Colorado College Tutt Library

Helen Hunt Jackson 4-1-5 transcription

Helen Hunt Jackson Papers, Part 4, Ms 0348, Box 1, Folder 5, Letters from William S. Jackson (HHJ's husband) to Helen Fiske Banfield (HHJ's niece) about HHJ's death
Transcribed by Nancy Knipe, 2002

Denver, Aug 28th 1885

My Dear Helen:

Since my return from California I have not felt like writing else your kind & sorrowing letters should have been answered sooner-

I spent two days in my broken & lonely home on my return & then came on to Denver & went to work, of which I found plenty, matters that had accumulated while I was absent.

You of course are anxious to know of your good Auntie's last days among us-

On my arrival in San Francisco, eleven days before the final end here [sic] I found a great change, & for the first time began to see the great danger; up to that time I had felt that Helen's idea she would not recover was somewhat morbid. There seemed no good reason for her not getting well & tho Doctors had appeared clear that her trouble was only malarial & that they could not discover a trace of organic disease -- While I was in California in the spring they told me I need have no fear - While the trouble might be lingering, she would finally throw it off , be as well as ever & it was not until I recd. a letter from her Doctor, just before starting to her, that it dawned upon me the case was really serious - In that letter the Doctor frankly admitted the persistency & malignant nausea baffled him. By that time the stomach refused nearly every kind of food & by the time I reached her she could not take any nourishment at all, only a kind of effervessant [sic] water (Soda water) & this she could take in very small quantities as long as she was conscious - After my arrival I determined it was not a question of schools & asked her to let me call in an allopathic Physician, to which to my surprise she consented, saying at the same time it will make no difference Will, but if you will feel any easier you may call any body -- I have already had fine Physicians, but all to no purpose & this will do no good. I called Dr. Lane one of the best known & most noted allopathic Physicians on the Cost [sic] -- After visiting her three days he frankly told us both that she probably had but a few days to live -- to which Helen replied as bravely & fearlessly & without even a tremor -- I knew it Doctor better than you could tell me & still up to this time there was no evidence clear & unmistakeable [e is lined through] of any organic trouble -- No soreness anywhere & no pain, only weakness from want of nourishment & nausea. O that wicked & unyielding nausea. Dr. Lane said to me let her have her own Doctor she will feel better about it & it will make no difference -- None of us can help her, & even then they could not tell what the matter was, though Dr. Borecka [sic, i.e. Boericke] had told me that he feared cancer & this is proved to be, what is called fibrous or soft cancer of the stomach. On Friday night she first some black [grounsey? sic] discharge, which the Doctor told her was blood but was in reality the breaking down of the stomach, on Saturday afternoon this same vomiting took place & she was so weak she did not want to get up to have her bed changed, which she had previously done everyday as regularly & methodically as of old -- Indeed all through her sickness she directed everything, how it should be done & when. Not a thing escaped her & not a complaint was made -- On this Saturday evening she begged the Doctor to put her under morphine, which she had previously arranged with him to do when near the end -- The Doctor told me it would be a mercy as there was now no possible chance & the struggles from now on would be heart rending & terrible in the extreme as there was now continual retchings & would be continual breaking down & vomiting -- I told him do what seemed to him wise & give as much ease & comfort as possible. She bade us all good by & so bravely & thoughtfully, saying it was best so - sending a good by for all of you with her love & then she said now Doctor put me to sleep -- Then with a little syringe & a needle the Doctor put her to sleep & kept her there until Sunday night when she awoke & was herself again - Then again she took her last final parting & as the wicked vomiting began again she begged & how she implored the Doctor to put her to sleep again & never to let her wake again in this life, but it was clearly evident now that she could only be with us a very very [sic] few days at most - The forces were giving out & she said I feel as if I were floating off. Ebbing away. This was the last inteligence [sic] & she slept away her hold on the Physical machine & sweetly as an infant & at four on Wednesday afternoon ceased to breathe at all, almost without giving any sign - Of course after my interview with Dr. Lane I had but little hope, but I could not even then give up & we tried the stomach with everything by smallest quantities & O. how patient she was under it all, doing just what we asked, but on Friday night it was made positively clear there was not a ray of hope & then we did everything to make the end easy -- If you would be comforted to hear from her attending Physician write to Dr. Boericke No 834, Soutter Street. He is a very inteligent [sic] young German - well educated & had got onto a friendly & sympathetic relation with Helen, until she looked for his coming with the greatest pleasure - As I have before written you her mental faculties were as bright & clear as possible until the morphine sleep -- Indeed they seemed clearer & brighter than ever before -

There seemed nothing that she did not think of & talk about.

Of her literary work she had no care for anything except her later work done in aid of the Indians, saying nothing you did in life amounted to anything except what you did for others - All thought & time given to your own selfish plans & aims were worse than wasted -

I was greatly in doubt lest I had made a mistake in leaving her in California when I came away the first of May -- She was unwilling to come & I had not the heart to force my crude notions of what then seemed to me to be the best - How bitterly I should have repented for the sequel shows her intentions were clear & unmistakable - She was as comfortable in that cool climate, with large sunny & airy rooms & with a household completely at her command, as she could have been in any other place in the world & she used to often speak of it herself - She did not want people about her - She said she had the instinct of the animal that wanted to hide itself to die. I really believe more friends [large ink blot] close to her would have been an annoyance - When I left her in May I wanted to send some her friends to her, but she implored me not to do it as it would be trouble & worry to her & do no possible good - At that time she had kept from me the idea that was even then seated in her mind - that she would never get well. It was an undefined intuition, for she was making plans for camping long after that - almost up [to] the time I reached her the last [visit-scratched out] time [?], but that she had the idea strongly impressed upon her senses is made clear by a letter I found left for me to open after she was no more, saying among other things - I will never get well from this sickness - This letter was dated March 29th & was therefore before my visit the last of April & first of May.-She begged the Doctor not to let me know how sick she was until about a week before her death as she did not want any one to see her suffering which would only make them suffer to no good purpose. I know she seemed to have no thought of herself at all - only for others.-- A braver, more Philosophic laying down of [life-scratched out] this earthly life was never seen - There was not the slightest fear, [or-scratched out] doubt or regret-

She says of course you cannot yet see it as I do, but I have been looking at it, thinking it over until it seems no more to me than taking a journey - nothing to be feared, but I am now really anxious for the change to come - I will be closer to you & do more for you than when in what you call in life - She had faith there was work to do beyond & that she would be able to do it--

With all of our sorrow & regret this faith is the silver lining to our heavy Cloud - She will be disturbed to have us grieve that she is gone into the new life - The life invisible

I left the Remains in San Francisco & will finally bring them to Colorado Springs & bury them on Cheyenne Mtn, the place she loved best on this earth - This will be in fulfilment [sic] of her request made often when at the Springs & while on her last sick bed & I found a letter saying she wished finally to be quickly put to rest on her mountain without any funeral, or display of any kind - This wish and every other of her wishes I want to carry out as I think would please her best. We had a quiet funeral service in San Francisco - Rev. Horatio Stebbin's conducted the Services. Only a few of her most intimate friends were notified & those of the household were present & thus was quietly performed the last services for the glorious, brave, true, loving woman that has gone from our earthly sight forever -

My Dear Helen I have written a very long letter but after I got at it there seemed much to say & more I would yet say, but it is now late

Good by with love

Your sorrowing Uncle

Wm S Jackson

[sleeve contains envelope addressed to Miss Helen Banfield Quissett Harbor House Quissett Mass.]

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