( Originally Published 1902 )
THE people of Bloomington, Illinois, turned out in a body to attend the funeral services of Litta, the celebrated songstress, who was a native of that place. The body was taken to the First Methodist Church. The building, which was large, was filled, but there were a great many more people outside of the building than there were in it. Among the pall-bearers were George R. Wendling, Joseph Fifer, afterward Governor of Illinois, and Adlai Stevenson, afterward Vice-President of the United States. The whole altar was one garden of flowers. Judge Davis, Ex-President of the United States Senate, had sent a large floral piece, " Gates Ajar," which was placed near the coffin. I was finishing the funeral address, referring to death as the gateway through which the good pass to a better life, when the sun, which had been hidden by a thick cloud, came from behind it, and sent its rays through the stained glass window of the church upon the "Gates Ajar," painting them with celestial beauty ; the beauty of the flowers, and of the colors on the " Gates," and the reference to that which they typified in the message, produced a magical effect on the audience. It seemed as though heaven was not far away; the songs of the angels not very far distant.
Death, which to the natural heart seems like the black mouth of a cave, to the spiritual vision is a gate of flowers ajar, which the Sun of Righteousness, shining through the cross in the stained window, illuminates with the lovely hues of paradise. Death is so black and terrible a thing, that, without a hope of a life beyond, the soul would be, overwhelmed with despair. Christ has taught us that, to the good, it is a gateway of flowers resplendent with the beauties of another world ; and that heaven, with its flowers and melodies and sweet companionships, is not far away from the chamber of death, or from the hearts that mourn.