I did it. I made myself read the chapter titled “Death”. As I suffered along with the St. Clare family during Eva’s final days, something Ophelia said made me think of a hymn.
Eva has given all her curls away to the slaves. The only people left in the room are Eva, Ophelia and St. Clare. The father is crushed by the thought of his sweet daughter’s impending death.
When they were all gone, he sat so still.
“Papa!” said Eve, gently, laying her hand on his.
He gave a sudden start and shiver; but made no answer.
“Dear papa!” said Eva.
“I cannot,” said St. Clare, rising, “I cannot have it so! The Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me!” and St. Clare pronounced these words with a bitter emphasis, indeed.
“Augustine! has not God a right to do what He will with his own?” said Miss Ophelia.
Ophelia’s rhetorical question made me think of the hymn “What God Ordains Is Always Good” (Lutheran Service Book 760). The text is by Samuel Rodigast (1649-1708). Here’s the last stanza of this hymn of hope and comfort.
What God ordains is always good:
This truth remains unshaken.
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine.
I shall not be forsaken.
I fear no harm.
For with His arm
He shall embrace and shield me:
So to my God I yield me.
Later at Eva’s death-bed…
Tom had his master’s hands between his own; and, with tears streaming down his dark cheeks, looked up for help where he had always been used to look.
“Pray that this may be cut short!” said St. Clare, — “This wrings my heart.”
“O, bless the Lord! it’s over, –it’s over, dear Master!” said Tom; “look at her.”
“O, Eva, tell us what you see! What is it?” said her father.
A bright, a glorious smile passed over her face, and she said brokenly,–“O! love, –joy, –peace!” gave one sigh and passed from death unto life!
“What God Ordains Is Always Good”
What God ordains is always good.
Though I the cup am drinking
Which savors now of bitterness,
I take it without shrinking.
For after grief
God gives relief,
My heart with comfort filling
And all my sorrow stilling.
I love that Harriet Beecher Stowe says Eva passed from death into life.
For a Christian, this is hope and comfort in the midst of grief.
Beautiful response, Ophelia.