’The last accounts of my father were unusually good, but I well know what news may be awaiting our return from a voyage whether long or short, and I try to be ready for any news; yet I suppose that I cannot at all realize what it would be. It makes some difference when the idea of meeting again in this world has been relinquished for now four and a half years, yet it is all very well to wait or think about it! I was not so upset by dear Uncle James’s death as I should no doubt have been had I enjoyed the prospect of frequently seeing him. Somehow, when all ideas of time and space are annihilated by death, one must think about such separations in a religious way: for separations in any other sense to us here, from people in England, have already taken place. I must except, however, the loving wise letters, and the power of realising more clearly perhaps the occupations of those still in the body—their accustomed places and duties; though I suppose we can tell quite enough about all this in the case of those who have died in the true faith of Christ to know, at all events, that we are brought and united to them whenever we think or do anything religiously. I often think that this is well brought out in the “Heir of Redclyffe”—the loss of “the bright outside,” the life and energy and vigour, and all the companionable and sociable qualities, contrasted with the power of thinking oneself into the inner spiritual relations that exist between the worlds visible and invisible.
’All this effort is much diminished in our case. There is no very great present loss; at least, it is not so sensibly felt by a great deal as it would be if we missed some one with whom we lived up to the time of his death. It is much easier to think of them as they are than it could be in the case of persons who remember so vividly what they so lately were; and this is why, I suppose, the news of Uncle James’s death seemed to affect me so much less than I should have expected, and it may be so again: certain it is that I loved him dearly, and that I miss his letters very much indeed; but I think that the point I felt most about him was the sad affliction to his family, and the great loss to my dear father, who had of late seen more than ever of him.’
From the home letter I only quote from the reflections so regularly inspired by the anniversary of the 28th of November.
After lamenting that it was difficult to realise those scenes in his mother’s illness which he and his brother only knew from narration, Patteson adds:—
’The memory of those days would perhaps have been more precious to me if I had witnessed more with my own eyes. And yet of course it really mattered nothing at all, because the lesson of her life does not depend on an acquaintance with a few days of it; and what I saw when I was there I never have forgotten, and hope that I never may forget.