Last Years, Last Words
The last years of Clara Barton were ones of sadness and disappointment, of that there can be no doubt and no surprise. She kept busy with things that mattered a little, or mattered not at all. A life that for so many years was sharply focused now appeared directionless. Barton treasured her reputation as she reflected on her life and work. The Story of My Childhood, published in 1907, was projected as the first in a series of short books which, when completed, would constitute an autobiography. Beyond 1907 nothing was forthcoming, however. Was Clara too old to sum up all that she had done and tried to do, too tired, too defeated? Very probably all these considerations combined to explain why someone as prolific as Barton was in correspondence and in her diary, and as satisfying as it would have been for her to tell her story, failed to leave a written testament of achievement. Clara had entered the final phase of her life. Because she realized this she had recourse to mediums, doubtless to seek assurance where she could find it, that her years had been well and wisely spent.
Barton's last words, therefore, tended to center on death as on the meaning of her life. She wrote to the Grand Duchess Louise: "They tell me I am changing worlds, and one of my last thoughts and wishes is to tell you of my unchanging love and devotion to you." 1 Coming just two months to the day before her death it was intended as a fond farewell. Earlier in her life the specter of suicide stalked her, only to