Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) and his wife Ann were faithful pastors of a little fishing town in Devonshire England, for 23 years. Although Henry’s health was compromised, he worked tirelessly ministering to his parish, taking care of his family, and writing poems and hymns.
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 andTouched by an Angel.
As He often does, God took the sad ending of a life and made something lasting and beautiful