FEBRUARY 12, 1958
LOS ANGELES—I had a great joy late last week when Mr. and Mrs. Charles Palmer of Atlanta, Ga., brought in some friends to tea in New York, among them Eric Gugler and his wife.
It is a long while since I have seen these two delightful people, and Mr. Gugler has sent me some notes which were written by Gaetano Salvemini, the Italian historian, just before his death in a friend's villa in Sorrento.
Two friends had come to Italy to visit Salvemini, and when they did not find him in Venice and heard of his illness, they proceeded to the villa in Sorrento and spent the last days of his life with their mutual friend.
The notes were translated into English, and I think they have a quality which many of us approaching death might like to bear in mind, so I give you the translation here:
"I have been very happy in my life, so many faithful friends! Thank you, thank you for everything. This way one dies very happily! Dear, dear ones, I have loved you all."
The translator says Salvemini looked around at the women standing near his bed, among them one who had taken care of him for many years, and he added:
"But I have never been in love with any of you. You have been so good....I do not understand why people are afraid of death. One should let people know of such a way to die, so people should not be afraid....
To have a clear conscience is really a very interesting thing. I am curious to know when one passes from life to death. The problems of life are not easy to solve, they are difficult problems. To die smiling, this is what I should like....
"How happy I am, you have no idea how happy I am. I have been very lucky in life and also in death. I could not have died better. I should like to embrace you all. How happy I am to die in such a way, surrounded by all my friends, even those who are not here. I die happily....
"I have still strength enough to grasp your hands. There is no difference between death and life. One cannot tell the moment of passage." And then a moment before he really died he awakened and said: "I am not dead yet."
These notes seem to me an astonishingly beautiful statement of the thoughts that ran through the mind of a serene human being who was prepared for death because he had lived and loved and been loved.
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I have been in Tucson, Ariz., to give a lecture and now I am speaking in Los Angeles and surrounding places, but I will tell you more in detail about the trip in the next day or so.