Among the collection of Nancy Prescott Forrest is a copy of a letter from my 4x great-grandfather John MacKenzie to his daughter Margaret MacKenzie McNab. It’s rather heavy with quotations from scripture. It’s clear that the MacKenzies were very religious people. John’s son Hugh became a minister. His daughter Margaret had a son who was a minister. Another grandson, John Forrest, was one of the foremost Presbyterian ministers in Nova Scotia.
The letter tells of the death of Isobella Ross, my 4x great grandmother.
Culnauld [Nigg Parish, Scotland], 5 March 1831
My dear daughter,
With a heavy and sorrowful heart I have sat down to inform you that your dear mother is no more in this world. She departed this life the 28th last at 2 o’clock afternoon and was interred 2nd last in the church yard of Nigg aside her father and mother. She was poorly long ago, only that she was getting little a little, now and then, she was since days in a great strait with a severe pain in her bowels, always throwing up, nothing would remain on her stomach – at first she took it to be the last message – all the means that was used in subservience to him who hath appointed them and can only give success to them – was of no avail for it was death – her feeling and speech remained until the last minute and she could take the drink with her own hand.
Dear daughter, I am now as a Pelican in the wilderness – it is a speaking and trying Providence and I have much need of grace and counsel from God to carry aright under it – to be submissive to his will – if any of my fellow creatures would do me any hurt – I would both ask who did it, and why did he do so – but when God doth anything to us we must remember – he is the potter and we are his clay vessels – yea break them in pieces at his pleasure – and there is none can stay his hand or say to him what dost thou – the gardener gathers at his pleasure the flowers and fruits of his garden – sometimes he cuts of the buds sometimes he suffers them to bloom, sometimes he gathers the green fruit, sometimes he stays till they are ripe – and every body thinks he may do with his own what he pleaseth and shall not the Almighty God have liberty much more to dispose of all that grows in his territories at his pleasure – we ought to guard against immoderate grief and excessive sorrow for this (is) sinful and offensive to God – Now grief is sinful and immoderate when it makes us grudge at God’s dispensation or murmur at his will – I do not mean to make light or to be unconcerned for the death of parents or dear and near friends – God will have us neither to despise his load not to faint under it – Heb. 12C, 5V, – God is displeased with those that are stupid and insensible under such afflictions – why they despise his rod and make light of his corrections – hence he complains of these – Jer 5C, 3V – “I have smitten them but they have not grieved” – he wills however – to feel his hand to induce into the meaning of God – for our grief will not be to no avail to the dead – we must bewail our dead hearts while it is day and strive to make our call and election sure.
I wrote today to Harthill – if Barbara will not come home I do not know what to do – as I am always poorly. My foolish thoughts were going before your dear mother but the great ruler thought otherwise – your Aunt had a fever and she could not go to see her sister but she recovered a little a few days ago – but not able to travel but Sabbath last when she heard from them that were at the church that her sister was mentioned in the church – she came here at the glooming of the night, tender as she was – I am afraid this travel will be against her – your uncle had not much rest in one place – back and forward – I ordered Hugh to write to your Sister – you will direct to your Uncles – make offer my compt’s [compliments] to Mr. MacNab and children. Your uncle and aunt joins me here with their compt’s to Mr. MacNab – not forgetting yourself and the children.
I remain, my dear daughter, your afflicted Father