“I never saw a man dying with so much pleasure and peace,” was the remark made afterwards by one of his visitors–which recalls to mind the last words of Thoreau’s last letter: “I am enjoying existence as much as ever, and regret nothing.”
Several of his utterances on these occasions were very characteristic. When Channing, the faithful and intimate companion of his walks and studies, hinted at the weary change that had now come over his life, and how “solitude began to peer out curiously from the dells and wood roads,” he whispered in reply. “It is better some things should end.” he said to Alcott that he “should leave the world without a regret.” Not in these last weary months of suffering did he lose his shrewd humor and native incisiveness of speech. “Well, Mr. Thoreau, we must go,” said a well-meaning visitor, who thought to comfort dying man by the ordinary platitudes. “When I was a boy,” answered Thoreau. “I learnt that I must die, so I am not disappointed now; death is as near to you as it is to me.” When asked whether he “had made peace with God,” he replied that “he had never quarreled with him.” He was invited by another acquaintance to enter into a religious conversation concerning the next world. “One world at a time,” was the quiet retort. –Henry S. Salt.
Death is always near. Make our peace on each breath.
Adapted from The Tao of Now, by Josh Baran (Hampton Roads, 2008).