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Home > Other Readings > Prose > What is Dying? (A Parable of Immortality)

What is Dying? (A Parable of Immortality)

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FuneralChaplain's note: This work is a comfort to families because it reminds us that this life is not the end, and that death is but a passage from this world into the next.

While often attributed to Victor Hugo (The Toilers of the Sea (1896) ), this was more likely written by either Henry Van Dyke or Bishop Charles Henry Brent. For more on the authorship, please see this article.

I am standing upon that foreshore.

A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white clouds just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says, "There! She's gone!"

"Gone where?"

"Gone from my sight, that's all". She is just as large in mast and spar and hull as ever she was when she left my side; just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of her destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at that moment when someone at my side says, "There! She's gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!" And that is dying.

 


Variation 1:

A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon, and someone says, "she is gone."

Gone where?

Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large as when I saw her...

The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone says "she is gone", there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout, "there she comes!"... and that is dying.

 


Variation 2:

I am standing on the sea shore.

A ship sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.

She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon, and someone at my side says, "she is gone."

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all: she is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.

The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not her: and just at the moment when someone at my side says, "she is gone," there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout, "there she comes" - and that is dying.

 

 


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