We give them back to Thee, dear Lord, who gavest them to us; yet as Thou dost not lose them in giving, so we have not lost them by their return. Not as the world giveth, givest Thou, O Lover of Souls. What Thou gavest, Thou takest not away, for what is Thine is ours always if we are Thine. And Life is eternal and Love is immortal, and death is only an horizon, and an horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.*
I picked up on that last line and agreed that life is eternal. Jesus said that “whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Eleanor was one of those “whosoevers,” and I believe she has already laid claim to her everlasting life. I also agreed that love is immortal. I asked Eleanor’s husband, Herb, if he loved her less today than before she died and he said, “No, of course not!” That’s because his love for her is still alive and well. It is stronger than death. Finally I agreed that death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing but the limit of our sight. I said it like this:
If you stand on the shore long enough and watch a cruise ship sail out to sea, there comes a time when you can’t see it anymore. It sails beyond that curve in the earth’s surface that obscures it from your sight. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t there; it only means that you can’t see it any longer. For those people on board life is going on as it rarely does on shore, with fine dining and ballroom dancing and moonlit walks on the promenade deck. In her death Eleanor Wiley has sailed beyond the horizon. We can’t see her anymore, but that doesn’t mean her life isn’t going on. It is. Although I have a feeling that as we gather here this morning to mourn her death she is standing at the stern of that ship, looking back toward the shore, standing on tiptoe and waving her handkerchief to let us know that she’s all right—that death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing but the limit of our sight.
Bon Voyage, Eleanor!
*In my research, I was not able to come up with the undisputed author of this poem. While most of my sources cite Rossiter Raymond, people who claim to know better say it was William Penn.