In 1844, Henry was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. Over the next three years his physical condition deteriorated until finally on September 4, 1847, at the age of 54, he stood in the pulpit for the last time to deliver his farewell message.
That same afternoon, after taking a walk on the beach, Henry retired to his room. He emerged about an hour later with a written copy of Abide With Me. He left soon after for a trip to Italy, to get away from the cold, damp coastal weather. While en route to his destination, he mailed a revised copy of Abide With Me to his wife. A few days later while resting in a hotel on the French Riviera, Henry went home to be with Jesus. A fellow clergyman who was with Henry during his final hours reported that Henry's last words were Peace! Joy!
Abide With Me was put to music by William H. Monk (1823-1889), and made its debut at Henry's memorial service.
The hymn has since been popular within many Christian denominations. It was reported to have been a favorite of King George V, and of Mahatma Gandhi. It was sung at the weddings of King George VI and of Queen Elizabeth II. It is sung before kick off at every FA Cup Final and Rugby League, and at various annual celebrations in Austria, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom. It has been recorded by various jazz and gospel music artists, and has been included in the soundtrack of no less than 10 movies and television shows, including Shane and Touched by an Angel.
As He often does, God took the sad ending of a life and made something lasting and beautiful
Abide With Me
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.
I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears not bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.
Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.