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Life Sketches of Ellen G. White

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    Chapter 58—Last Sickness

    For over two years prior to the accident that hastened her death, Mrs. White was freer from suffering and from common ailments than during any other like period in her lifetime. Once her strength failed decidedly, but soon she rallied, and was again able to get about with comparative ease. Her attendant usually took her out driving every pleasant day, and this afforded restful change. She was ordinarily able to go from her upper room to her carriage unaided. But her frame was becoming more and more bowed with the weight of years, and her friends could not hope for long continuance of life.LS 440.1

    In the spring of 1914, Mrs. White had the pleasure of meeting once more her son, Elder James Edson White, who spent some weeks in her home. Not long after his return, his mother suffered great weakness from a complication of difficulties, and as the result, largely gave up reading. In the months that followed, she often had others read to her.LS 440.2

    The cessation of her ordinary activities, however, did not lead to diminished interest in the progress of the cause of God throughout the world. The pages of the Review and Herald and of other denominational papers were as precious to her as ever, and she continued to enjoy letters from old-time friends, and often recounted with animation the experiences of former days.LS 440.3

    In the course of a conversation held December 2, 1914, she referred to an incident that occurred many years before. A certain brother had expressed discouragement over the prospect of the extended and difficult work that would need to be done before the world could be prepared for the second advent of Christ. Another brother, one of large faith, turned to him, his face white with strong emotion, and said: “My brother, do you permit such a prospect to bring discouragement? Do you not know that God would have us press the battle to the gate? Do you not know He would have us labor on, and on, and on, knowing that victory lies ahead?”LS 440.4

    It was early in December, 1914, also, that she testified to hearing voices in the night season, crying out: “Advance! Advance! Advance! Press the battle to the gate!”LS 441.1

    While eager to continue her work, and especially desirous of speaking again in public, Mrs. White knew that her strength was gradually failing, and that she must not presume on her waning energies. This was a real trial to her, yet she felt resigned to the Lord's will. Hear her praying around the family altar at set of sun, Sabbath, December 26, 1914, following petitions by Elder E. W. Farnsworth and others:LS 441.2

    “Thou wilt answer our petitions; and we ask Thee, Lord, for Christ's sake, if it is Thy will, to give me strength and grace to continue; or, I am perfectly willing to leave my work at any time that Thou seest best. O Lord, I greatly desire to do some things, Thou knowest, and would be willing to do them if Thou wilt give me strength; but we will make no complaint; because Thou hast spared my life so much longer than many anticipated and than I have anticipated myself.... Give us light; give us joy; give us the great grace that Thou hast in store for the needy. We ask it in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”LS 441.3

    Feebler and still feebler grew the physical frame; but the spirit was courageous ever. In conversation with Dr. David Paulson on January 25, 1915, Mrs. White said: “The Lord has been my helper, the Lord has been my God, and I have not a doubt. If I could not realize that He has been my guide and my stay, do tell me what I could trust in. Why, I have just as firm a trust in God that He will stand my feet on Mount Zion, as that I live and breathe; and I am going to keep that trust till I die.”LS 442.1

    When, on the 27th of January, 1915, her son, W. C. White, returned home after a four months’ absence in the East and the South, she was apparently as strong as when he had left. She was still enjoying a good degree of comfort, healthwise, and was able to be about. Some two weeks later, only the day before she was stricken, she spent a little time walking in the yard with him, and conversing on the general interests of the cause of God.LS 442.2

    It was on Sabbath day, February 13, 1915, that Mrs. White met with the accident that confined her to her couch thereafter and hastened her death. As she was entering her study from the hallway, about noon, she apparently tripped, and fell. Her niece, Miss May Walling, who for a time had been acting as her nurse, was close by in the hallway, and hastened to her assistance. As efforts to help her to her feet proved unavailing, Miss Walling raised her into a chair, drew the chair through the hallway into the bedroom, and finally got her onto the bed, and summoned a physician from the St. Helena Sanitarium.LS 442.3

    A preliminary examination by Dr. G. E. Klingerman was followed by a more thorough examination by means of the X-ray, and this revealed unmistakably an intracapsular fracture of the left femur. It was of course impossible to determine when the break in the bone had taken place,—whether before the fall, thus causing Mrs. White to drop to the floor, or as the result of the fall.LS 442.4

    The restlessness of the next few days and nights was accompanied with very little pain. In fact, from the very first, the Lord mercifully spared His aged servant the severe pain that ordinarily comes with such injuries. The usual symptoms of shock, also, were absent. The respiration, the temperature, and the circulation were nearly normal. Dr. Klingerman, and Dr. B. F. Jones, his associate, did all that medical science could suggest to make their patient comfortable; but at her advanced age they could hold out but little prospect of ultimate recovery.LS 443.1

    All through the weeks and months of her last sickness, Mrs. White was buoyed up by the same faith and hope and trust that had characterized her life experience in the days of her vigor. Her personal testimony was uniformly cheerful and her courage strong. She felt that her times were in the hand of God, and that His presence was with her continually. Not long after she was rendered helpless by the accident, she testified of her Saviour, “Jesus is my blessed Redeemer, and I love Him with my whole being.” And again: “I see light in His light. I have joy in His joy, and peace in His peace. I see mercy in His mercy, and love in His love.” To Miss Sara McEnterfer, for many years her secretary, she said, “If only I can see my Saviour face to face, I shall be fully satisfied.”LS 443.2

    In an interview with another she said: “My courage is grounded in my Saviour. My work is nearly ended. Looking over the past, I do not feel the least mite of despondency or discouragement. I feel so grateful that the Lord has withheld me from despair and discouragement, and that I can still hold the banner. I know Him whom I love, and in whom my soul trusteth.”LS 443.3

    Referring to the prospect of death, she declared: “I feel, the sooner the better; all the time that is how I feel—the sooner the better. I have not a discouraging thought, nor sadness.... I have nothing to complain of. Let the Lord take His way and do His work with me, so that I am refined and purified; and that is all I desire. I know my work is done; it is of no use to say anything else. I shall rejoice, when my time comes, that I am permitted to lie down to rest in peace. I have no desire that my life shall be prolonged.”LS 444.1

    Following a prayer by the one who was making these notes of her conversation, she prayed:LS 444.2

    “Heavenly Father, I come to Thee, weak, like a broken reed, yet by the Holy Spirit's vindication of righteousness and truth that shall prevail. I thank Thee, Lord, I thank Thee, and I will not draw away from anything that Thou wouldst give me to bear. Let Thy light, let Thy joy and grace, be upon me in my last hours, that I may glorify Thee, is my great desire; and this is all that I shall ask of Thee. Amen.”LS 444.3

    This humble, trustful prayer by one who long had been a chosen vessel in the Master's service, was fully answered. Hers was the comfort that causes a child of the great Father of light and love to fear no evil, even while passing through the valley of the shadow of death. One Sabbath day, only a few short weeks before she breathed her last, she said to her son:LS 444.4

    “I am very weak. I am sure that this is my last sickness. I am not worried at the thought of dying. I feel comforted all the time, that the Lord is near me. I am not anxious. The preciousness of the Saviour has been so plain to me. He has been a friend. He has kept me in sickness and in health.LS 444.5

    “I do not worry about the work I have done. I have done the best I could. I do not think that I shall be lingering long. I do not expect much suffering. I am thankful that we have the comforts of life in time of sickness. Do not worry. I go only a little before the others.”LS 445.1

    The comfortable office room on the second story of Mrs. White's home was the most favorable place for patient and nurses, and here it was that she lay the most of the time, surrounded by the familiar objects of the more active life to which she had so long been accustomed. The room was light and airy. In one corner a large bay window flooded a portion of the chamber with sunshine. Here stood her old writing chair. This was transformed into a reclining chair, into which she was lifted nearly every day after the first week or two of illness had passed by. The view from this sunny corner was pleasing and varied, and she greatly enjoyed the changing beauties of springtime and early summer.LS 445.2

    Close beside her chair, on a table, were kept several of the books she had written. These she would often handle and look over, seeming to delight in having them near. Like an affectionate mother with her children, so was she with these books during her last sickness. Several times, when visited, she was found holding two or three of them in her lap. “I appreciate these books as I never did before,” she at one time remarked. “They are truth, and they are righteousness, and they are an everlasting testimony that God is true.” She rejoiced in the thought that when she could no longer speak to the people, her books would speak for her.LS 445.3

    At times when her strength permitted, she was taken in a wheel chair to a sunny veranda on the upper floor. From this little balcony, embowered with beautiful climbing roses, the panorama of orchard and vineyard, of mountains and valleys, afforded continual pleasure.LS 446.1

    Again and again, during the earlier weeks of her illness, her voice was lifted in song. The words oftenest chosen were:LS 446.2

    “We have heard from the bright, the holy land,
    We have heard, and our hearts are glad;
    For we were a lonely pilgrim band,
    And weary, and worn, and sad.
    They tell us the pilgrims have a dwelling there—
    No longer are homeless ones;
    And we know that the goodly land is fair,
    Where life's pure river runs....
    LS 446.3

    “We'll be there, we'll be there, in a little while,
    We'll join the pure and the blest;
    We'll have the palm, the robe, the crown,
    And forever be at rest.”
    LS 446.4

    About a fortnight after her accident, she was told of the missionary and bookmen's convention in session at Mountain View, where plans were being laid for an increased circulation of denominational publications. This reference to the bookmen led her to express once more the pleasure she had had two years before in greeting many of them personally in her own home. “I am very glad,” she added, “for all they are doing for the circulation of our books. The publishing branch of our cause has much to do with our power. I do desire that it shall accomplish all that the Lord designs it should. If our bookmen do their part faithfully, I know, from the light God has given me, that the knowledge of present truth will be doubled and trebled. This is why I have been in so much of a hurry to get my books out, so that they could be placed in the hands of the people and read. And in the foreign languages the Lord designs that the circulation of our books shall be greatly increased. Thus we shall be placing the cause of present truth on vantage ground. But let us remember, in all our endeavors we must seek daily power and individual Christian experience. Only as we keep in close touch with the Source of our strength shall we be enabled to advance rapidly and along even lines.”LS 446.5

    Many were the visitors—old acquaintances and others—who came to greet Mrs. White during the last few months of her life. Sometimes she was unable to recognize old associates in labor; at other times she knew those who came. Whenever possible, she would converse with them. She never ceased to take delight in testifying of God's goodness and tender mercy. For months prior to her illness, she frequently quoted the scripture, They overcame “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony”; and she felt strengthened every time she bore witness to the love of God and to His watchful care.LS 447.1

    One Sabbath afternoon, when the family of her son, W. C. White, spent some time with her, she was specially blessed, and spoke many words of counsel to her grandchildren. “The Lord is very good to us,” she declared; “and if we follow on to know the Lord, we shall know that His going forth is prepared as the morning. If there is any question in your minds in regard to what is right, look to the Lord Jesus, and He will guide you. We should bring every plan to the Lord, to see if He approves it.... Remember that the Lord will carry us through. I am guarding every moment, so that nothing may come between me and the Lord. I hope there will not. God grant that we may all prove faithful. There will be a glorious meeting soon. I am glad that you have come to see me. May the Lord bless you. Amen.”LS 447.2

    Not alone for her granddaughters and grandsons, but for all the youth throughout the denomination, her heart went out in loving solicitude. At times she talked with her nurses and with her office helpers concerning the need of making wise selections of matter for the youth to read.LS 448.1

    “We should advise the young,” she urged, “to take hold of such reading matter as recommends itself for the upbuilding of Christian character. The most essential points of our faith should be stamped upon the memory of the young. They have had a glimpse of these truths, but not such an acquaintance as would lead them to look upon their study with favor. Our youth should read that which will have a healthful, sanctifying effect upon the mind. This they need in order to be able to discern what is true religion. There is much good reading that is not sanctifying.LS 448.2

    “Now is our time and opportunity to labor for the young people. Tell them that we are now in a perilous crisis, and we want to know how to discern true godliness. Our young people need to be helped, uplifted, and encouraged, but in the right manner, not, perhaps, as they would desire it, but in a way that will help them to have sanctified minds. They need good, sanctifying religion more than anything else.LS 448.3

    “I do not expect to live long. My work is nearly done. Tell our young people that I want my words to encourage them in that manner of life that will be most attractive to the heavenly intelligences.”LS 448.4

    The end came on Friday, July 16, 1915, at 3:40 P. M., in the sunny upper chamber of her “Elmshaven” home where she had spent so much of her time during the last happy, fruitful years of her busy life. She fell asleep in Jesus as quietly and peacefully as a weary child goes to rest. Surrounding her bedside were her son, Elder W. C. White, and his wife; her granddaughter, Mrs. Mabel White Workman; her long-time and faithful secretary, Miss Sara McEnterfer; her niece and devoted nurse, Miss May Walling; another of her untiring bedside nurses, Mrs. Carrie Hungerford; her housekeeper, Miss Tessie Woodbury; her old-time companion and helper, Mrs. Mary Chinnock Thorp; and a few friends and helpers who had spent many years in and about her home and in her office.LS 449.1

    For several days prior to her death, she had been unconscious much of the time, and toward the end she seemed to have lost the faculty of speech and that of hearing. The last words she spoke to her son were, “I know in whom I have believed.”LS 449.2

    “God is love.” “He giveth His beloved sleep.” To them the long night of waiting until the morning of the resurrection is but a moment; and even to those who remain the time of waiting will not be long, for Jesus is coming soon to gather His loved ones home. As our beloved sister herself declared to those about her one Sabbath day during her sickness, “We shall all be home very soon now.”LS 449.3

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