With the passing of the season we are reminded of the rapid flight of life. It seems but yesterday that the first bluebird of spring lit on the bare bough of the apple-tree in the orchard near by, and the early robin sang his welcome notes in our glad ears, and yet the bluebird and robin are seen and heard no more, and the green promise of spring has changed to the brown harvest of autumn, which will soon be stored for winter’s use. This is the way every season comes and goes; a little long in coming sometimes; but never long in going; and every year grows shorter as we grow older, and every year goes more quickly as we near the border of old age. Life soon changes from a glad look ahead to a sad glance behind. From baby to boy, from boy to man, from man to tottering age, — how swiftly the scenes change, and life comes and life goes, and the door of death opens almost before the door of birth closes. The cradle and the grave touch, and the blithe youth that lends his strength to feeble age finds himself ere long leaning upon the arm of youth and strength. The circle of years soon rolls round, and life is but a day of toil and a night of dreams. As we look back upon vanished time and see the happy scenes of childhood mingled with the surroundings of later life, days and months shrink to hours, and years seem to be spanned by a sunrise; and a sunset with a little laughter and perhaps some tears between. We who have travelled more than half way on the road cannot look backward without a sigh, cannot think backward without a pang. Many of us have left the graves of father and mother behind, perhaps the smaller graves of children, where some of our heart lies buried too. The storms that beat on us make life seem shorter; make the days go faster, and the night draw nearer; and all of us have already, or must sometime, bow our heads to the blast.
One human being in the great world of man, and in the greater world of Nature, plays but a small part. Of but little account is a human life in the vast, limitless universe. A man fills but a little space while alive, and touches but a few hearts when he dies. We are fortunate if we make during life, one true, loyal friend who stands by us while that life lasts. We reckon this, after all, the grandest triumph of the human soul. It is not difficult to gather dollars — quite a number, at least, — nor to win a measure of fame, but to live, to be, to act, in such way as to bind one true heart to ours, is a victory which we may be proud of. Some lives have larger circumferences than others, radiate farther, influence more, but none can win the rare tribute of perfect friendship from more than one or two. Yes! man plays but a small part in the great drama of life. He is on the stage but a few short hours, and most men are but poor or indifferent actors at best.
Who cares when a man dies? Not the sun, for it shines just as gaily when he closes his eyes to its golden light; not the birds, for they chatter and sing over his coffin, and hop and sing on his grave; not the brook, for it runs laughing on and never stops its gambols and song; not any of the things of earth, but man.
When man dies, a few say, Is he gone? and then forget that he ever lived; a few go to help carry his dead body to the grave, and then turn away to join the business and pleasure of life, and forget that they have buried a man; a few, some days after, call at the house where he lived and drop a tear of sympathy for the weeping widow and tearful children, and then forget that the husband and father is no more. But does no one care? Perhaps a wife, who will carry his dead image in her heart as long as it beats; perhaps a daughter, who will remember him a year or two, or a little longer, who will miss his happy greeting, his loving kiss, his proud, kind look as he lifts the heart’s dearest idol to his knee; and this is all. And this is enough. We care for only a few; and why should many care for us?
Though life is short and not always heroic; and though, when it ends, the world goes on just the same, we love life and it is sweet while it lasts. Though we travel quickly over the road, we enjoy for the most part, the journey of life. We have pain, it is true; we learn of sorrow and grief; we feel the pang of parting and weep on the white face of some loved one, and yet, we find happiness, we enjoy living, and we regret when the curtain is rung down and our part is played and the lights turned out. When we strike the balance between pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, happiness and misery, most find that life is worth living.