As a mother I have asked myself more than once, “ How could I possibly deal with losing a child,” and yet Emma lost six of them. We tend to think of the grief Emma experienced when losing her children, but we must remember that Joseph lost six children too.
This painting takes place after the death of their adopted son, Joseph Murdock. He died from exposure to the cold air while a mob tarred and feathered Joseph. Here Emma and Joseph prepare to bury their son. It would not be the last time these two would place a child beneath the clay. I am touched by the words of a song by Kenneth Cope:
Another pair of tiny hands to lay beneath the clay
Slumb’ring little baby eyes to wake another day
O God of Heaven come guard this bed And let this angel sleep
‘Till earth is pure for tiny hands And safe for tiny feet…