Saturday, July 4, 2009

Passing all understanding

I offered a humble tribute to a dying friend a couple of months ago. Strong and brave, he battled and battled, even returning briefly to chemotherapy last week, and yet he never denied the undeniable.

At last, at long and peaceful last he released life just after 9pm Friday evening, surrounded by his family and held in the arms of love.

In this moment of sadness I'm reminded of words I've quoted on this blog before, the conclusion of a eulogy delivered in 1879 by Robert Green Ingersoll at his brother's graveside:

"Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.

"He who sleeps here, when dying, mistaking the approach of death for the return of health, whispered with his latest breath, 'I am better now.' Let us believe, in spite of doubts and dogmas, of fears and tears, that these dear words are true of all the countless dead.

"The record of a generous life runs like a vine around the memory of our dead, and every sweet, unselfish act is now a perfumed flower.

"And now, to you, who have been chosen from among the many men he loved, to do the last sad office for the dead, we give his sacred dust.

"Speech cannot contain our love. There was, there is, no gentler, stronger, manlier man."

Godspeed, old friend.