From Marie Martin to Mme Guérin - August 9, 1877.

From Marie to Mrs. Guérin. 9th August 1877.

9th August 1877

Dear aunt,

Since you left, mama is suffering more and more, every day there have been additional sufferings: for the last two or three days. She constantly complains of feeling nauseous. She passes very bad nights and it melts your heart to hear her moaning.

Yesterday evening, she was suffering so much that she cried out: “Oh God, you can see that my strength to endure suffering is failing me, take pity on me! Since I must stay here in this bed of pain without anybody being able to relieve me, I beg of you don’t abandon me!”

She weeps at times and looks at all of us, one after the other, then she says:

“Ah! my poor children, I shall be unable to go out for a walk with you, I who wanted to make you so happy! My Pauline, whom I wanted to please so much during the holidays, I am obliged to leave her here, or let her go out without me! Little daughters, if I could go with you, admit it, how happy we would be!”

Finally our poor little Mother is so self-forgetful that she is happy only when seeing us leave. To please her, papa arranges boat trips for my sisters. But what joy is there in going out knowing our mother is so sick; Pauline only goes out reluctantly.

It’s torture for me, I find staying at home is a hundred times more preferable. The walks I used to like seem so sad at present, the countryside seems so deserted to me! “La Fuie”, the shady path that mama loved so much and where she can now no longer go, brings back so many memories that I cannot go there without feeling bitterly sad at the thought she will perhaps never come back here! This thought breaks my heart and these lines by Lamartine come to mind:

“Rivers, rocks, forests, lonely beloved places

A single being you lack and all is empty”

Oh yes! Everything is already empty for me, at present I can enjoy no pleasure.

On Sunday mama wrote to Father Martignon and to the Sisters of Lourdes and on Monday we began a novena which will end on Assumption day. I am saying it with immense confidence. I hope the Bl. Virgin will not abandon us and, if she doesn’t want to heal mama, at least let her relieve and reduce her sufferings that are becoming so great.

Who will she protect if she doesn’t protect mama who is so good and generous? When I think that on Sunday morning she wanted to go to first Mass again because her neck seemed less painful and easier to move! And if only you knew, aunt, the trouble I had preventing her from getting up. If she had been able to get dressed, I’m sure she would have gone, but as it was me she had to wait for, I deliberately took a long time getting ready so that in the end it would be too late. And it was a good idea I had, because it was very windy and I’m sure it would have made mama more ill.

On Friday she went to Mass at seven o’clock because it was the first Friday of the month. Papa drove her, because without him she wouldn’t have been able to go. She told us that upon arriving at Mass, if there hadn’t been anyone to push the church doors open for her, she would never have been able to go in.

This proves, dear aunt, what a weak condition she is in. And wanting to go to Mass all the same, isn’t it inconceivable? Truly, if the Bl. Virgin grants her no grace at the end of our novena I will be very surprised.

You asked me, dear aunt, to give you news of Léonie when I wrote to you. I can assure you it’s very hard for me. I don’t want it to always be bad news but what can I do to make it good? I don’t know how to handle the poor child. I kiss her, tell her I love her so as to win over her heart, and I promise her rewards if she corrects herself; especially now that mama can’t look after her any more, I would so like her to listen to me!

But no, she doesn’t want to do anything I tell her. I often stop myself from crying because I’ve two such big sorrows: mama’s illness and Léonie, and my strength escapes me sometimes…

Mama is more distressed than I’ve ever seen her to the extent that she cried all of Saturday because of Léonie. She is anxiously wondering what will become of her and believes she should be put into boarding school, and that subjecting her to a rule will be the only way to make her more pliable.

She said the following to me with such anguish in her voice that I’ll never forget it: “Who will look after this poor child when I’m gone, who can give her all the devotion of a mother?” I replied: “O mama, I will I promise you!” But I’m counting on my holy mother’s protection much more than on my feeble efforts to work the transformation in my poor little sister from the highest heaven. 

I’ve given you news about everybody, dear aunt, except my two little girls, Céline and Thérèse. However, I want to speak about them, I’ve so many interesting things to tell you. I must tell you about the beautiful prize-giving ceremony that took place the day after you left at “The Holy Mary Visitation in Alençon”! (this is what our boarding school is called!)

I assure you it was very beautiful. I had decorated my bedroom with wreaths of periwinkles intertmingled with bouquets of roses. At intervals, wreaths of flowers were hanging down. A rug covered the wooden floor and two armchairs awaited the Presidents of the august ceremony: Mr. and Mrs. Martin.

Yes, aunt, mama wanted to assist at our prize-giving also. What a shame you weren’t there, you would have laughed despite the solemnity of the ceremony.

Our two little ones were dressed in white and you should have seen with what triumphant faces they came in to receive their prizes and crowns. Papa and mama distributed the prizes and I called out the names of my pupils.

At times I wanted to laugh at my beautiful “prize-giving” and I remained as serious as I possibly could, especially when giving the speech which Pauline and I had written the day before.

You can see, dear aunt, this little celebration made us forget for a moment our bitter preoccupations. Poor children! They are now filled with joy, the holidays have begun! However, a very sad holiday, alas! because of our dear mama who is so sick.

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