From Mme Martin to Mme Guérin CF 177 - December 17, 1876.

From Mme Martin to Mme Guérin

December 17, 1876

My dear sister,

My heart is pounding thinking of how much I’m going to hurt you. I hesitated a moment whether or not to tell you the entire truth, but I feel I must, I need your advice.

I’d made up my mind, last Sunday, to go find a doctor. I was more worried than I wanted to make known, seeing my disease getting worse. If I delayed so long, it was because I was doing my brother’s remedy, and he didn’t advise me to see a doctor.

I also knew there was nothing to do except have an operation, and the thought of that makes me tremble. Not because of the suffering, but because I was convinced that from that moment on, I would go to bed and never get up again.

Finally, upon receiving your letter, I would have gone to find Dr. X if I hadn’t had a shipment of lace to do. So I waited until Friday. My husband, reading your letter, began to become more worried. He went to find Monsieur Vital Romet because I was saying I didn’t want to see a doctor. Monsieur Vital came and insisted on an operation, naming several ladies whom I knew and who’d pulled through.

In the end, I went to see Dr. X, who, after having examined me thoroughly through touch, said to me after a moment of silence, “Do you know that what you have there is of a very serious nature? It’s a fibrous tumor. Would you shrink from an operation?” I answered, “No, although I’m certain that instead of saving my life, this operation would shorten my days.” I added proof to support this, so much so that he continued immediately, “You know as much as I do, all this is the truth. Also, I can’t advise you because it’s quite uncertain.” I asked him if there was a one in a hundred chance, and he answered evasively.

I’m very grateful to him for his frankness because I’m going to hurry to put my affairs in order so as not to leave my family in an awkward position.

He offered me a prescription. I said to him, “What will it do?” He looked at me and replied, “Nothing, it’s to make the patients happy.”

I couldn’t help myself from telling my family everything. I regret it now because there was a grief-filled scene … everyone was crying, poor Léonie was sobbing. But I named so many people who’d lived ten or fifteen years like this, and I didn’t seem very upset, doing my work as cheerfully as always, perhaps more so, that I calmed everyone down.

And yet, I’m quite far from deluding myself, and I have trouble falling asleep at night when I think about the future. However, I’m resigning myself as best I can, but I was far from expecting such a test. My sister is very happy to die. She’ll know nothing of these sad affairs because I don’t want to poison her last days. I won’t say anything more to Pauline. If she knew, she wouldn’t be able to return to boarding school. Knowing her as I do, that would hurt her more than seeing me.

If you have any advice to give me about the operation, please write me this week because Pauline arrives Wednesday, and I don’t want her to see your letter.

My husband is inconsolable. He’s given up the pleasure of fishing and put his lines up in the attic, he doesn’t want to go to the Vital Circle anymore. It’s as if he’s shattered. That same night he went to find Monsieur Vital to give him an account of the consultation, and Monsieur Vital still says the operation is very necessary. Please, give me your advice.

I’m not suffering a lot. There’s a numbness along the whole side to just under the arm and a dull pain on the right side of the lump. I can’t lie down on that side anymore.

I would like that this not worry you too much and that you resign yourself to the will of God. If He found me useful on earth, certainly He wouldn’t permit me to have this illness because I’ve prayed so much that He not take me from this world as long as I’m necessary to my children.

Marie is now grown-up. She has a very, very serious nature and no youthful illusions. I’m sure that when I’m no longer here she’ll make a good mistress of the house and do everything possible to raise her little sisters well and set a good example for them.

Pauline is also charming, but Marie has more experience and, moreover, she has a lot of influence over her little sisters. Céline shows the best tendencies, and this one will be a very pious child. It’s quite rare at her age to show such an inclination towards piety. Thérèse is a true little angel. As for Léonie, only God can change her, and I’m convinced He will.

I hope to go and see you one more time, and if I notice that the illness is progressing too much, I’ll go before the vacation. If Pauline were here, I would have taken her and Marie to stay with you, and I would have left them with you several weeks, in fear that it may not be possible this summer.

They’ll be very happy to have you when I’m no longer here. You’ll help them by your good advice, and, if they have the misfortune of losing their father, you’ll take them into your home, won’t you?

It consoles me a lot to think that I have such good family and that they’ll be good replacements for us in case of misfortune. There are poor mothers much more unfortunate than I who don’t know what will become of their children and who leave them in need without any help. As for me, I have nothing to fear in that respect. In short, I don’t look at the dark side of things. It is a great grace that God is giving me.

Since I wrote you the above lines, quite a lot of time has passed. I was waiting to send my letter until I received the one that arrived today from Le Mans, and which I’m enclosing in mine.

Don’t worry about me at all. I’m hardly sick at the moment. It’s a little thing, and if I didn’t see the lump, I would think it’s nothing. I have a corn on my foot that hurts me much more, and I don’t have to see it to feel it. Be that as it may, let’s make the most of the time that’s left to us and not worry. Besides, it will still only be what God wants. If the illness gets worse, I’ll go on some pilgrimages. If I’d listened to Louis, I think we would have been to Lourdes already, but it’s not urgent.

I would wish, for a moment, to go spend a day with you, and you’d see that I look well, my appetite is good, and I’m very cheerful. It’s true that I’m not sad.

While waiting to hear from you, I hug you with all my heart.

© Society of St. Paul / Alba House



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