This article originally appeared in the Mar/Apr 1980 issue of Pioneer Magazine
[Note: This article as it was originally published is missing key information such as birth/death/family data that we need to positively identify the pioneers depicted. If you have any information that would help identify these people, please provide it in the Comments section.]
by Emily W. Brewer
One hot August afternoon, Anne sat staring out the window toward the lake. In her trembling hand she held a letter from President John Taylor, but she refused to believe the words she had read. Niels could not be dead, not her Niels. Why, little more than two years had passed since he left, vibrant and alive, to be President of the Scandinavian Mission, his third mission for his church.
Of course there had been some mistake! In his last letter he had told how busy he was, saying,
“Brother Jensen and I just finished revision of the Book of Mormon and we thank God, who has blessed us to accomplish this great work. I have looked in vain for my release, but this is all right. If the Lord will bless me with health and strength, I’ll remain as long as he wishes me to.”
The Lord would bless Niels, He always blessed him. She remembered how, as he was returning from his second mission, he had been blinded by alkali and could not even see her when he arrived. And again when his feet were so badly frozen the doctor said they must be amputated. Both times they had sought the Lord, and Niels had been restored to normal. Yes, the Lord would bless her Niels.
She continued to gaze out the window, but instead of the blue lake she saw a garden gate in Denmark. It was a spring evening and in the soft moonlight Niels had asked her to marry him.
“Anne,” he had said, “’remember the night I first saw you? It was at the fair and you looked lovely. I asked permission to walk home with you. As we neared this spot I was anticipating a visit by your fireside, but you firmly closed the gate and bid me good-night. I determined then that someday there would be no closed gate between us ever again.”
White caps were forming now on the lake. Perhaps the wind would rise and blow away the clouds that were making the air so sultry. That would be better than rain, she thought, for she didn’t want the new mown hay spoiled. Everything must be in good condition when Niels returned.
The lake faded from her vision again and she heard Niels’ voice saying “Yes, there have been other girls and twice marriage plans were made, but don’t you see, it was Providence that intervened and made me wait for you?”
And so they had been married, but before they could settle into an easy way of life Niels had come home one day and announced that he was going to attend a meeting with one of his co-workers. He came back so impressed by the “new religion” he had heard about at that meeting that soon she was studying with him.
Their joy had been great that August midnight, twenty-seven years ago when they had come out of the waters of baptism and received the Holy Ghost. Their joy had increased as he was called to fill a mission among his own people and then to serve as a counselor to the mission President.
Even when they left the land of their birth, their loved ones and a tiny lad sleeping in “grave 25” in a churchyard, she was still happy with her Niels.
His call to a second mission, when their home was barely finished, left her with four small children. Still there was no complaint forthcoming. Their love spanned the ocean and when he returned, their joy was even greater.
The third call had been accepted with the simple statement—“Thy will be done.” Now they were asking her to believe he was dead, but it couldn’t be true.
She was startled from her reverie by the whining of Niels’ dog. It was a mournful whine. Could it be that the animal sensed something she did not? As she moved, a second letter fell from her lap. She picked it up, noticing it was from Niels’ close companion, Elder Andrew Jensen. Hesitantly, she opened it and scanned the page. These words seemed to stand out,
“…and so his soul passed quietly down the aisle to eternity.”
Then it was true. His release had come, but he would not be returning to her. Panic seized her breast and as the storm outside broke, her own tears began to flow. Great sobs wracked her body. A body wearied by long years of waiting. Now, it seemed, there was nothing to wait for. Niels wasn’t coming. Niels had gone on without her! She was alone.
The sun had gone down outside and darkness fell. Still she continued to cry out in her anguish through the long night, barely conscious that the heavens, too, were pouring forth great torrents of rain.
As dawn began to break, the tears ceased and the bonds of grief that gripped her heart began to slacken. Her mind cleared. Silently she prayed for strength, then walked to the window and watched the first rays of the morning sun come over the rugged eastern hills. The lake was calm after the storm. The grass and the trees were cleansed of dust, the flowers were blooming. All around her bore record that God was in His heaven and life must go on.
What would Niels have her do? Why, first of all, she thought, he would want the hay turned so it wouldn’t spoil. As she walked toward the barn she felt Niels’ arm across her shoulders as it had been that night in Copenhagen by the garden gate and she seemed to hear him say,
“There will be no closed gate between us ever again.”