I knew it was in there—this little scrap of paper with note scrawled in pencil—but I couldn’t bring myself to read it the first time I saw it. I tucked it back away in its hiding place, with all the other papers I’d yet to catalog from the possessions of Agnes Tully Stevens. Something so personal about its makeshift shrine made me hesitate—as if I were an interloper upon the remembrance of a sacred bond.
There is something so unique about the bond between a mother and her firstborn child. To such a mother, there is no child so beautiful, so adorable, so perfect, as the one she is now holding in her own arms.
Such must have been the case with Agnes’ mother Catherine Malloy Tully and her firstborn, Margaret Anna. Born in late 1871, Margaret Anna was promptly dubbed Daisy, and became the center of the new Tully household.
The sense of wonder a new mother has about her baby was something that Catherine needed to capture on paper one day. Without widespread use of cameras in those days, perhaps pencil and paper was the only medium she could use. Torn from the margin of a church bulletin, scrap paper served as the preserving vehicle for her inspiration.
On Seeing Daisy Tully Asleep
As yet dear child
Thou has not trod
The paths of Life
Where grief is met
But Beauty like a
Smile of God
Upon thy little brow
And Oh! May heaven
Forever bless thy life
With love and happiness.
Before I first saw that verse, I had thought that the mindset of the nineteenth century parent had surely been one of pragmatic callousness—when it came to one’s children, there would surely be at least one loss, if not more. Disease was rampant in the cities, and life in Chicago provided no haven from that grim reality.
But in finding this tender remembrance of a mother for her firstborn, I see no guarded sense of reality. This was a mom with heart wide open—hoping the best for her beautiful child. Unafraid. Yielding not to the temptation to cloister her innermost feelings for fear they would be dashed down by reality, but absorbing the every joy of new motherhood despite rampant risks.
Unfortunately, though, that is exactly what happened to this precious first life in the Tully family. Yesterday, I mentioned finding two wisps of paper—news clippings of obituaries from undisclosed sources. We saw, yesterday, that one was for a mystery Tully relative, Julia Annie Tully. Today’s is for Daisy.
Succumbing to scarlet fever just before her sixth birthday, Margaret Anna Tully left her parents and her young brother William Patrick Tully to mourn her loss. The only remaining tokens of her life are a blip of a mention in a local newspaper and a headstone at the family plot with one single word in her remembrance: “Daisy.”
And a poem that provided a glimpse into the core of a mother’s heart.
No matter how often it happens, it is always hard to lose a child.
TULLY—At Hyde Park, of scarlet fever, at 2 a.m. Sept. 26, Margaret Ann, daughter of John and Catherine Tully, aged 5 years 10 months and 26 days.Funeral Thursday, Sept. 27, by cars to Calvary.Detroit (Mich.) and Seaforth (Ont.) papers please copy.