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LAST DAYS AND FUNERAL RITES.
Dr. Philbrick's last sickness probably dates back to the spring of 1882, when he made a journey to the far West. This journey involved some long and tedious rides, which, with the labor of visiting schools, were too great a tax upon his strength. In June, after his return home, he was so ill as to call his family physician, Dr. Carlton. For two months, July and August, he was confined to the house, in which time he read much, and often in bed. In October he seemed to take a severe cold, which so affected his eyes that they were sore and painful. In time, as the result of some simple remedies, they became comparatively well, but, when the cold winds of winter set in, they again became very painful, so much so that Dr. Carlton wished an oculist to see them.
Accordingly, Dr. Coggin of Salem was called to see him in January, 1883. He pronounced the disease a severe rheumatic affection, but he also saw indications of what his friends had already feared, namely, a loss of sight. This Dr. Philbrick had himself feared from the very first, as an inherited trouble, because several of his relatives on his mother's side had been totally blind.
In January, 1884, Drs. Coggin and Carlton performed an operation upon one eye, hoping to let more light into it, but the operation was not a success, and so the experiment was not repeated upon the other eye. From this time on his sight became more and more impaired. Still he was able to move about his own house with comparative ease; but, when in a strange place, he moved so much more cautiously that he seemed to see much less than at home.
In the spring of 1884 he began his work on City School Systems in the United States. His devoted wife read to, and wrote for him. So constantly did he work that, by the end of August, he had the work more than half written. At that time he employed an amanuensis, Miss Dudley, a relative of his, who spent a year with him. She was a graduate of the Salem Normal School, and was thus pretty well prepared for the work required of her. During the year which Miss Dudley read and wrote for him, he finished his work on City Systems, and wrote the paper on School Reports, which is printed in the Proceedings of the Council of Education for 1885; he also did a great amount of preparatory reading, making notes, etc., for a work on State Systems, which he hoped to write in the winter of 1885–6. It was in the summer of 1884 that he gave the address before the American Institute on “Reform of Tenure of Office of Teachers."
In the summer of 1885 he, in company with Mrs. Philbrick, went to Hanover, where he served on the examining committee of the college; then to Newport to the meeting of the American Institute, then to Saratoga to attend the meetings of the Council of Education. All these meetings he enjoyed very much, especially those at Saratoga, where he met so many western friends. In September of the same year he visited his old home in Deerfield. It seems not unlikely that all the work of this summer was too much for his impaired strength, for the first severely cold weather in December seemed to affect him unfavorably, so much so that he said he “could not think well.”
There were several times during the last year of his life when he could not speak the word he wished to use when talking, and twice he lost entirely the power of speech for an instant. This he felt to be "an indication of something serious," a premonition of what came at last and caused his death. He once spoke to his doctor of it, though, in talking of it, he called it a trouble of the heart; so it would seem doubtful whether he felt clear in his own mind what the real nature of the trouble was.
The weather of the week preceding his fatal attack was very cold, so that he gave up his ride which he was accustomed to take almost every day; this was through fear of bringing on pain in his eyes. Up to Saturday, the 16th of January, 1885, he had hoped he should be able to go to Boston the next week to attend the Quincy School reunion, but that day he said if it continued so cold he could not go. On Sunday he did not seem as well as usual. He complained of headache, so much so that his wife did not leave him to attend church. When Monday morning came he said he did not feel like gecting up, but must dictate some letters, one especially to the Quincy School boys. His wife advised him to wait till afternoon, hoping he might get some sleep and feel better. He took his dinner in bed and then dictated three letters.
It was then so late that Mrs. Philbrick feared the amanuensis would not have time to copy them before the mail would leave, and stepped down into the library to help her. When she went back to him, he said, “It has come; something is the matter with my arm." His wife, thinking it might be numbness, rubbed his arm, but he evidently thought differently. She gave him some hot drinks, hoping to start the circulation more freely, and he soon seemed to feel better. When teatime came he took a cup of tea and a bit of toast. Mrs. Philbrick then went down to supper, and upon her return inquired how he felt, but he could not readily answer, and she became alarmed and summoned the nearest physician.
This was on Monday evening, Jan. 18, 1886. Dr. Philbrick gradually sank, and died the second day of February following.
Thus ended a noble life. Never was the true nobility of his nature more clearly manifested than during those years of approaching darkness. It was the good fortune of the writer to visit him often in his home during that time, and he never failed to be impressed with the sweetness of his nature and the cheerful Christian resignation with which he bore his great misfortune. Indeed, from anything in the tone of his conversation, no one could ever mistrust that he thought approaching blindness any