A beautiful turn of phrase from the author’s letters with Lady Mary Lygon, in reference to the death of Lord Marchmain (Hubert), the Flyte family patriarch, at the end of his masterpiece Brideshead Revisited:

“I believe that everyone in his (or her) life has the moment when he is open to Divine Grace. It’s there, of course, for the asking all the time, but human lives are so planned that usually there’s a particular time — sometimes, like Hubert, on his deathbed — when all resistance is down and Grace can come flooding in.”

The ending in question, which could not possibly be more powerful–especially in context–is told from the point of view of the skeptical Charles Ryder, and doubles as an account of Charles’ conversion:

“I recognized the words Ego te absolvo in nomine Patris…and saw the priest make the sign of the cross. Then I knelt, too, and prayed: ‘O God, if there is a God, forgive him his sins, if there is such a thing as sin,’ and the man the bed opened his eyes and gave a sigh, the sort of sigh I had imagined people made at the moment of death, but his eyes moved so that we knew there was still life in him. I suddenly felt the longing for a sign, if only of courtesy, if only for the sake of the woman I loved, who knelt in front of me, praying, I knew, for a sign. It seemed so small a thing that was asked, the bare acknowledgment of a present, a nod in the crowd. All over the world people were on their knees before innumerable crosses, and here the drama was being played again by two men – by one man, rather, and he nearer death than life; the universal drama in which there is only one actor…

…The priest took the little silver box from his pocket and spoke again in Latin, touching the dying man with an oily wad; he finished what he had to do, put away the box and gave the final blessing. Suddenly, Lord Marchmain moved his hand to his forehead; I thought he had felt the touch of the chrism and was wiping it away. ‘O God,’ I prayed, ‘don’t let him do that.’ But there was no need to fear; the hand moved slowly down his breast, then to his shoulder, and Lord Marchmain made the sign of the cross. The I knew the sign I had asked for was not a little thing, not a passing nod of recognition, and a phrase came back to me from my childhood of the veil of the temple being rent from top to bottom.”