Americus May 6th 1878
My dear afflicted friend,
I know my silence must seem (under the circumstances) most inexcusable and
so indeed it would be had anything than sickness of myself and baby caused it. O! my
heart in deed bleeds for you and with yours: for do I not know from my own sad and
bitter experience what it means to be widowed? How much of desolation, and of sorrow,
and woe are summed up in that one word. Life seems now so joyless: nothing seems as it
once did. "Every heart knoweth its own bitterness" and surely we know the bitterness
that shall dwell henceforth in ours.
O! my dear friend I am so grieved to hear of your changed circumstances in
another respect. It must indeed have been an agonizing thought to beloved, and loving
husband to feel that he was leaving his family homeless but I trust that "He who heareth
the young ravens cry" and who has promised to be the "God of the widow, and the father
of the fatherless," will always provide for you and your precious little ones. Many, many
times I would have sunk under the weight of sorrow and grief laid upon me but for this
sweet promise. I too am in changed circumstances, but my dear husband has left me
enough to support and educate my little children if it is carefully, and well managed. I
have 6 children and the eldest has a few months since entered her 14th year and 0! what
a fearful responsibility. I am so glad for you that your oldest is a boy. He can be a great
comfort for you, and I doubt not, is. Dear little fatherless lambs, may the Good Shepherd
tenderly and gently lead and care for them. It will ever be a comforting though to you, I
know my dear friend, that you were able to talk with your precious husband to the last a
comfort which was denied me. I did not expect the dangerous illness of my darling
husband until he was dying. He tried to talk to me all morning but was so much under
the influence of Morphine that he could only call my name. Once about a half an hour
before he breathed his last, I asked him if he could not talk to me. He roused up for a
moment and said, "Have not I been talking to you all morning?" I told him "no" but the
morphine overpowered him and he sank back into a stupor and only continued calling my
name every moment until he could no longer articulate. Sometimes I almost wish I had
no children so that I might lie down beside him in the grave. All is so uninviting in life to
me. And I feel as if no ray of pleasure or happiness can ever illuminate the dark and
leaden clouds that lie above my pathway.
Your letter reached me about three hours after you had passed here (if you went
thro' the day you expected to.) It would have been a great comfort to me to have had you
stop a while with me. I intended to have answered your letter the night I received, but I
wept so much over it that it brought on one of my severe attacks of neurologic headache
and I did not entirely recover for some days; and since then my baby has had two sick
turns, the first a very severe one, and I have been ill myself. I trust my letter is not too
late to find you in Fla.
So my dear friend, tell me something of your plans for the future: where you are
going when you leave Monticello, etc. I do not ask from impartment or idle curiosity, but
from a deep and affectionate interest in you and your little children.
You have my sincere sympathy in your grief for the loss of your sister, O! what a
loss to those little motherless girls. Are they with you?
Do give my most sincere love to each of your dear children. Willie, "The," Pat,
and little Libby [Elizabeth] how well do I remember each dear little one. And to little
Maggie too; tho' I have never seen her, it is enough for me to know that she is one of
your little buds and like my own fatherless.
Mollie would send love, if she knew I was writing, and so would Ellie, but they
are all asleep.
I hope you will write me very soon.
With truest love and sympathy
I am sincerely yours'
Hettie E. Oliver
Transcribed by Christopher A. Baker, University of Florida, 2008.