TO THE PARISHIONERS OF FELTWELL.
IN MEMORY OF THE
Rev. HENRY O'RORKE,
Their Rector for nearly 33 years.
DEAR KIND FRIENDS, -
Your deep sympathy and thoughtful kindness have been of the greatest help to us in the time of heart-sorrow through which we, and you, have been passing, and we are most grateful to you all.
Thank God there is no standing still for us, but we are always passing on, so each day takes us farther away from the partings, and nearer to the meeting again.
Truly my husband loved you all. The babes he held in his arms, when he dedicated them to the Saviour, Who said "Suffer the little children to come unto Me"; the infants, and the boys and girls in the schools, whose smiling faces and the kind welcomes from their teachers, gave him such pleasure, - the young men and maidens setting out in life, - the fathers and mothers with their many anxious cares, often so patiently and bravely borne, and the aged and infirm ones, who had a special place in his sympathy.
You will never forget his tender care for the sick, the suffering, and the dying, and how his heart went out to the mourners.
There is no need for me to tell you, who know it so well, how gladly he went amongst yon, sharing your interests, and making your joys and sorrows his own, for with his whole heart he carried on the work in his parish. But I want now to tell you how he bore the trial of suffering that made that loved work no longer possible for him.
You may remember that he preached at the Benefit Clubs' Service on July 19th, from Psalm exvi. 12: "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me?" He had no thought when he ended his sermon that he would never enter his pulpit again, for the next day we went away to the holiday rest, that we hoped would restore his sadly failing strength. But all our hopes were disappointed. From that time forward he suffered breathlessness and sleeplessness, and pain, with increasing suffering to the very end. Through all those weary days, and still wearier nights, no word of complaint escaped his lips, no look of impatience was ever seen on his calm face.
After our return home he was able on the first Sunday in September to take part in the Holy Communion Service, and on several succeeding Sundays of the year he took some little part in the Services, and rejoiced to be in his loved Church, and with the congregation of his kind and sympathising parishioners; and greatly he valued and was cheered by the ministry and the work of his fellow-helper, the Rev. Harold Young.
For several weeks after our return home, he diligently studied for, and prepared in his mind, a sermon for the following Sunday, hoping for the needed strength which would enable him to preach again, but it never came.
On December 22nd, our beloved Aunt, Miss Marsh, between whom and my Husband there was a love like that between mother and son, was still enjoying the clear powers of her mind and her memory. He and I had been with her in the evening as usual, and she repeated four beautiful hymns to us. The last verse she said was:-
"O! had I not that story
No human pen could write,
Till by the Eternal Spirit
'Twas dipped in living Light.
Not Fancy's wildest dreams could paint,
Such love, so full, so free,
Such unimaginable grace,
That Christ should die for me.
I feel like one who gazes
On ocean wide and fair,
In wonder lost, I can but cry,
O! launch me swiftly there."
We bade her good-night, and we never heard again her dear uplifting words; for early the next morning the stroke came, which made her helpless and speechless. This deep trial she is still bearing, with wonderful patience.
The shock of that sudden sorrow was greater than my Husband's tender heart could withstand, and from that day his illness increased. But he still kept up, and came downstairs, and when it was fine enough he went into the garden he loved; and often he longed, though, alas! in vain, to be driving into the village and visiting as usual there.
On March 13th he asked our eldest son to have the Holy Communion Service with us. We all met in his library, and our hearts told us it was for the last time.
On the following Sunday his old friend and former Curate, the Rev. Edward Backhouse, was here, and preaching at both Services.
In the evening we were all with my Husband, and by his wish we sang several hymns. There was a piano in the room, and our eldest son, whose music had often refreshed him, played for us. We sang hymns that we knew were among his favourites: "Art thou weary," "Jerusalem my happy Home," and then he asked for "Ten thousand times ten thousand" and we finished with "The sands of time are sinking." He could not sing himself, but he enjoyed it, and as he listened he looked round upon us all, his eyes, so bright and yet so tender, beaming with love.
We knew that the time of his departure was drawing very near, and yet he must sometimes have thought that he would still recover; for when he heard - and always with such interest - of anything that concerned you, and of all your kind sympathy in his illness, of which our beloved daughters delighted to tell him, when they returned from their daily visits in the village, he said one day that when the summer came he hoped he should be thanking many of his kind friends at the Sunday School treat.
By God's tender mercy all our children were able to be with him. Our loved daughter, Mrs. Buxton, and her eldest son, had come from Egypt with all haste on hearing of his increased illness, and her second son was at home on leave from his ship.
She, and both our dear sons, helped with us in tenderly ministering to him by night and by day, and we had the comfort of an excellent nurse who sought by every means in her power to alleviate his pain. She told us that she had never seen anything like his patience in all her varied experience.
The loving service and unwearying help given by all our household to him and to our beloved Aunt through these long months of illness and trial, have been a great comfort to us, and they were much appreciated and valued by him, and by all of us.
On Wednesday, March 27th, our eldest grandson arrived, and when he and his brother and our six children were standing round my Husband's bed, he said: "This is good," and when they were leaving the room, he waved his hand towards them saying, "The Lord bless you all."
He also enjoyed visits from our dear daughters-in-law, to whom he had given a father's love, but our dear son-in-law with two of his children was in the Holy Land, too far away to come to us. His little grandchildren at Edensor sent him flowers, which he loved.
He could never speak much, nor listen to much, but he loved to hear a promise from God's Word, for the Bible was always his constant study, his guide, his delight, and the source of his faithful ministry.
At one time when I asked him if there was anything that he wanted, he replied with his lovely smile, as he clasped, still more closely, my hand which he was holding, "Nothing, but the hold of faith." He felt no need of the things which are seen and which are temporal, for he was holding fast to the things unseen, which are eternal; the Love of God, his Heavenly Father, the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, his Saviour, and the Communion of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter - these realities gave him the strength, the calm, the gentleness, the generosity, and the devotion to duty, which were seen in his daily life. Self had no place in his thoughts, he lived for others.
On Saturday, the 30th, he was very ill, and Mr. Archer, in whose skill and kindness he found great comfort, was with him twice. That night was one of distressing pain and perfect patience.
On Sunday morning he saw our eldest son just before he went to Church, and thanked him for going to help in the Service, while our younger son stayed to help us at home. Later on he asked about the Service, and expressed his pleasure in hearing of Mr. Young's faithful sermon. That afternoon he gradually became unconscious, and although the dreadful breathing continued through the night, he was evidently unaware of it, for he never moved. At 8 o'clock on Monday morning, April 1st, his breathing suddenly changed, and we all knelt round his bed, while our eldest son read the commendatory prayer for the dying, the Collect for Easter even, and we followed him in the Lord's prayer. As the Amen was said, the soft breathing ended in a gentle sigh, the patient, brave, loving heart failed, and our best Beloved had passed on. He was gone from us without knowing the pain of parting.
A ray of sunlight streamed in through the half-closed curtains, and shone across his bed. He was looking beautiful, a little flush of fever still on his cheeks, and his dark eyebrows and eyelashes giving him almost a young look. He had fallen asleep in Jesus, "the Life of them that believe, and the Resurrection of the dead." He had left us no farewell words of love, but we did not need them, for his life had been a constant overflow of love, which we shall have as a possession while memory lasts. We may say of him, as it is written of our Lord and Saviour, in Whose footsteps he followed so closely, that he died "leaving us an example."
How eagerly in Heaven he will be longing to meet each one of you, his much prayed for, much loved flock, of whom he had been given the oversight for more than thirty-two years, living amongst us a life that was like "the light of dawn, shining more and more to the perfect Day."
Your grateful friend,
HUSH! blessed are the dead
In Jesus' arms who rest,
And lean their weary head
For ever on His breast.
O beatific sight!
No darkling veil between,
They see the Light of Light,
Whom here they loved unseen.
Them the Good Shepherd leads,
Where storms are never rife,
In tranquil dewy meads
Beside the Fount of Life.
Ours only are the tears,
Who weep around their tomb
The light of bygone years
And shadowing years to come.
Their voice, their touch, their smile,-
Those love-springs flowing o'er,--
Earth for its little while
Shall never know them more.
O tender hearts and true,
Our long last vigil kept,
We weep and mourn for you
Nor blame us: Jesus wept.
But soon at break of day
His calm Almighty voice,
Stronger than death, shall say,
Awake, - arise, - rejoice. Amen.
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