Gogol: What grief does not time bear away?

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At that minute she was not thinking of the great moment awaiting her, nor of her soul, nor of her own future life: she was thinking only of her poor companion with whom she had spent her life and whom she was leaving helpless and forlorn. With extraordinary efficiency she arranged everything, so that Afanasy Ivanovitch should not notice her absence when she was gone.... At last after a long silence she seemed trying to say something, her lips stirred-- and her breathing ceased.

Afanasy Ivanovitch was absolutely overwhelmed. It seemed to him so uncanny that he did not even weep....

Numerous guests came to the funeral....The guests talked and wept, gazed at the dead woman, discussed her qualities and looked at him; but he himself looked queerly at it all....The coffin was lowered, the priest took the spade and first threw in a handful of earth; the deep rich voices of the deacon and the two sacristans sang "Eternal Memory" under the pure cloudless sky; the laborers took up their spades ad soon the earth covered the grave and made it level. At that moment he pressed forward, everyone stepped aside and made way for him, anxious to know what he meant to do. He raised his eyes, looked at them vacantly and said: "So you have buried her already! What for?" He broke off and said no more. 
But when he was home again, when he saw that his room was empty, that even the chair Pulherya Ivanovna used to sit on had been taken away-- he sobbed, sobbed violently, inconsolably, and tears flowed from his lusterless eyes like a river. 

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Five years have passed since then. What grief does not time bear away? What passion survives in the unequal combat with it?....

At the end of the five years after Pulherya Ivanovna's death I was in those parts and drove to Afanasy Ivanovitch's little farm to visit my old neighbor, in whose house I at one time used to spend the day pleasantly and always to overeat myself with the choicest masterpieces of its hospitable mistress.... [The house is run down, the table is set wrong, the food is not as good] ...I noticed a strange disorder in everything, an unmistakable absence of something. In fact I experienced the strange feelings which come upon us when for the first time we enter the house of a widower whom we have known in old days inseparable from the wife who shared his life. The feeling is the same when we see a man crippled whom we have always known in health. In everything the absence of careful Pulherya Ivanovna was visible....
"This is the dish," said Afanasy Ivanovitch...."This is the dish," he went on, and I noticed that his voice began quivering and a tear was ready to drop from his leaden eyes, but he did his utmost to restrain it: "This is the dish which my ... my... dear... my dear..." And all at once he burst into tears....Tears like a stream, like a ceaselessly flowing fountain, flowed and flowed on the napkin that covered him....

"My God!" I thought, looking at him: "five years of all-destroying time... and such long, such bitter grief!..."
Several times he struggled to utter his wife's name, but, halfway through the word, his quiet and ordinary face worked convulsively and his childish weeping cut me to the very heart.

            --Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852), "Old World Landowners" (1835), translated by Constance Garnett (1861-1946)

Chekhov on wishing for death in a hopeless illness

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Whenever there is someone in a family who has long been ill, and hopelessly ill, there come painful moments when all timidly, secretly, at the bottom of their hearts long for his death.

        --Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), in "The Witch," chapter 4. Translator:  Constance Garnett (1861-1946). Quoted in "What broke my father's heart," article by Katy Butler in the New York Times, 14 June 2010