George Santayana (1863-1952), "Death-Bed Manners," Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies
(London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1922), pp. 90-92 (at 91-92):
No summoning of priests, no great
concourse of friends and relations, no loud grief, no
passionate embraces and poignant farewells; no endless
confabulations in the antechamber, no gossip about the
symptoms, the remedies, or the doctors' quarrels and
blunders; no breathless enumeration of distinguished
visitors, letters, and telegrams; no tearful reconciliation
of old family feuds nor whisperings about the division of
Instead, either silence and closed doors, if
there is real sorrow, or more commonly only a little physical
weariness in the mourners, a little sigh or glance at one
another, as if to say: We are simply waiting for events;
the doctors and nurses are attending to everything, and no
doubt, when the end comes, it will be for the best.
departing soul, too, probably dulness and indifference. No
repentance, no anxiety, no definite hopes or desires either
for this life or for the next. Perhaps old memories returning,
old loves automatically reviving; possibly a vision, by
anticipation, of some reunion in the other world: but how
pale, how ghostly, how impotent this death-dream is!
seem to overhear the last words, the last thoughts of a
mother: "Dear children, you know I love you. Provision
has been made. I should be of little use to you any longer.
How pleasant to look out of that window into the park!
Be sure they don't forget to give Pup some meat with his
dog-biscuit." It is all very simple, very much repressed,
the pattering echo of daily words.
Death, it is felt, is not
important. What matters is the part we have played in
the world, or may still play there by our influence. We are
not going to a melodramatic Last Judgement. We are
shrinking into ourselves, into the seed we came from, into a
long winter's sleep. Perhaps in another springtime we may
revive and come again to the light somewhere, among those
sweet flowers, those dear ones we have lost. That is God's
secret. We have tried to do right here. If there is any
Beyond, we shall try to do right there also.
Related post: My Bed of Death