Chapter 99

  1. The Evening of Life

“Old age, serene and bright,

And lovely as a Lapland night,

Shall lead thee to thy grave.”

— Wordsworth.

There is a beauty in age. The morning of life may be glowing with the expectations of youth; the noon may be fruitful in endeavors and works; but the evening of life is the time of calm repose and holy meditation. When young and standing where the glow of youthful hopes irradiates the future how natural to lay out brilliant plans! to form ambitious resolves! How easy it seems to achieve any wished-for thing! Wealth, fame, or any temporal good—surely we can attain them! Experience soon shows us the futility of these hopes and plans. Before many milestones are passed in the journey of life we learn that God, in his wisdom, has so apportioned trial and suffering that it matters little the external surroundings; to all it is full of work and anxieties and painful scenes, and that it is in struggling against these that the best development of power is acquired.

The Evening of Life

Engraved & Printed by Illman Brothers.

“THE EVENING OF LIFE.”

“Man’s portion is to die”

It is no wonder that when once confronted by the stern realities of life we should lose sight of the dreams of youth. Manhood’s days are the days of reflection, of judgment, a wise adaptation of means to the end desired, and, if but used aright, we need have little occasion for regret that childhood’s days are passed. We are no longer children; we are men and women. We are no longer engaged in childish dreams; we are up and doing what God has assigned to us. This is the period of life that we would most willingly see prolonged. But time stops not in his rapid flight. In vain our protests. The sun as swiftly descends to its setting as it rose to its noon. The form that so rapidly matured into one of grace, strength, and manly attributes of character, is bowed by the weight of years. The elasticity of youth gives way to the measured step and careful tread of age, and on the head time sprinkles his snow.

It is now that the thoughts of man should assume their most valued characteristics. They can muse over the events of past years. They can contemplate the mysteries of the future. The most momentous period of life is about at hand—that time when they will exchange this life for another. What age can there be more important than this? It is natural for youth to regard old age as a dreary season—one that admits of nothing that can be called pleasure, and very little that deserves the name even of comfort. They look forward to it as in Autumn we anticipate the approach of Winter, forgetting that Winter, when it arrives, brings with it much of pleasure. Its enjoyments are of different kinds, but we find it not less pleasant than any other season of the year.

In like manner age has no terror to those who see it near; but experience proves that it abounds with consolations, and even with delights. The world in general bows down to age, gives it preference, and listens with deference to its opinions. Such reverence must be soothing to age, and compensate it for the loss of many of the enjoyments of youth. “The true man does not wish to be a child again.” In individual experience how many have wished to live again the past? Could we return, and carry with us our present experience, all would wish to do so, but to go over the same old round we are afraid that the number of those whose life has been so happy that they would wish to live it over again is exceedingly small. Your present experience will remain with you through life. And hence, old age, as devoid of pleasure as it may appear to us now, we will find that when the passage of years brings us to that point we will not willingly exchange it for any of the stages of life gone by.

As there is nothing unlovely in age, when once at its threshold, so death, when viewed in the right spirit, is found to be but the pleasant transition stage to a more glorious and perfect life. From the, days of Plato to the present men have doubted and wondered as to the questions of immortality and its nature. But none have approached the question in the right spirit but what always the result has been the same. Revelation and analogical reasoning both point to the same glorious hope. What, then, shall we view it with terror? Ought we not to look forward to it longingly as the final triumph of a well-lived life? Though success and fortune may have been ours here, are they any thing more or less than the accidental circumstances surrounding an ephemeral existence? In the light of eternity does it make any great difference whether that existence was passed surrounded with the comforts of wealth or struggling for the necessities of life?

We are all equal in death; the king and the peasant, the rich and the poor are all alike in this respect. Surely, that which is thus the common lot of humanity must be for the common good. The universal dread of death is, then, the effect of erroneous habits of thought. It is the entrance to the harbor. We fear not the peaceful rest within. We can not do better, then, than to cultivate cheerful thoughts in regard to age and death. The one is the beautiful closing scene of earthly life, the other the entrance to life immortal.

end-azan

He who died at Azan sends

This to comfort all his friends.

Faithful friends! It lies, I know,

Pale and white and cold as snow;

And ye say, “Abdallah’s dead!”

Weeping at the feet and head.

I can see your falling tears,

I can hear your sighs and prayers;

Yet I smile and whisper this—

“I am not the thing you kiss:

Cease your tears and let it lie;

It was mine, it is not ‘I.'”

Sweet friends! what the women lave,

For its last bed of the grave,

Is but a hut which I am quitting,

Is a garment no more fitting,

Is a cage, from which at last,

Like a hawk, my soul hath passed.

Love the inmate, not the room—

The wearer, not the garb—the plume

Of the falcon, not the bars

Which kept him from the splendid stars;

Loving friends! Be wise, and dry

Straightway every weeping eye:

What ye lift upon the bier

Is not worth a wistful tear.

‘Tis an empty sea-shell—one

Out of which the pearl has gone;

The shell is broken—it lies there;

The pearl, the all, the soul is here.

‘T is an earthen jar, whose lid

Allah sealed, the while it hid

The treasure of his treasury,

A mind that loved him; let it lie?

Let the shard be earth’s once more,

Since the gold shines in his store!

Allah glorious! Allah good!

Now thy world is understood;

Now the long, long wonder ends;

Yet ye weep, my erring friends,

While the man whom ye call dead,

In unspoken bliss, instead,

Lives and loves you; lost, ‘t is true,

By such a light as shines for you;

But in the light ye can not see

Of unfulfilled felicity—

In enlarging paradise

Lives a life that never dies.

Farewell, friends! Yet not farewell

Where I am ye, too, shall dwell.

I am gone before your face,

A moment’s time, a little space;

When ye come where I have stepped

Ye will wonder why ye wept;

Ye will know, by wise love taught,

That here is all and there is naught.

Weep awhile, if ye are fain—

Sunshine still must follow rain;

Only not at death—for death,

Now I know, is that first breath

Which our souls draw when we enter

Life, which is of all life center.

Be ye certain all seems love,

Viewed from Allah’s throne above;

Be ye stout of heart, and come

Bravely onward to your home!

La Allah illa Allah! yea!

Thou Love divine! Thou Love alway!

He that died at Azan gave

This to those who made his grave.

The End

, In, pager

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