Thursday, January 5, 2012

Letter on the death of John Douglas

This letter is from Edward Archibald Douglas (1877-1947), John Douglas's son, to his fiance (and  future wife) Annette Eileen Power on the occasion of John Douglas's death

17 Telegraph Chambers, Queen Street, Brisbane
25th July 1904

My dearest (Annette Power)

I must write to you tonight and yet I do not know where to begin.  It is almost too difficult to bring myself to express my feelings.  A thousand times would I prefer to be able to talk but I must accept the heavy task of trying to put something upon paper.  You will judge from the tone and expression of my last letter how utterly unexpected was the news which so shortly came upon me whilst returning on Saturday evening from the golf links.  My brother telegraphed at 11 am the hour of my dear father’s death but the telegram did not reach Brisbane until the afternoon and the first intimation that I had of the event was the flags at half-mast on the government buildings and even then I never suspected it until I asked and was told in the street.  I had only just time to send one telegram.  Fortunately I was consoled by the fact that my brother writes that nothing could be more peaceful and happy than his death and that he suffered no pain whatever.  He simply faded away and God took him to his arms as he slept after his long and faithful career of duty nobly followed.

I can hardly speak of him without feeling how impossible it is for me to express my feelings towards him.  I revered him and loved him as I feel I never could regard any other being.  He was my ideal from my earliest years.  His influence has been the guiding spirit of my short life.  How much I regret that fate so ordained it that since I grew to manhood my lot has been cast in a sphere do far removed from him.  Alas I have seen but little of him, I who was so close to him, who always felt the deepest sympathy the most intimate alliance with that great and noble spirit.  I have seen virtues exemplified in him that I never hope or expect to see equaled by any man.  You may think that I exaggerate but you would not wonder if you had known as I have known that Christ like enduring patience and pity that filled his whole soul and that unflinching determination which fought and overcame difficulties which would have taxed the most valiant heart. 
Year after year, year after year, still at his post through storm and calm he fought a great fight until he saw us all firmly launched on the road of life and I rejoice to think that he has passed in the fullness of time covered with years of honour in full mental vigour, possessing to the last his physical powers and as he wished in harness.  Truly how can I sorrow for him when I think of the manner and time of his death.  He felt and knew that he could say “I have lived my life and that which I have done may he within himself make pure.”  He was ready to go.  The poor body was worn out with the weight of years and with the long incessant work of life.  We have often talked and written upon the subject and he had such a divine trust in the overwhelming goodness of God that death had no terrors for him.  He was true to the most noble ideals and had a profound belief too in the essential goodness of our poor weak human natures.  How often I have thought that I would fulfill a great destiny if I could but follow some of the examples which he has set me in his life.  I can at least strive for his that his presence shall be always with me encouraging and in inspiring me in the struggle of life and that I can endeavour to keep unsullied that name which he has handed down in so much honour and love.

Every one who came in contact with him were drawn towards him by that frank and almost boyish playfulness and that delightful charm of manner, always serene and dignified carrying himself as a natural leader of men.  I say nothing of his public virtues, they were known to all.  But only those who experienced his tenderness as a father combined with a strict regard for duty can ever estimate his capacity and his love.  We were his joy and pride.  Above everything did he rejoice that in the later months of his life that you and I should have been so happily engaged.  It pleased him more than anything else for he felt that it was a pledge of our future happiness.  I regret indeed only that you should never have known something more of him for he would have loved you with a father’s heart and you could have given some of that devotion which he was ordained to receive from any daughter of his own.  I did at first feel keen regret also that I had not gone to Thursday Island when I hesitated and finally decided not to do so.  How much I would have given to have been able to say goodbye and yet even now I cannot understand how it was I did not by instinct feel that the end was coming.  The attack which finally lead to death was first developed during a cruise in a small schooner called the Ventura amongst the islands for a week.  He was determined to be up and doing and insisted on going out and personally interviewing and looking after the people of the islands.  On returning he complained of acute indigestion which would not give way but he expected to recover soon.  He seems to have had several spells and rallies and after a bad turn on Sunday he removed to the home of my brother and mother and there he at first progressed most favourably but it was [not] to be.  I am so pleased too that he passed away surrounded by those he most loved and that all the trials of estrangement which he so much lamented were closed in one perpetual reconciliation.  Everything leads to make me thank God for his goodness.

And now my eyes have grown dim.  I cannot say any more.  Keep him in your prayers and may he unite us all, both those that have gone before, and those that remain, in his everlasting love.
I have been the recipient today of so many kind expressions of sympathy.  Sir Samuel Griffith wrote me a most touching and noble letter which I shall always value and which I must show you shortly.  Everyone has been most kind.  I went out and stayed with the aunts yesterday.  It was so peaceful and quiet.  With most tender love to you my dear.

Your most affectionate, Edward