so weak. Now when I went to her she asked for her husband and said, ‘Oh Sister Lee, I am dying!’ I called my husband to administer to her, rubbed her hands and feet, and sent for her husband who had gone out to try to control his feelings, after seeing his baby breathe its last. ‘Oh Katie,” I said, you are mistaken, surely you would not leave your poor husband!’ She answered, ‘They have come for me, and I must go, I can’t stop.’ After being administered to she revived, and said, ‘administer again,’ which was done. Just then Joseph came in; she spoke to him; kissed him, and said, ‘Good-by.’ She was dead without a struggle. Death could not have been more peaceful.
Joseph Merrill’s letter to his in-laws added:
When our baby Aroet died (we had decided to name him Aroet after Uncle Aroet and Retta), I left the house for a moment to try to control my grief. When I reached Katie’s bedside after being hastily called, I knew that she too was dying. She put her arms around me and said, ‘Dear, don’t feel badly, all is right. They have come for me and I must go.’ I thought possibly she could recognize some of them, and asked who had come for her, to which she said; ‘Can’t you see them, they are all around you.’ She gave me her last kiss, closed her eyes and was gone. …
Sister Lee cared for the baby while it lived and with the aid of President William O. Lee we prepared Katie for burial. Elder Boothe had a full suit of temple clothes, and we dressed her and laid her and the baby in a nice pine coffin that I purchased in Apia. The funeral was very impressive. Several of the Elders were present and Captain Huffanagle of the German cocoanut plantation was present, also two of his assistants. Appropriate hymns were sung. President Lee and Elder Brigham Smoot (Brother of Reed Smoot) spoke words of consolation and encouragement, and with the consent of the captain we were able to bury them on the brow of a slight elevation, about thirty rods from the seashore.
Katie and her son were taken to Utah for reburial at the end of Joseph Merrill’s mission in 1894. He returned to Samoa in 1901 as mission president.