„In the nature of things, I must soon lose sight of this sense of constant metamorphosis whose limits bound our human life.“
— Julia Ward Howe American abolitionist, social activist, and poet 1819 - 1910
Context: To me has been granted a somewhat unusual experience of life. Ninety full years have been measured off to me, their lessons and opportunities unabridged by wasting disease or gnawing poverty. I have enjoyed general good health, comfortable circumstances, excellent company, and the incitements to personal effort which civilized society offers to its members. For this life and its gifts I am, I hope, devoutly thankful. I came into this world a hopeless and ignorant bit of humanity. I have found in it many helps toward the attainment of my full human stature, material, mental, moral. In this slow process of attainment many features have proved transient. Visions have come and gone. Seasons have bloomed and closed, passions have flamed and faded. Something has never left me. My relation to it has suffered many changes, but it still remains, the foundation of my life, light in darkness, consolation in ill fortune, guide in uncertainty. In the nature of things, I must soon lose sight of this sense of constant metamorphosis whose limits bound our human life. How about this unchanging element? Will it die when I shall be laid in earth? The visible world has no answer to this question. For it, dead is dead, and gone is gone. But a deep spring of life within me says: "Look beyond. Thy days numbered hitherto register a divine promise. Thy mortal dissolution leaves this promise unfulfilled, but not abrogated. Thou mayst hope that all that made thy life divine will live for thine immortal part." I have quoted Theodore Parker's great word, and have made no attempt, so far, to bring into view considerations which may set before us the fundamental distinction between what in human experience passes and what abides.