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And yet, Mr. Speaker, there is more to life than death. It is inconceivable in logic that those who have toiled here with us, that those who gave of their best to the cause of government, that those who lived and studied and worked and planned for the welfare of their country, their fellow men, and their more immediate loved ones should cease to be when the shadow of death descended over them.
There is no possible human logic to justify any conclusion that death ends the activity of those we have known and loved. An all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving ever-present Creative Intelligence would fulfill no purpose in creating human identities to be born to work, and strive, and laugh, and cry for a brief, fevered instant on this earth, only to pass out and to return to a state of nonbeing. That would be like a child building up a mound of sand but to sweep it away the next instant.
Every tenet of religious faith, every tenet of philosophy, every tenet of logic, every tenet of human hope bids us to be of good cheer because our colleagues, having passed beyond our ken, are not forever blotted out but live on and work on.
None can explain the mystery of death. We can hope. None can reason how or why our colleagues should have been called, except that that is the way of the flesh. But there is vast consolation, Mr. Speaker, in the hope and the faith that our colleagues, somewhere, in some happier realm, labor on, rising ever upward in their striving to attain truth.
So, instead of grieving, I think we can find it in our hearts today to be grateful to infinite love that we were permitted to know our colleagues, to be associated with them, to work with them, and to cherish their memories as we hope those left behind when we go will cherish memories of us.
That great philosopher, that kindly gentleman, that able Justice of the Supreme Court, the late Oliver Wendell Holmes, once put into words the hope and the faith that I would voice to you here today. Said he:
I was walking homeward on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Treasury, and as I looked beyond Sherman's statue to the west the
sky was aflame with scarlet and crimson from the setting sun. But, like the note of downfall in Wagner's opera, below the skyline there came from little globes the pallid discord of electric lights, and I thought to myself the Gotterdammerung will end, and from those globes clustered like evil eggs will come the new masters of the sky. It is like the time in which we live. But, then, I remembered the faith that I partly have expressed, faith in a universe not measured by our fears, a universe that has thought, and more than thought, inside of it, and as I gazed, after the sunset, and above the electric lights, there shone the stars.
And something else that great jurist said I want to repeat to you. It was this:
I think it not improbable that man, like the grub that prepares a chamber for the winged thing it has never seen but is to be— that man may have cosmic destinies that he does not understand. And so beyond the vision of battling races and an impoverished earth I catch a dreaming glimpse of peace.
Who is to say that out of the depth of his wisdom, gained from his lifelong study of profound truths, Oliver Wendell Holmes may not have been right-that man may have cosmic destinies he does not understand. And so beyond the vision of battling races and an impoverished earth we may catch a dreaming glimpse of peace.
It is this beautiful star of human hope, shining above the pallid glare of earth's electric lights, in the blue sky of a universe in which there is thought, and more than thought, that carries us through the storms and the stresses and the sorrows and the sicknesses, and enables us to bear the thought of the parting at death.
It seems to be, Mr. Speaker, the common fate of kings and beggars, of just and unjust, of saint and sinner, that each of us shall sometime embark upon that journey from earth to the far yonder shores of an unknown eternity.
If we believe that death is the end of those personalities whom we have known and loved as our colleagues, then, indeed, is death a truly dreadful event. If, however, we are to believe that those who have preceded us on that mystical journey, clinging to the hand of the Saviour, consciously
trusting in the infinite love of the Creator, are going on to other tasks-higher tasks, mayhap-then death is not the end, but the beginning of life.
So, then, as our hearts today are sad, as our thoughts are somber, as we find in our breasts an aching longing for the touch of hands that have vanished and the sound of voices now stilled, it is rather because of our own loneliness that we grieve, the loss of championship and association that we miss, than for any fear or any belief that our departed and beloved colleagues have been blotted out, or condemned to some oblivion.
Why, Mr. Speaker, what would be the purpose of life, what would be the use of this human struggle, what would be the use of our efforts, what purpose would we serve by our tears or our smiles, if the grave were the end of it all? Ah, no, life is eternal. We must progress onward and upward until we become more aware of that image and likeness in which we are created.
And, so, Mr. Speaker, let us be firm in the hope; let us find comfort in the thought, that our dear departed colleagues have moved further along toward their cosmic destinies which they may not understand, and, as Holmes so beautifully said, beyond the vision of battling races and an impoverished earth, that they have realized that peace of which we here may catch but a dreaming glimpse.
Mr. Thomas L. Thomas sang “The Old Rugged Cross,” by Bennard.
Mr. Winfred Kemp, principal musician, United States Marine Band Orchestra, sounded taps.
The Chaplain, Rev. James Shera Montgomery, D. D., pronounced the benediction:
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace, both now and evermore. Amen.