L. L. LAESTADIUS' DEPARTURE FROM TIME INTO ETERNITY.
(A letter of Laestadius' daughter Sophia Niva)
Pajala, August 31, 1861.
Dear sister God's peace be with you!
With this greeting I begin this letter to you, who are there in that foreign land, separated far from us in behalf of body. I have often remembered you, although I have not written there. It especially has been on my mind to let you know about our dear father's departure from this world, which I believe you want to know about.
During the entire past fall and beginning of the winter of 1860 he did not feel well and could not eat. If he ate something, he would soon vomit it up. From this he concluded that death was not far away. When he held examinations, he affirmed that the doctrine he proclaimed was true and in accord with the Word of God and he said that in behalf of it he would live and die, and also that his hearers can blame themselves if they depart from it.
On the first Sunday in Advent he preached in church for the last time. Many of those sitting in the pews there were overwhelmed by great sorrow and audible weeping as they thought that this possibly was the last time they would be able to hear him speaking from the pulpit.
Immediately afterwards the strength of his body became weaker and weaker from day to day, and a general lack of strength also increased noticeably, so that he was no longer able to hold prayers in the evenings as was his custom when he was well. He himself surmised: "Now God saw it well relieve me from the officiating office of the pastor because of the weakness of my body. God will soon take me away from here."
His thoughts and speech during these times were occupied only with matters of eternity. During the three months of his sickness, I did not hear from his mouth talk of natural matters. He left all his listeners into God's care. "My conscience will not accuse me that I have not been diligent to proclaim to them all the counsel of God for their salvation, nor have I spared the strength of my body and soul", he said, "May God Himself effect in them, that after my death they would take better heed of my preaching and would understand to preserve it in their hearts".
Joyous and content, he lay on his sickbed. Firmly and sternly he spoke the truth to all the sorrowles, but to the awakened and believing ones, he spoke with love. Although his sickness was difficult and painful, he was never impatient. However, some days before his death he asked forgiveness from Mother, confessing then that at some time he had felt impatience toward her. Some day before his death when he was still able to speak, he first said farewell to Mother and thanked God who had given them good fortune in this world and had blessed their marriage with mutual love and joy. I also said a final farewell to him. He was not able to say anything to me he became very moved during our time of farewell. Otherwise during his time of sickness he was often moved and wanted his sermons to be read to him, which he had kept for Christians who were ill. He often read the Bible and sang hymns of Zion, especially such ones which speak of the reward of the strivers and victors. He was as one who was already victorious. His eyes reflected just like he was beholding and enjoying the sweetness of the life to come.
Dear sister! I cannot really relate what kind of an expression of joy and peace was reflected in his face. Whenever there was opportunity, it was a pleasant duty for me to sit beside his bed and watch how a believing one leaves this world. Death was not a terrible thing for him to wait for, nor was it sad for him to leave this world, for already during his lifetime he traveled in this world as a stranger.
Three days before his death, he lost his ability to speak. Contentedly he lay there that whole time, watching those standing around him, with a smile on his lips, Joyful and happy. He would have wanted to speak audibly to those present, but there was no strength for that. His last moment was easy; only a few times he breathed deeply and thus moved his immortal part from this mortality through the portal of death on the 21st day of February, 1861.
The departure of a faithful shepherd of souls left a sincere sadness of parting and sorrow, not only to the Christians and awakened ones, but also to the sorrowless. Not until then did their consciences reproach them that they had shut their ears to his warnings of love. Now they understood that a burning candle had been extinguished from their midst, and that there was no longer that one , who would come into their home in the evenings to hold prayers and who was seeking the sorrowless with tender exhortations in their dark recesses. Many people in this village of Pajala and especially in other villages have become awakened from this event, to think seriously about the salvation of their souls. Brotherly love, fervency and one-mindedness have become greater among the Christians, when there is no longer that one who would teach them and would feed them bread as a mother does her children.
With great sorrow of the heart, we his children also long for him. His death has greatly encouraged us to new devotion. I especially feel that I have been greatly encouraged in my believing, I who was able to sit beside his bed during the entire time of his sickness and hear his parting speech and see that joy and peace which he had.
Nothing more now ,dear sister, but let us strive the good strife of faith, that with the same kind of an assurance of faith, joy and peace, we could change our earthly abodes. We must be in the war against sin and evil as long as we live here, but great is the reward which awaits us and all believers on the other side of the grave. Do not become weary, but be diligent to pray to our God, and be sure of this, that we will receive the crown of life through His own promise and the merits of His son Jesus Christ! It is He who has promised this to all those who remain steadfast until the end. Mother and the other Christians of Pajala send heartfelt salutations of love but be saluted first and last from me with my husband!
Your sister, Sophia Niva.
Granted by diseased preacher Melvin Niska, Montrose, Minn. USA