Thoreau's Journal: 3-Feb-1859

Five minutes before 3 P.M., Father died.
[This sentence (with the date) has a full page to itself in the original Journal]

After a sickness of some two years, going down-town in pleasant weather, doing a little business from time to time, hoeing a little in the garden, etc., Father took to his chamber January 13th and did not come down again. Most of the time previously he had coughed and expectorated a great deal. Latterly he did not cough, but continued to raise. He continued to sit up in his chamber till within a week before he died. He sat up for a little while on the Sunday four days before he died. Generally he was very silent for many months. He was quite conscious to the last, and his death was so easy that we should not have been aware that he was dying, though we were sitting around his bed, if we had not watched very closely.

I have touched a body which was flexible and warm, yet tenantless,—warmed by what fire? When the spirit that animated some matter has left it, who else, what else, can animate it?

How enduring are our bodies, after all! The forms of our brothers and sisters, our parents and children and wives, lie still in the hills and field around about us, not to mention those of our remoter ancestors, and the matter which composed the body of our first human father still exists under another name.

When in sickness the body is emaciated, and the expression of the face in various ways is changed, you perceive unexpected resemblances to other members of the same family; as if within the same family there was a greater similarity in the framework of the face than in its filling up and clothing.

Father first came to this town to live with his father about the end of the last century…

1 comment:

Lorianne said...

This is incredibly moving. I've written about Thoreau's response to his brother's death, but somehow I've overlooked his response to his father's. That question of "what's warming this lifeless body" is mind-stopping.

Lorianne/aka ZM