The Tide Went Out Easily
Seldom except in books do the dying utter memorable words, see visions, or depart with beatified countenances, and those who have sped many parting souls know that to most the end comes as naturally and simply as sleep. As Beth had hoped, the ‘tide went out easily’, and in the dark hour before dawn, on the bosom where she had drawn her first breath, she quietly drew her last, with no farewell but one loving look, one little sigh.
With tears and prayers and tender hands, Mother and sisters made her ready for the long sleep that pain would never mar again, seeing with grateful eyes the beautiful serenity that soon replaced the pathetic patience that had wrung their hearts so long, and feeling with reverent joy that to their darling death was a benignant angel, not a phantom full of dread.
When morning came, for the first time in many months the fire was out, Jo’s place was empty, and the room was very still. But a bird sang blithely on a budding bough, close by, the snowdrops blossomed freshly at the window, and the spring sunshine streamed in like a benediction over the placid face upon the pillow, a face so full of painless peace that those who loved it best smiled through their tears, and thanked God that Beth was well at last.
— Louisa May Alcott (died March 6, 1888)
From Little Women, chapter 40: “The Valley of the Shadow” (1868)
Two hundred and fifty years ago* a few devout men founded this church. How much greater are they now than they were in life! Time the purifier has burned away what was particular to them, and has left only the type of courage, constancy, devotion—the august figure of the Puritan.
Perhaps the type of the Puritan must pass away. But the founders of this church are commemorated, not in bronze or alabaster, but in living monuments. These men and their fellows planted a congregational church, from which grew a democratic state. They planted something even mightier than institutions. Whether they knew it or not, they planted the democratic spirit in the heart of man. It is to them we owe the deepest cause we have to love in our country—that instinct, that spark, that makes the American unable to meet his fellowmen otherwise than simply as a man, eye to eye, hand to hand. When our citizens forget that they tread a sacred soil, that this land has its traditions which grow more venerable and inspiring as they fade; when this church is no longer dedicated to truth and America to democratic freedom; then, but not until then, will the blood of the martyrs be swallowed in the sand and the Puritan have lived in vain.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (died March 6, 1935)
* From an 1886 address at the First Parish in Cambridge, Massachusetts
on the occasion of its 250th anniversary.
|Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)|