My mother has just given me a copy of a letter written in 1870 by my great great grandfather, Richard Fitzsimons, shortly before he died of tuberculosis at the age of 46. It was written to his only son, John, urging him to live whole heartedly for Christ.
“To my only son I leave little indeed of earthly possessions, but an honest name of which he has no cause to be ashamed. He is well aware that from his earliest infancy I devoted him to the Lord my God, to serve Him in the Gospel of His son. This is still my earnest hope, nor need he be discouraged at the thought that little earthly comfort may attend him therein, for God is amply able to repay outward trouble with inward peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. I say to him therefore, to avoid through life all bad company, but seek to honour and follow the word of God.
Never do evil in the hope of its remaining concealed, for there is nothing so cunningly hid but it will come to light.
Do not be angry beyond what duty and office require. If you feel that you are heated with passion, keep wholly silent. Do not utter one word until you have repeated over in your own mind the Ten Commandments and the creed.
Do good to others whether they can recompense you or not; for what men cannot repay, the Maker of the world has long ago repaid in creating you, sending His son to redeem you and receiving you by baptism into His church upon earth.
Flee covetousness as you would hell. Content yourself with what you can earn with honour and a good conscience although it may not amount to much. And should the Almighty bestow more upon you, pray to Him to preserve you from making bad use of earthly treasure.
Be instant in prayer, follow after things that are honest and of good report, save faithfully, remain steadfast in your confession, and then when your time comes you will die willingly, and joyfully.”
What sage advice! So simple, and yet so powerful. Reading it moved me deeply. I examined my own life in the light of his letter and resolved to try and live each day in the manner he urged his son to.