In 1845, Judson returned for America with his wife, Sarah. Sarah had been suffering severe medical issues and the doctors told Judson that the only way she could survive was by going home. So Judson, after more than 30 years in Burma, returned to his native land. But on the trip, his wife died. The heartbroken man was again left all alone.
Once back in America, Judson was viewed as a near celebrity. Masses gathered to hear him speak and churches all over the nation invited him in. While traveling to a church in Boston, Judson began to read a children’s story in a magazine written by a Miss Fanny Forester. The style and passion of the story captivated Judson, though he found it distasteful that such talent was wasted on something as simple as a children’s book. The pastor he was traveling with commented that he actually knew the author and could arrange a way for Judson to meet her. Judson was hoping to have someone write a memoir of his precious Sarah and the talent he saw seemed like the perfect one to do it, stating “I should be glad to know her. A lady who writes so well ought to write better. It is a pity that such fine talents should be employed upon such subjects.”
When Judson met Fanny Forester, he found that her name was really Emily. They began to talk and Judson’s critical outlook on Emily began to change. Realizing that the stories she wrote were simply a way to provide for her poor parents and siblings, he began to see faith and sincerity, mixed with a sparkle, playfulness, and joy he had never seen before. As they spent more time together speaking of Sarah and her life, the closer they drew. It soon became obvious that they were falling in love.
At first, Emily was frightened, feeling mission work as being “like death for her to enter.” But Judson playfully consisted to go after her and soon Emily said yes. But what a storm that little yes created! The churches were in an uproar, that the greatest hero of their day would marry a writer who was half his age. This woman would surely be the ruin of the missionary movement!
The literacy world was enraged that the most popular female writer of her day would leave all the fame and money to throw it away among the heathen! One publisher wrote, “Does she deem that stern duty calls her to resign the home and friends of her heart, the fame which she has so gloriously won —nay, more, perhaps even life itself — for the far-off heathen?”
To this, Emily replied:
There’s a dearer than mother, whose heart is my pillow,
A truer than brother’s foot guides o’er the billow;
There’s a voice I shall hear at the grave-guarding willow,
When they leave me to sleep in my turf-covered bed.
“Stern duty?’ No! Love is my ready foot winging;
On duty’s straight path, Love her roses is flinging;
In love to the Friend of my heart I am clinging;
My ‘home’ is His smile, my ‘far-off’ is His frown.
“He shaped the frail goblet which Death one day will shiver;
He casts every sun-ray on Life’s gloomy river ;
They’re safest when guarded by Maker and Giver,
My laurels and life at His feet I lay down.
On the day of her wedding, she wrote this poem to her parents:
Thou’lt never wait again, father,
Thy daughter’s coming tread:
She ne’er will see thy face again;
So count her with thy dead.
But in the land of light and love,
Not sorrowing, as now,—
She’ll come to thee, and come, perchance,
With jewels on her brow.
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