The task of giving a short account of our leader’s last days and of the change that finally took him to a wider field of work, and the necessary going back in thought to those weeks of suffering and continuous strain, must fill anyone who loved him, not with sorrow but with gladness that the end came as quickly as it did, to leave him free.
I was with him for two weeks at Aiken, South Carolina, during last Christmas and until after the new year, where he was staying with Mrs. Judge. He had left New York in October, 1895, for Asheville, S. C., but finding the climate there too cold he had gone further south to Aiken. After he had been there a few weeks the dullness of the place seemed to weary him; his cough was incessant and the trouble with his digestive and assimilative organs kept him in almost constant pain. He came to the conclusion that climates were of no avail and determined to return to New York, where he would be in the midst of friends and close to the Headquarters of his work. He intended to devote his evenings to writing a book on “Occultism,” and we spent many hours talking over its contents and the general outline of the work. Students will never see that book, and those who know something of the vast fund of information on occult matters possessed by W. Q. Judge will appreciate their loss and the loss to the cause of Theosophical education.
Before returning to New York, he decided to visit Dr. Buck in Cincinnati and Dr. Buchman in Fort Wayne. This he did, leaving Aiken on January 9th, spending two weeks in Cincinnati, over a week in Fort Wayne, and reaching New York on February 3rd, at 6 P.M. He then went to the Lincoln Hotel on Broadway, pending the discovery of a suitable apartment. It was evident that he was in far worse condition on his return to the city of his adoption than when I had last seen him in Aiken. He was much weaker, his cough was more frequent, his digestive organs caused him greater pain. He missed the fresh air and the sunshine. But his keen interest in the work of the Society was undiminished, and I would spend an hour or two with him daily while he would either dictate or give notes for replies to the immense number of letters he received, besides attending to other work that he felt obliged to supervise. On February 22d at about 2.30 P.M. he drove in a closed carriage to the apartment on the third floor of 325 West 56th Street, the last time but one that he was out of doors. Ill as he was his contempt for the precautions that all orthodox invalids take—in the shape of shawls, rugs and so forth—was characteristic of the man, though alarming to his friends.
From that day he grew weaker and weaker, with rare spurts of renewed strength, though down to the very last he retained his power of energizing and inspiring others. Some two weeks before his death he was warned by Dr. Rounds, who was attending him daily, that his only chance of living would be destroyed unless he would consent to absolutely give up all work. This he reluctantly agreed to do, but the first effect of such a change in his whole life’s practice was to bring about a reaction that threatened an immediate collapse. After this he read but little, and then only the lightest sort of literature. He would doze whenever he could, as his nights were broken by his cough, and for weeks before he finally passed away he had not been able to get more than three hours continuous sleep at any one time. Hardly able to whisper, so weak that he had to be supported from chair to chair, torn to pieces by his racking cough, that made it impossible for him to lie down, he still held fast to life and did so until the time had come for him to relax his effort and die. And throughout it all he preserved his magnificent power of endurance and self-control.
On the morning of March 19th he asked me to make full enquiries in regard to health resorts in the South and to report to him at once. At the same time I was to telegraph Mr. E. A. Neresheimer to call on him. He said that if he could “only get to some place where he could sit in the midst of sunshine and of flowers” he might yet perhaps recover. Mr. Neresheimer called that afternoon, and it was after he had said good-bye and when I was sitting by the side of Mr. Judge’s sofa, that the “Rajah” suddenly roused the body out of the half-sleep in which it had been lying, and with his unmistakable force said: “There should be calmness. Hold fast. Go slow.” I took this at first to apply particularly to the contemplated journey to a warmer climate, and it was not until several days later when his papers had been examined that the full significance of this message appeared. It had meanwhile been applied to all the matters that came up for decision, and it was well that this was done, for hasty action taken during the day or two following his death might, as I now see, have brought lasting disaster on the Society. Mr. Neresheimer may or may not have something to say in regard to this, his last interview with W. Q. Judge.
On the morning of Friday, the 20th, Dr. Rounds gave positive orders that no more visitors were to see him, and the same morning, by dint of the united entreaties of Mrs. and Miss Emily Judge he for the first time consented to have a professional night nurse. All that day he grew worse, but late in the afternoon got some broken sleep. It was after this that he told me he was “away most of the time—had I seen him come back just then?” He did not care to have the nurse in the room and as Mrs. Judge—who had nursed him so faithfully throughout his long illness—badly needed rest, and Miss Emily Judge, who had devoted all her days since his return to New York to his care, was obliged to go home, it became my welcome duty to sit up with him from ten o’clock that Friday night till about a quarter to three on Saturday morning. During the whole of that time he dozed, waking up every half hour regularly for his medicine. Unselfish to the last he told me every time he woke to go to bed at once; what was I up so late for?—with that rare smile of his. Numerous excuses were invented at which he again smiled his old smile.
At a quarter to three Mrs. Judge took my place, but at six in the morning she called me up, saying that Mr. Judge wished to see me at once. When I went to him he whispered me to go immediately and get a certain New York doctor, a specialist, who need not be named. This doctor had been called in once before to consult with Dr. Rounds. I roused this famous specialist with considerable difficulty (ringing his bell for half an hour without ceasing), but when roused he absolutely refused to see Mr. Judge, stating that to see him without his regular physician would be contrary to professional etiquette. The fact that a man’s life was at stake had no effect in face of this argument. Back at eight, to find Mr. Judge in the same condition, almost speechless, but sitting upright on the sofa, full of nervous energy. His muscles were so feeble that he could not walk, but his nervous strength was remarkable. I told him the result of my call, and suggested the name of another specialist, but he firmly refused to see any doctor, and did not even see Dr. Rounds when he came in a few minutes later. At about 8.30 I left the room. At about ten minutes to nine Mrs. Judge rushed into the room where the nurse and I were consulting as to what, if anything, could be done, calling to us to come at once. We hurried in to find him still sitting upright, but with the clear mark of approaching death on his face. In three minutes he quietly breathed his last.
Dr. Rounds afterwards said that the condition of his lungs could not have caused his death; that death had been due to “failure of the heart’s action.” But all the doctors who had examined him had agreed that his heart was as sound as a bell, and from this it is safe
to conclude that he died as H.P.B. died, from no immediate physical cause, but because the right time had come. He passed out, and lost nothing in the process but a body that had ceased to be of service and had become a hindrance. He passed from comparative inactivity into the full use of his powers; from constant physical pain into a state where such a thing could only exist as a memory. For him death had no tenors, brought with it no separation. So we who loved him have no cause to mourn, but should instead rejoice that he is free at last.