Friday, December 15, 1876
It is nearly midnight and Louis is sleeping. I’m glad of it. I know that his heart is hurting and that I am the cause. And yet, what can I do? This illness is not of my making. I would not have chosen it. It hurts me a great deal to watch Louis and my children suffer, more even than the pain the tumor causes me. Emotional pain and physical pain are often two sides of the same coin. The emotional pain digs deeper. It sets its tendrils in the mind and heart and does not let go.
I went to the doctor today. I had put it off as long as I could. I had been taking the medicine my brother Isidore had recommended, but the pain and swelling kept getting worse. I tried to keep my worry to myself. There was no need to concern anyone before that concern was unavoidable. Now, my whole side is numb and there is a dull ache on the right side of the swelling. I cannot lie on that side anymore.
I doubted that there was anything that the doctor could do for me, but I felt I owed it to my family to make the effort. My suspicions were confirmed. He asked me if I’d be willing to have an operation. I told him that I would but that I felt that such an operation would only shorten my life rather than lengthen it or offer any relief. He agreed with my assessment. I asked him if there were even a one in a hundred chance that there would be a cure and he gave a noncommittal answer. That was all the answer that I needed. He did offer me a prescription. I asked if it would do any good. He said, “No. I prescribe it only to make the patients happy.” Needless to say, I will not be taking it.
I told Louis and the girls tonight. Perhaps I should not have done that. They all took it hard. Everyone was crying and grieving, even though I am still here. I will pretend I am fine. I will be strong for them. I told them that there are many others with similar conditions who have lived for many years like this. That seemed to offer them some consolation.
If God thinks that I am still useful on this earth, he will keep me here. I’ve prayed with every fiber of my being that he not take me from this world if my children still need me. I suffer from no illusions, however. God is God and sees and knows what I cannot. I cannot fight what he wills. Although, as much as I try to trust in God and pray to trust, I still struggle with it, even now when I know my time on the earth is most likely drawing to a close.
Sunday, September 8, 1850
My heart is broken. My mother and I went to the convent to see if I might be considered a worthy candidate to enter the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. All I’ve ever wanted is to enter religious life and serve the poor. God has called me to it, that I am sure of. Why then was the door shut before it even had a chance to open?
Mother Superior rejected me without even a second look. What was there about me that convinced her that I had no place as a sister? Why am I not enough? What do I do if God doesn’t want me? Mother Superior wasn’t unkind. She said, “God has plans for you, but not as a religious.” What plan? I do want to follow God’s plans for me, but how can I do that when I have no inkling of what he wants from me. I feel lost. Religious life was all I dreamed of. Who am I without that dream?
My mother said nothing to me as we made our way home, but I could feel the disappointment radiating off of her. I think she wanted me to be safely away at the convent as much as I wanted to be there. It would have solved the problem of what to do about Zélie. I lack both my older sister’s outgoing nature and innate goodness and my younger brother’s promise of a successful future. There are no young men interested in me, nor do I wish there to be. I am a burden to my parents and a lost cause if there ever was one. Is there no hope for me?
Élise tried to comfort me when I got home. She and I have always been the best of friends as well as sisters. She encouraged me to try other religious communities, to not give up so easily, but I always saw myself working with the poor and the sick. I don’t think I would be able to live in a cloister. I don’t have that kind of holiness. Plus, there was something about how the sister said God’s plans for me did not include my being a religious. I know in some way God was speaking through her and I must listen. I suppose there is nothing for me to do at the moment but continue to help my parents by working in their café.
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