Fr. Victor-Antoine Arnoux, born at Gap on January 22, 1804 died in Aix on July 13th. Fr. Courtès had written to Eugene on this day: “Aix, Sunday, July 13th, half past eleven in the evening. Our angel has just rendered his last breath, after a sweet and peaceful agony, like that of the saints.”
Eugene, delayed a week in responding to Courtès, as he explained:
You are perhaps surprised, my dear Father Courtès, not to have yet received a letter from me since you have learned of the distressing and likewise the consoling news of the passing of our blessed Fr. Arnoux. The principal reason for this delay has been the fear of aggravating the sorrow of your position by reproaches which it was impossible for me not to make to you in this circumstance. I have preferred to remain silent but, certainly, I have keenly felt the privation that you have imposed on me by your negligence in informing me of the state of our holy patient.
Do you not know that I regard it as a principal duty to assist all those of our brothers who are in danger of death and within reach of me? Are we then so far from Aix, that in a few hours I could not have reached the side of the sick man? Supposing that you only saw the danger to be imminent on Sunday morning, I could still have arrived at Aix by evening. I will regret the whole of my life that one of my brothers died so close to me without my being able to be with him as he passed away from us.
As the father of the Oblate family, Eugene wished to personally accompany his sons on their deathbed if possible. Having expressed his strong feelings on how Courtès had handled matter, he now expressed his deepest sentiments on the death of Arnoux. he had been very fond of athis young man, and his grief at his passing is evident – perhaps it was this that made him irritated with Courtès.
I have no need to tell you with what deep interest we have read the details that you give us of his last moments and of his burial; I have drenched your letters with my tears each time I have reread them. I have asked those who have lived with him the longest to gather the various details of his life; for your part, write what you know of him so that an ample description will be made for the edification of those who come after us… Will you have had time to have his portrait done? I had made known to you my wish in this regard ….
Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 22 July 1828, EO VII n 307
“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.” Henri Nouwen