Unto Dust

Herman Charles Bosman (1905-1951)
Unto Dust
I have noticed that when a young man or woman dies, people get the feeling that there is something beautiful and touching in the event, and that it is different from the death of an old person. In the tought, say, of a girl of twenty sinking into an untimely (happening too soon) grave, there is a sweet wistfulness (longing) that makes people talk all kinds of romantic words. She died, they say, young, she that was so full of life and so fair. She was a flower that withered before it bloomed, they say, and it all seems so fitting and beautiful that there is a good deal of resentment, at the funeral, over the crude questions that a couple of men in plain clothes from the landrost’s (local magistrate) office are asking about cattle-dip.
But when you have grown old, nobody is very much interested in the manner of your dying.Nobody except you yourself, that is. And I think that your past life has got a lot to do with the way you feel when youget near the end of your days. I remember how, when he was lying on his death-bed, Andries Wessels kept on telling us that it was because of the blameless path he had trodden from his earliest years that he could compose himself (calm himself, gather his thoughts) in peace   to lay down his burdens (troubles, problems, worries). And I certainly never saw a man breathe his last more tranquility (peaceful), seeing that right up to the en dhe kept on murmuring to us how happy he was, with heavenly hosts ( a large number of angels) and invisible choirs of angels all around him.
Just before he died, he told us that the angels had even become visible. They were medium-sized angels, he said, and they had cloven hoofs (had animal feet divided in two parts – gesplete hoewe) and carried forks. It was obvious that Andries Wessels’s ideas were getting a bit confused by then, but all the same I never saw a man die in a more hallowed (blessed, holy) sort of calm.
Once, during the malaria season in the...