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#3262: Willa Cather to Elsie Cather, September 2 [1931]

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Dear Sister1;

So it is over at last,; such a long, cruel illness, and I am thankful for it. The burden had grown too heavy for her3. A good many times on this last visit she said to me, “I want to die.” She even said it before Douglass4, but he always translated it “I’m going to die,” and thought she was depressed for the moment. But what she really said was that she wanted to. I used to tell her that she must live for Douglass, because he was so good, and she would smile and sigh. But until these last months I think she was happy most of the time, thanks to Douglass and you, dear Elsie.

I hope you had not left California5, and that you were able to take that sad journey with Douglass. My heart aches for him. I have knocked about this world a good deal, but I have never known one human being to be so tenderly devoted to another. I wish I could be at home6 with you both, but the fact that there was no boat from this island2 until today, and the connections so bad on the Maine7 shore, meant that I could not have left Boston8 until Thursday night at best, perhaps not until Friday morning. I have had a bad time with my heart ever since I had to make that run for the train in Kearney9 in the heat, and fatigue brings on a palpitation that is dangerous. It seemed best not to attempt to make this trip, when I would get there so late anyway.

Of course life will never be quite the same for any of us again. That is the price one pays for having one’s parents with one a long time, until one has lost the resiliency of youth. But one comes to know then so much better; one can afford to pay that price. We must all stand the closer together now, and you and I will try to do for the grandchildren10 what mother would have wished.

Let me know when you are returning to Lincoln11, and don’t hesitate to ask me to do anything for anyone of the family that to you think is needed. I expect to be here at Grand Manan through September.

A strange thing, dear Elsie; for three days before mother died I had been terribly blue about her, a depression I could not shake off. On Sunday morning I wakened at four oclock after a very vivid dream about her, in Virginia12 when she was a young woman; I was gathering violets with her on a certain hillside where we did use to gather them when I was very little. It was such a sharp wakening that I went into Edith13’s room and wakened her and said, “Edith, I am terrified about mother.” She thought it so strange, when the first telegram came six hours later. Of course there are three hours difference in time, and Mother had been gone some hours before I had that dream. But the dream was one of the most intense and disturbing things that ever happened to me. Goodbye dear Bobbie, I will do the best I can to take mother’s place to you and the grandchildren.

So lovingly to you all Willie