It was at 3:20 am on Friday, October 22, 1880, that William Swan Plumer breathed his last in a hospital bed in Baltimore, Maryland after complications from kidney stone surgery.
His daughters wrote a memorial to their father describing his last days in which they recounted some of his last words: “‘When I first knew of the operation, my faith was as a mountain that could not be shaken. Then for awhile my thoughts were of man; but since I have been here I have never had in my life such clear manifestations of divine love.’ Again: ‘I did not want to die without giving my testimony on this bed that God is a faithful God.’”
His body was afterwards transported by train and laid to rest at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, next to his wife’s, where their earthly remains await the great Resurrection. His tombstone reads: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” Phil. i.21. A tablet erected to his memory in the First Presbyterian Church of Petersburg, Virginia, where he ministered for 4 years, also reads:
“Strengthened with might by His power.”
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.”
Plumer once mused following a return visit to his old childhood home:
How short is life! It is a vapour, a shadow, a tale that is told. Fifty years have passed since I roamed over these fields, and bathed in these waters, and yet that whole time seems like a dream. All flesh is grass. Most of the companions of my early life have already gone beyond the bounds of time. Soon earth will know none of us any more forever.
How certain is death. None escape. The young and healthy may die; the old and sickly must. None can long withstand the assaults of disease. The grave-yard has filled up wonderfully.
What a Saviour we have in the Lord Jesus Christ! How wisdom and tenderness, power and love, grace and truth, shine out in him. “He is still in office for us; he pleads our cause before his Father; he rules the universe for our welfare; and he teaches us wisdom." Blessed one! how we ought to love him.
If we are in Christ, what a blessed meeting we shall soon have with all the redeemed in glory. Many of the best friends I ever had are gone before me. I sympathize with good old Richard Baxter when he says: "I must confess, as the experience of my own soul, that the expectation of loving my friends in heaven principally kindles my love to them while on earth. If I thought I should never know them, and consequently never love them after this life is ended, I should number them with temporal things, and love them as such; but I now converse with my pious friends in a firm persuasion that I shall converse with them forever; I take comfort in those that are dead or absent, believing that I shall shortly meet them in heaven, and love them with a heavenly love." It would be easy to make out a list of such old friends large enough to cover many pages. Their memory is precious. I hope soon to see them, and unite with them in singing the song of Moses and the Lamb (Words of Truth and Love , pp. 51-52, 58-59).