From Mme Martin to the Guérins CF 52 - February 24, 1870.

From Mme Martin to the Guérins

February 24, 1870

My dear and beloved family,

Your letter did me good. I’m truly grateful for all your concern for me, and I thank you for it. I’m resigning myself to the will of God, although it’s very hard to lose such a pretty little girl (little Hélène died February 22, 1870, at the age of five years and four months; the cause of death is unknown). But what I regret the most and what I can’t console myself for, is not having better understood her condition. I didn’t think she was seriously ill. For a long time, I had been accustomed to seeing her suffer. I took care of her the best I could, giving her the tonics recommended to me by the doctor.

When I saw her come down with a little fever again, two weeks ago, at first I thought it was a cold, and I wasn’t worried about it. After five days, I had the doctor come. He told me that he didn’t find a full blown illness and that he didn’t see the need to come back, unless she got worse. And I was so blind I couldn’t see that the poor little thing was noticeably getting worse.

Saturday night she still came downstairs to be with us. We always gave her meat broth with a little vermicelli and barley water. She was so tired of it that the maid said to me, Friday night, that it would be better to give her a light bread soup. I listened to her. The little one ate some twice on Saturday, and she liked it so much that I gave her some again on Sunday, at noon. That’s what I regret and what I will regret my entire life. However, I don’t think that was the cause of her death because she passed away from weakness.

Sunday night she had trouble breathing, and I sent for the doctor right away. He wasn’t there and didn’t come until Monday morning. He told me the child had a mucous fever with congested lungs, that she was in very great danger and that I shouldn’t give her anything but broth. However, he gave me permission to add a little vermicelli or semolina when I told him that she didn’t want to drink clear broth.

After he left, I looked at her sadly, her eyes were dull, there wasn’t any more life in them, and I began to cry. Then she put her two little arms around me and consoled me the best she could. All day she had been saying to me, “My poor little mother’s been crying!” I spent the night with her, a very difficult night. In the morning, we asked her if she wanted to take some broth. She said yes, but she couldn’t swallow it. However, she made a supreme effort, saying to me, “If I eat it, are you going to love me better?”

Then she took it all, but afterwards she suffered terribly, and I didn’t know what was happening. She looked at a bottle of medicine the doctor had prescribed and wanted to drink it, saying that when she had drank it all, she would be cured. Then, around a quarter to ten, she said to me, “Yes, in a moment, I’m going to be cured, yes, soon….” At that moment, while I was holding her, her little head fell onto my shoulder, her eyes closed; then five minutes later she didn’t exist anymore….

That made an impression on me I’ll never forget. I didn’t expect such a sudden end, nor did my husband. When he came home and saw his poor little daughter dead, he began to sob, crying, “My little Hélène! My little Hélène!” Then together we offered her to God.

And now I’m left with the bitter remorse of having given her something to eat. My dear brother, do you think that this made her die? I beg you, tell me what you think, and although I was very uncertain what to do, I was afraid that she would get too weak.

Two weeks ago today our maid’s father came to our house. The little one had been suffering for three days. He said to his daughter, “You won’t be taking care of her long. She’s a child who’s going to die of weakness.” He was right, and I saw nothing! Sometimes I gave her roasts cooked in wine to sustain her. She loved this so much, but perhaps this wasn’t good for her. I blame myself completely.

Before the burial, I spent the night next to the poor darling. She was even more beautiful dead than alive. I was the one who dressed her and put her in the coffin. I thought I was going to die, but I didn’t want anyone else to touch her. The church was full of people at her funeral. Her grave is next to that of her grandpa (Guérin).

I’m very sad; write me if you can, to console me.


 © Society of St. Paul / Alba House

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