If I knew that I only had a few hours to live, what would my thoughts be?
Eugene was at the bedside of the dying Hippolyte Courtès all the time, and records the sentiments of the man facing his death:
In the interval, one could not have been more edified by the sentiments of this beloved patient; he wanted me to be close to his bed so as to converse with me about supernatural things. Yesterday evening, he spoke to me on this level in the most perfect manner possible. He anticipated his last hour with the sentiments of a holy religious and, I can say, with a pure, innocent soul, full of fervour.
“I have always loved our good Master,” he told me, “and I ought to admit that I have never been able to see or hear him offended without trembling with horror; but I would wish still to love him more and I have said to him that I am resolved never to give him sorrow in the slightest thing and to serve him with more fidelity still in the most exact observance of our Rules. If it were to be otherwise, I ask him earnestly not to permit that I be cured, because I prefer death rather than commit the least deliberate fault”.
All that he said in a low voice, peacefully, with great calmness of mind. He confided also very simply that he had always had a devotion to his holy guardian angel who had assisted him very often and had preserved him.
There was question of holy communion that he had already received several times but which he desired again. We agreed to give it to him in viaticum because he thought there must be special graces attached to this communion; I reminded him that that was true for everybody, but still more so for us who renew in this moment our consecration to God.
Letter to Henri Tempier, 11 May 1829, EO VII n 329
The following day, Fr. Courtès began to respond to treatment and overcame the crisis – living a productive missionary life for another 34 years. The heartfelt sentiments which he expressed as he believed he was dying remained as the guiding lights of the rest of his life,
“Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to “die before you die” — and find that there is no death.” Eckhart Tolle