THE SUPREME MOMENT.
Be still Dear Heart and rest;
It is not death, but Birth
Into that larger life
That frees the soul from earth.
The air is purer there,
Perfumed with odors rare;
So sweet and rich, at first,
That one must breathe with care.
Be still Sweetheart and learn;
The lesson will be brief:
Our loved ones help, and soon
Will come Divine relief.
With vision clarified
And ears attuned to joy.
New scenes will meet the eye,
Now tasks the hand employ.
Fear not Beloved, wait;
I hold your hand and pray,
Resigning you to Him –
The Truth, the Life, the Way.
The appearance of serious poetry in a medical magazine is unusual, of course, but it is hoped that none of my readers will be unable to rally from the shock of this unconventional procedure, since there are certain phases of the subject which lend themselves naturally to poetic expression and cannot as adequately be expressed, at least by me, in any other literary form.
Mrs. Sherrill reminiscently, but without indicating the source of her main idea, bravely touched upon a subject which is commonly neglected or avoided by medical writers. Beyond exercising their peculiar and exclusive prerogative of writing death certificates and signing autopsy reports, which, however important they may be, do not require any extraordinary degree of literary ability, doctors are, for the most, silent on the subject. The crowning event of life, “The Great Adventure,” is shunned, camouflaged, kept in the background, or alluded to only covertly.
Death, an event which inevitably comes to all, is subject to a “Conspiracy of Silence.” Little or no attempt is made to see or understand what death really is, how it fits into the general scheme of things, nor what its purpose is. As a process it is commonly viewed only from the mechanical or pathological side. The physiology of death has received scant notice from medical men. Its psychological and spiritual phases have been left to the clergy. From them, varying according to their theological bias and prepossessions, most of us have received our more or less nebulous ideas about death.
It is not to be denied that we are greatly indebted to the clergy for, in spite of their differences, some of them perceived that there is something beneficent about death, and that it may be, after all, a part of the Divine Plan of the Universe, fulfiling an infinitely wise, loving and constructive purpose. Generally, death is regarded as alien to God, and man, an interloper and enemy to be fought “to the last ditch”.
It is from the poets, philosophers, prophets and seers of all ages, that we have received the highest and clearest insight into the mystery of death. They have spoken of what has been revealed to them spiritually in moments of high inspiration. To them have been accorded glimpses behind the veil that hides from carnal eyes the glories of the spiritual world. It would seem, therefore, that death is a subject to which medical thinkers might well give their attention. Undoubtedly there is much which, if learned, might be of great practical value in modifying, correcting or improving medical and psychological treatment of the sick, and in bringing about a more rational and comfortable state of mind generally.
THE GREAT DELUSION
What is this Thing that men call Death –
Which flits across the path of life
In robes of solemn mystery –
This thing of fear and doubt and strife?
Is it a friend, disguised but true,
Who leads us on to realms of light?
Or is it what it grimly seems-
A deadly foe, to fear and fight?.
“A solemn, silent, soulless void,
A vacuum, perfect, unemployed.
No light, no sound, no motion there,
Bleak night, and darkness of despair.
Vibration, action, rhythm none,
No thought, no work nor action done.
All matter, energy and thought
Extinguished, quenched and brought to nought.
Negation, absolute and dumb”.
“And that,” they darkly say, “is Death!”
Who speak the word with bated breath.
By reason, faith and science know
That death is neither friend nor foe.
Tis but a name and nothing more,
A non-existent, viewless shore;
A nothingness conceived in thought,
A spectre which dull ear hath wrought.
Death hath no substance, power or place,
No form or shape in time or space.
Throughout the whole extent of space
There is no rest, nor any place
Where rhythmic motion is not found;
Yet death, they say, is rest profound!
The Ether, vibrant, luminous,
With space is all coterminous.
No space is left unoccupied,
There is no place for death to hide:.
NO energy is unemployed,
No particle can be destroyed.
Of matter and of energy,
In time and in eternity,
The total was and is conserved;
No loss or waste can be observed.
In all the universal range
No death is found, but only change!.
The tide of life forever flows,
Recedes, advances, flows again;
On undertones its billows bear
The Rhythm of a sweet refrain.
Who listens with an ear attuned
May hear the song Creation sings-
The song of glad, triumphant LIFE,
That through eternal ages rings.
The subject of death long has interested me. I have collected and read books and articles upon it, and have talked with many people about it. I have watched and studied the gradual development of the process, sometimes for weeks, and have sat beside the deathbeds of some – gentle souls who were dear to me – and talked to them, held their hands or smoothed their contracted brows while they were passing over the threshold into the Great Beyond.” It has been my privilege sometimes to ease their pain, soothe their restlessness and facilitate their easy transit by the use of certain homoeopathic medicines which act very gently, but very effectually in such cases, without artificially paralysing motor functions and obliterating consciousness as narcotics do.
With these dear ones I have had precious and spiritually exalting moments as they glimpsed the joys awaiting them and tried to communicate them to me – sometimes in words, but oftener with a reassuring smile, a significant look, or a gentle pressure of the hand, recalling our earlier conversations. Several times, after a rather long period of rest so profound that it seemed as if the end had come, I have seen the sudden opening of the eyes, the look of recognition, the irradiation of the countenance, the uplifting of the outstretched arms, and heard the joyous exclamation, “Mother.” Then the quick subsidence into the Silence. In one instance this was from a little child, in another from a woman nearly seventy.
These experiences brought me gradually to the realization that the poet Longfellow was right when he sand, “There is no death! What seems so is transition”; that the current, morbid idea of death is a figment of mans perverted imagination grounded in ignorance and fear; that in truth, as St. Paul said, “Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.
Other experiences also have I had which sorely tried my faith at times, until I got the larger and more scientific conception of which I shall speak presently. I have sat beside some to whom there were given no such comforting respites, no such cheering glimpses – atrophied, hardened, earth-bound souls, whose lives had been so centered upon material things, or so wrapped up in selfish, sensual or mercenary pursuits that death came to them as a spectre to be denied, or as a grim and pitiless enemy to be resisted and fought with the puny mental weapons of the mart, the court, or the exchange – trickery, evasions, bluster, bullying, cringing, lying – the only weapons known to them. These individuals seem sometimes to regard the physician as the representative or envoy of death. To them he personifies the conquering enemy with whom they must make terms as best they may.
To some of these, in their delirium, came dark and sinister figures; grotesque faces; leering, evil visages; half-recognized but unknown beings lurking in the dark corners of the room, or advancing threateningly toward the victim, inspiring terror and dread. In their lucid intervals there was irritability, complaining, fault-finding, grumbling, cursing, demands for relief, threats, repining, refusal of advice, rejection of consolation, deafness to spiritual instruction, obstinate, wilful blindness to the significance and inevitableness of the crisis that was upon them. Wilful, cruel and selfish in their lives, in death they still feebly tried to oppose their stubborn wills against the will of the Most High until, in His mercy, He laid His hand upon them and quelled their rebellion once and forever.
I fully agree with Mrs. Sherrill that pathological death, or dying, when recognized as imminent and inevitable, should be regarded as a natural and beneficent process and allowed to progress in a natural and orderly manner, without interruption by the administration of oxygen and other stimulants, or the resort to mechanical makeshifts. These expedients, frequently used by misguided medical zealots under the irrational impulse or demand to “do something”, are cruel and inhuman. They constitute a species of medical torture which the dying, above all, should be spared.