Elsie Inglis Chapter XIII - "The New Work" and Memories
"Never knew I a braver going
Never read I of one....
"You faced the shadow with all tenderest words of love for all
of us, but with not one selfish syllable on your lips."
Dr. Inglis was brought on shore on Sunday evening, and a room was
taken for her in the Station Hotel at Newcastle.
"The victory over Death has begun when the fear of death is
She had been dying by inches for months. She had fought Death in
Russia; she had fought him through all the long voyage. It was a
strange warfare. For he was not to be stayed. Irresistible,
majestic, wonderful, he took his tolland yet she remained untouched
by him! With unclouded vision, undimmed faith, and undaunted
courage, serene and triumphant, in the last,she
passed him by.
There was no fear in that room on the evening that Elsie Inglis
Dr. Ethel Williams writes of her in November, 1919: "The
demonstration of serenity of spirit and courage during Dr. Inglis's
last illness was so wonderful that it has dwelt with me ever since.
At first one felt that she did not in the least grasp the
seriousness of her condition, but very soon one realized that she
was just meeting fresh events with the same fearlessness and
serenity of spirit as she had met the uncertainties and difficulties
One of her nieces was with her the whole of that last day. After Dr.
Ethel Williams's visit, when for the firsttime
Elsie Inglis realized that the last circle of her work on earth was
complete, she said to her niece, "It is grand to think of beginning
a new work over there!"
By the evening her sisters were with her. To the very last her mind
was clear, her spirit dominant. Her confident "I know," in response
to every thought and word of comfort offered to her, was the outward
expression of her inward State of Faith.
What made her passing so mighty and full of triumph? Surely it was
the "Power of an Endless Life," that idea to which she had committed
herself years ago as she had stood at the open grave where the first
seemingly hopeless good-bye had been said. The Power of that Endless
Life, the Life of Christ, carried her forward on its mighty current
into the New Region shut out from our view, but where the Life is
still the same.
We have watched through these pages the widening circles of Elsie
Inglis's life. Her medical profession, The Hospice, the Women's
Movement, the Scottish Women's Hospitals, Serbia, her achievements
in Russiathese we know of; the work which has been given to her now
is beyond our knowledge; but "we look after her with love and
admiration, and know that somewhere, just out of sight, she is still
working in her own keen way," circle after circle of service
widening out in endless joyousness.
On Thursday, November 29, St. Giles's Cathedral in Edinburgh was
filled with a great congregation, assembled to do honour to the
memory of Elsie Inglis. She was buried with military honours. At the
end of the service the Hallelujah Chorus was played, and after the
Last Post the buglers of the Royal Scots rang out the Réveillé. From
the door of the Cathedral to the Dean Cemetery the streets were
lined with people waiting to see her pass. "Dr. Inglis was buried
with marks of respect and recognition which make that passing stand
alone in the history of the last rites of any of her
fellow-citizens." It was not a funeral, but a triumph. "What a
triumphal home-coming she had!" said one friend. And another wrote:
"How glorious the service was yesterday! I don't know if you
intended it, but one impression was uppermost in my mind, which
after I left, until by evening it stood out clear and strong. The
note ofVictory. I
had a curious impression that her spirit was there, just before it
passed on to larger spheres, and that it was glad. I felt I must
tell you. I wonder if you felt it too. The note of Victory was
bigger than the war. The Soul triumphant passing on. The Réveillé
THE HIGH STREET, EDINBURGH, LOOKING TOWARDS ST. GILES
In the two Memorial Services held to commemorate Dr.
Inglis, one in St. Giles's Cathedral and the other in St.
Margaret's, Westminster, a week later, the whole nation and all the
interests of her life were represented.
Royalty was represented, the Foreign Office, the War Office, the
Admiralty, different bodies of women workers, the Suffrage cause,
the Medical world, the Serbians, andthe children.
Scores of "her children" were in St. Giles's, scattered through the
congregation; in the crowds who lined the streets, they were seen
hanging on to their mothers' skirts; and they were round the open
grave in the Dean Cemetery. These were the children of the wynds and
closes of the High Street, some of them bearing her name, "Elsie
Maud," to whom she had never been too tired or too busy to respond
when they needed her medical help or when "they waved to her across
"The estimate of a life of such throbbing energy, the summing up of
achievement and influence in due proportionthese belong to a future
day. But we are wholly justified in doing honour to the memory of a
woman whose personality won the heart of an entire brave nation, and
of whom one of the gallant Serbian officers who bore her body to the
grave said, with simple earnestness: 'We would almost rather have
lost a battle than lost her!'"
"Alongside the wider public loss, the full and noble public
recognition, there stands in the shadow the unspoken sorrow of her
Unit. The price has been paid, and paid as Dr. Inglis herself would
have wished it, on the high completion of a chapter in her work, but
we stand bowed before the knowledge of how profound andhow
selfless was that surrender. Month after month her courage and her
endurance never flagged. Daily and hourly, in the very agony of
suffering and death, she gave her life by inches. Sad and more
difficult though the road must seem to us now, our privilege has
been a proud one: to have served and worked with her, to have known
the unfailing support of her strength and sympathy, and, best of
all, to be permitted to preserve through life the memory and the
stimulus of a supreme ideal."
"So passes the soul of a very gallant woman. Living, she spent
herself lavishly for humanity. Dying, she joins the great unseen
army of Happy Warriors, who as they pass on fling to the ranks
behind a torch which, pray God, may never become a cold and lifeless
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