Captain Myles Standish was hired by the Pilgrims as military advisor for their Plymouth Colony in America. He eventually became a full member as well as a valued leader of the community. Standish had come to the “New World” with his wife, Rose, with high expectations. When Rose became ill, however, he did his best to spend as much time as possible at her bedside. That wasn’t easy, though. That first winter in Plymouth was harsh. With endeavoring to find food, guarding against natives and cutting trees to build homes, he had little time to spare.
William Bradford described the scene in his History of Plymouth Plantation:
Then the sicknes begane to fall sore amongst them, and the weather so bad …. the Gov’r and cheefe of them, seeing so many dye, and fall downe sick dayly, thought it no wisdom to send away the ship….
The winds were bitter and blew through every crack in the Mayflower as she lay anchored in the harbor. Rose’s chills turned to uncontrollable shaking and then turned to blazing fever. The crude medicines they had available did little to ease her discomfort. By spring Rose had died, along with so many others. Thirteen of the original eighteen wives who had set sail were no longer among the living.
What must that have been like? Try to imagine such a scenario. Of the 110 Pilgrims and ship’s crew who left for America, more than half died that first winter. The pain of children and spouses dying—not just one or two but so many—from sickness and lack of food…such pain would not be simple to overcome. It could easily last for years. If they allowed it to, such pain could have completely consumed them.
The high hopes that Myles and Rose Standish had brought to the new world were gone, evaporated into grief. Yet that next autumn, Captain Standish joined the other Pilgrims—who undoubtedly still mourned those who had passed on—to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. In the midst of their pain, they celebrated and gave thanks to God.
Should we do less?