JUNE 18, a bright little school boy was murdered in this city by his father who had become insane by brooding over the death of his wife which had taken place some months previously. The insane father after sending three bullets into his child’s brain turned the weapon on himself. The father was much attached to the boy and the neighbors now recall the fact that he was often heard to remark, “When I go, Walter will go with me.” The boy, an exceptionally manly little fellow, was also much attached to his father. The secret of this sad affair is thus told by the World:—
Upon the table at which the distracted father was seated when the tragedy took place was an open hymn book. The covers had been bent so that it could not close, and inmates of the house now remember that throughout the early afternoon they heard the old man singing the verses of the hymn at which the book was opened. It was entitled “Beautiful Beckoning Hands,” and read as follows:—
Beckoning hands at the gateway to-night,
Faces a shining with radiant light,
Eyes looking down from your heavenly home,
Beautiful hands they are beckoning, come.
Beckoning hands of a mother, whose love
Sacrificed life its devotion to prove;
Hands of a mother, to memory dear,
Beckoning higher the waiting ones here.
This hymn has always been a favorite with Forshay, out by a singular coincidence he had on Sunday evening heard it sung for the first time by its author, Rev. C. C. Luther, who is temporarily filling the pulpit of Dr. Knapp at the Macdougal Street Baptist Church. It was after a visit to his wife’s grave at Greenwood Sunday afternoon, that Forshay had taken his youngest boy (he never went anywhere without him) to the church. On their return from church that evening he had taught the bright little boy the hymn, and together they had sung it over many times.
So it seems that this utterly unscriptural hymn was responsible in some degree at least for this terrible tragedy. The Bible declares, “The dead know not anything” (Ecclesiastes 9:5); and that “his sons come to honor, and he knoweth it not” (Job 14:21); that “his breath goeth forth, he returned to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalm 146:4); but popular theology teaches, as does the hymn referred to, that the dead are conscious in heaven beckoning to their friends on the earth. If this were true, and they were so beckoning, and it were possible for those left behind to rejoin the departed by death, what would be more natural than just such an act as that committed by an “orthodoxly” insane father?