"Some of the watchers were drooping from weariness, but not one showed any wish to go home. Watching beside a death-bed was not a hardship for them, but a privilege,--in the case of a dying priest it was a distinction.
In those days, even in European countries, death had a solemn social importance. It was not regarded as a moment when certain bodily organs ceased to function, but as a dramatic climax, a moment when the soul made its entrance into the next world, passing in full consciousness through a lowly door to an unimaginable scene. Among the watchers there was always the hope that the dying man might reveal something of what he alone could see; that his countenance, if not his lips, would speak, and on his features would fall some light or shadow from beyond. The "Last Words" of great men, Napoleon, Lord Byron, were still printed in gift-books, and the dying murmurs of every common man and woman were listened to and treasured for their neighbours and kins-folk. These sayings, no matter how unimportant, were given oracular significance, and pondered by those who must one day go the same road."
Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop, 169-170