Mrs. Palfrey, who took up residence at the Claremont, in the novel and movie bearing her name, did so to minimize the burden her aging and decline would cost her family – robbing them of an opportunity to come to terms with death. She confronted the end of her life in surroundings she chose, with strangers who became comrades. Some simply helped her manage the details of daily living, like sorting out appropriate dress. Others enabled her to reflect on all her life’s blessings. Yet, none could keep her from her final appointment.
Mrs. Palfrey’s winsome spryness, regret and loneliness engaged me – perhaps because if God permits I will be facing what she faced. Maybe you will, too? But God, who lent her life, was not her final comfort; William Wordsworth was – especially his thoughts from “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” Facing death, she remembered creation’s infinite delight – “. . . a host of golden daffodils . . . flash[ed] upon that inward eye . . .” filling her heart with pleasure.
If only the end of one’s life were so serene, albeit solitary. Is there not a comrade for this time for me and thee – a group of sympathetic companions whose words will fill our hearts – with more than memories of golden flowers that are here today, and gone tomorrow?
Surely, thinking on creation’s beauty is a tonic. Springtime – the daffodils – heralds hope; as Martin Luther observed, “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection not in words alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” But what of autumn? Is there a helper here?
Isaiah spoke of One who knew us before our birth:
“. . . I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and be your Savior.” (Isaiah 46:3-4 TLB)And the psalmist, a son of Asaph, knew Him, too.
“. . . When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, GOD is rock-firm and faithful . . . ”(Psalm 73:23-28 from THE MESSAGE )
Mrs. Palfrey, nearing the end of her life, sought solace in solitude; she found serendipitous companionship and poetry. She believed that she would never get out of life alive, and wanted to control her end. Approaching the home stretch of my life, I believe I will get out of it alive. I also believe that yielding control to Someone greater than I is how I will live.
"And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes shall see and not another . . . ( Job 19:25-27)