It is part of the strange, deceptive quality of things, that nothing should teach us so much of life, nothing should so much open our eyes to the grandeur, and limitless possibility of life, and death, which is called the cessation of life. Twice it has been my lot to verify the same truth; that the death of a friend, esteemed wise and valiant in knowledge of life, should not impoverish life but enrich it; should, indeed, add a new world to the kingdom of life, and that new world—the realm of death.
There is—in a few soul vividly manifest, in many souls dimly felt, in all souls at least suspected—a quality of high reality which, when we meet and touch it, brings with it a keen sense of eternalness, of something that really is, and therefore cannot cease to be. This profoundly real light is the best gift the highest souls have to offer us; and the moment for testing the value of the gift, is the moment of their death.
When that death has come, and we know quite certainly that we shall not by any possibilities see them again in life, there comes to us—if we have fitly received their gift of light—a keen and lucid sense of the closeness to us of that eternal part in them which we had felt during life; and, with it, a knowledge that this is the reality of our friend, not the outward form, faded by the waste of mortality. And that new reality—new, because not known before in its pure and isolated nature—has won a new world fur us. For what we feel, close to us, is not in this world, as men peak of this world nor does it approach us from the side of this world, or in the manner of this world, but in a new and hitherto inexperienced way, which we know to be not of this world, but of the mysterious shining, mysteriously hidden world of death. In that newly gained world we have now a certain possession, a possession not of the dead. but of the living. More than that, as we cannot perceive the things of the real world in any way but by becoming them, by recognizing our real oneness with them; so, in thus gaining a possession in the kingdom of death, we really become, in a sense, at one with the kingdom of death, and, thus becoming death, we find that death is—life.
We are apprised of a new. hitherto hardly suspected, hardly felt realm of life; a new world, to which our dead friend has gone as ambassador, carrying with him our consciousness, and thereby giving us a sense of being, in some degree, familiar with the world of death, and at home in it.
Death is no longer a blackness stretching across the sky of life, and drawing closer and ever closer. Death has been transformed; we have become reconciled to it, found in it a new, wide world, where a real part of us already dwells. This knowledge is the last, best gift to us from our dead friends.
This strange inheritance of death is yet not more than a single piercing intuition, which we can only in part relate to the whole of our lives and wills; very much of our lives are lived as though there was no death, or as if death were immeasurably distant, or a terrible fate which it were best to keep hidden from memory and thought.
Yet that single intuition foreshadows for us the possibility of a time when we shall live with equal regard to both worlds; when we shall at will inhabit both worlds, the Beyond as familiarly as this earth. It is easy enough to figure some such possibility, in fancy; it is in no wise easy to realize it, even a little, with our wills; and it is hardly conceivable that anything we could voluntarily undertake would give our wills a hold in the world of death.
For this very reason, perhaps, it is necessary that just those souls in whom we have felt most of reality, most of eternalness, should disappear from us into the darkness, in order that we may learn that not seeing but inwardly touching is the true proof that our friend is there; in order that we may learn that the vanishing and dissipation of the outward, visible part, is no impairing or detriment to the real part, which is invisible.
This knowledge, and the realizing of it in our wills, are gained with the utmost difficulty, at a cost not less than the loss of the best of our friends; yet, if the cost be great, the gain is great and beyond estimating, for it is nothing less than a first victory over the whole universe, wherein we come to know that there is that in us which can face and conquer and outlast anything in the universe, and come forth radiant and triumphant from the contest. Yet neither the universe, nor death are real antagonists, for they are both only Life everywhere, and we are Life.