Hoy, 19 de octubre de 2014, se cumplen 100 años del fallecimiento de Robert Hugh Benson. Hugh se exprimió al máximo durante los 11 años que siguieron a su conversión al catolicismo. Como consecuencia de su frenética actividad, su salud se fue deteriorando y su cuerpo agotando. Un año antes de su muerte escribió que debía bajar el ritmo de trabajo y distribuir mejor el tiempo, porque sentía que estaba al límite de sus fuerzas. Y es que no sabía trabajar de otra manera. No obstante, mantuvo ese ritmo hasta el momento mismo de su muerte, cuando su forzado motor se rompió definitivamente.
Hugh Benson murió en la casa del obispo de Salford, a cuya catedral había ido a predicar una serie de sermones, a los cuarenta y dos años y 11 meses, una edad en la que muchos hombres alcanzan la madurez de sus capacidades, gastado por su propia incansable e indomable energía. Sus años de converso significaron un modo de vida muy diferente respecto al Hugh infantil. La pasión y la intensidad atravesaron cada una de las actividades de su vida, y esto no pasaba desapercibido a ninguno de los que entraban en contacto con él.
Así explica su hermano Arthur, el momento en el que abandonó este mundo.
I saw Hugh sitting up in bed ; they had put a chair beside him, covered with cushions, for him to lean against. He was pale and breathing very fast, with the nurse sponging his brow. Canon Sharrock was standing at the foot of the bed, with his stole on, reading the last prayers from a little book. When I entered, Hugh fixed his eyes on me with a strange smile, with something triumphant in it, and said in a clear, natural voice, ” Arthur, this is the end ! ” I knelt down near the bed. He looked at me, and I knew somehow that we understood each other well, that he wanted no word or demonstration, but was just glad I was with him. The prayers began again. Hugh crossed himself faintly once or twice, made a response or two. Then he said : ” I beg your pardon—one moment—my love to them all.”
The big room was brightly lit; something on the hearth boiled over, and the nurse went across the room. Hugh said to me: ” You will make certain I am dead, won’t you ? ” I said “Yes,” and then the prayers went on. Suddenly he said to the nurse : ” Nurse, is it any good my resisting death—making any effort ? ” The nurse said : ” No, Monsignor ; just be as quiet as you can.” He closed his eyes at this, and his breath came quicker. Presently he opened his eyes again and looked at me, and said in a low voice : ” Arthur, don’t look at me! Nurse, stand between my brother and me!” He moved his hand to indicate where she should stand. I knew well what was in his mind; we had talked not long before of the shock of certain sights, and how a dreadful experience could pierce through the reason and wound the inner spirit; and I knew that he wished to spare me the pain of seeing him die. Once or twice he drew up his hands as though trying to draw breath, and sighed a little; but there was no struggle or apparent pain. He spoke once more and said: “I commit my soul to God, to Mary, and to Joseph.” The nurse had her hand upon his pulse, and presently laid his hand down, saying : ” It is all over.” He looked very pale and boyish then, with wide open eyes and parted lips. I kissed his hand, which was warm and firm, and went out with Canon Sharrock, who said to me : “It was wonderful! I have seen many people die, but no one ever so easily and quickly.”
It was wonderful indeed! It seemed to me then, in that moment, strange rather than sad. He had been himself to the very end, no diminution of vigour, no yielding, no humiliation, with all his old courtesy and thoughtfulness and collectedness, and at the same time, I felt, with a real adventurousness —that is the only word I can use. I recognised that we were only the spectators, and •that he was in command of the scene. He had made haste to die, and he had gone, as he was always used to do, straight from one finished task to another that waited for him. It was not like an end ; it was as though he had turned a corner, and was passing on, out of sight but still unquestionably there. It seemed to me like the death of a soldier or a knight, in its calmness of courage, its splendid facing of the last extremity, its magnificent determination to experience, open-eyed and vigilant, the dark crossing.
A.C. Benson, Memoirs of a Brother