I have been thinking recently about the Master’s health as rest and recuperation were primary reasons for His return to Egypt. Mr. Balyuzi, in his biography of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, writes:
‘Abdu’l-Bahá wintered in Egypt. The lavish expenditure of His energies, during the three month’s sojourn in London and Paris, had heavily taxed His physical strength. A period of relative rest was necessary before embarking on a tour of the United States which was bound to be much more taxing.
I find it equally heart-wrenching and awe inspiring when considering the Master’s physical state at this time. His health at the time of His western travels are described by the Guardian in these terms:
‘Abdu’l-Bahá was at this time broken in health. He suffered from several maladies brought on by the strains and stresses of a tragic life spent almost wholly in exile and imprisonment. He was on the threshold of three-score years and ten. Yet as soon as He was released from His forty-year long captivity, as soon as He had laid the Báb’s body in a safe and permanent resting-place, and His mind was free of grievous anxieties connected with the execution of that priceless Trust, He arose with sublime courage, confidence and resolution to consecrate what little strength remained to Him, in the evening of His life, to a service of such heroic proportions that no parallel to it is to be found in the annals of the first Bahá’í century.
In this context, the words of Major Tudor-Pole upon visiting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Akká in 1918 are particularly poignant:
… The Master was standing at the top [of the stairway] waiting to greet me with that sweet smile and cheery welcome for which he [sic] is famous. For seventy-four long years Abdu’l-Baha has lived in the midst of tragedy and hardship, yet nothing has robbed or can rob him of his cheery optimism, spiritual insight and keen sense of humour.
He was looking little older than when I saw him seven years ago, and certainly more vigorous than when in England after the exhausting American trip. His voice is as strong as ever, his step virile, his hair and beard are (if possible) more silver-white than before…
‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Center of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 171 & 431
God Passes By, p. 280