« Co. Kildare Online Electronic History Journal Home »


RECOLLECTIONS OF THE CHARACTER OF MARY LEADBEATER, WITH A BRIEF MEMOIR OF HER LIFE AND WRITINGS

                                   
Ballitore, 1829
 
 
 
                                                               MEMORANDUMS, &C.
HER LAST ILLNESS
by
THEADORE EUGENE SULIOT
 
6th Month, 19th, 1826, Second day of the week. – I called to see my aunt Mary Leadbeater about eleven. “Ah!” Said she, “art thou come to see the afflicted?” I found her very ill: she suffered much pain, and was cold and weak. Several times that day she said to me, “that she believed it was almost over.”
20.th – She continued very unwell, yet was rather better, and more lively during part of the day; and her appetite, which was gone yesterday, returned a little. It may seem out of place to remark, that the boys of Ballitore School had a party in a hay-field on this day. It was affecting to recollect a similar entertainment, which took place two years ago, when my aunt was invited, and when her sweet smiles beamed on all around. I have seldom seen the peculiar charms of her character to greater advantage than on that evening. There was that gentle, unaffected cheerfulness, which so truly participated in the innocent joys of youth. And when some of those youths stood up to express their gratitude and affection for their master and mistress, and their admiration of the talents and benevolence of my aunt – with what pleasure she listened to the first! and with what simplicity, and politeness, and intuitive grace, did she draw near the speakers, that she might more easily hear and receive what they offered to herself! She returned that evening to her family, full of benevolent joy at the improvements which gentle government has effected in the education of youth. We could not but contrast that happy evening with the present, when my dear aunt was languishing in her chair.
21st. – I found my aunt no better. She feared that she was not patient: I told her she was remarkably so. “You think I am,” said she, “but I am longing too much for the end.” When much oppressed, she said to me, “Oh! What shall I do?” I replied, that I believed she would do well, let the disorder end as it might. She said, “she had given up all thoughts of recovering;” adding “If I were fit to die, no matter how soon!” She rested badly during the night, and slept more in the easy chair than in her bed. Early on the morning of the
22d. – I was standing beside her: she told me that she was very ill; and added, “If I could hope to gain admittance into the very humblest place!” After breakfast, her daughter Elizabeth and I sat beside her, and she said that she hoped we would always love one another. She also spoke to us earnestly of the good and happiness of loving those about us, and being kind to them; and to me, by myself, of her hope that Elizabeth and I would always love one another, and that I would often go to the house when she was gone. My uncle returned yesterday, having been absent from home only one night. Although my aunt was considered better the morning he left her, yet he had sad forebodings on her account. She was constantly in his mind, and her image, such as it was when he first saw her – a young girl, rising up in his imagination. Her verses were continually occurring to him, particularly those lines at the end of “Ballitore:”
 
                                  “Taste purer joys when these are o’er,
                                        And lay my bones in Ballitore.”
 
His grief on returning, and finding so much cause for his fears, was almost insupportable. He, who always prized her company, and delighted in it; who very reluctantly consented to her leaving him for a single day, was now going to lose her for ever!
23d, Sixth day. – My aunt suffered much in the night; and when I went to see her in the morning, being in great pain, she said, “This will make it easy to us all to part.” She said she had not been thankful enough for the good health she had so long enjoyed. I longed to say that I never knew any enjoy their comforts more gratefully, but could not utter it. On that morning, she spoke to Mary Doyle of the love and harmony in which they had so long lived together. She also said to Mary, “that she would be resigned to die, if she might hope to obtain the lowest place in the Mansions of Rest.” About seven, some means had been used to relieve her without effect, upon which she spoke of afflicted state, adding, “I might say, with William Robinson, ‘I long to be done with every thing in time.’” I remarked, that in her situation, it was a favour to be brought to that. “I think” said she, “that I am favoured: I hope I am not deceived:” I said something to encourage her, and she replied, “In all my illness I never could, of myself, think a good thought.” She added some other expressions, descriptive of the low opinion she had of herself; and remarked, that if she did get better this time, she would only live to be a poor, infirm creature. She then asked me to read something out of the Obituary in the Annual Monitor, “they are,” said she, “so comforting!” I read John Kendall’s Account of his Wife’s Illness and Death. She told Mary Doyle, that she felt more calmness spreading over her mind now than in the fore part of her illness. To most persons who visited her that day, she said, “she was almost gone.”
Her daughter Sarah Barrington arrived about noon. She was glad to see her, and inquired particularly for her husband and children, and even about the servants; expressing pleasure, and smiling at any agreeable information. She calmly inquired of the Doctor how long she might live. He was not able to form a decided opinion, and my aunt wished to wait with patience.
Rebecca Ridgeway paid her an acceptable visit in the afternoon: she spoke of the state of her mind with her accustomed diffidence. Rebecca’s expressions were consoling, and not the less so, for observing my aunt’s humble opinion of herself. She told Elizabeth Barrington, who was going to Edenderry, and called to take leave of her, “that she did not feel much condemnation, and that she felt an increase of calmness and sweetness to overspread her mind,” adding, “that she hoped she was not deceived.” She said to ---------, “that she hoped she would not be disappointed of an entrance, so that she might get within the gates.” She was considered so much better in the evening, that her family were in spirits.
24.th – She rested better than usual, was pretty free from pain, and most of the day was very drowsy – sometimes a little confused. My uncle frequently came to see her, sometimes cheered at seeing her more easy, and at other times distressed to observe the weakness increasing. One time, while he sat beside her, she knew by his imploring eye, that he longed to know how she was, and, although she scarcely ever spoke at that time, she looked sweetly at him and said, with a very feeble voice, “William! Pretty well, pretty well.” She frequently looked round upon her family, saying, “Farewell! Farewell!” Many expressions of love fell from her lips, as long as she was able to speak, such as, “I leave you all in love;”- “I hope you will all live comfortably together when I am gone, to reward you for your kindness to me.”
25th, First day. – The weakness continues to increase every day. The Doctor is surprised in the morning, to find that my aunt has lived through the night; and in the evening, he is equally surprised that she has lived through the day. She sat most of this day in the easy chair, and spoke very little. I thing it was on 7th day, that, being asked for commands to her son-in-law and daughter James and Lydia Fisher, she said, “dear love! Adding, after some time, “Tell them that I hope I am quiet and patient.” Her daughter Elizabeth said, “Oh! Mother, though art.” My aunt replied, “I am endeavouring to be so.” Seeing her children trying to restrain their tears, she desired that they might “give free course to nature.”
26th. – My aunt sat in the easy chair through the night; I saw her sometimes; she looked sweet, and quiet, and was tolerably easy. In the morning she was very restless, and seemed to put forth her last effort of strength; without much help she rose from the chair, and walked to the bed, but remained there only a short time. Considerable uneasiness came on as the day advanced, she moaned incessantly, and we looked for the happy release: though we had not much reason to think that she was sensible of suffering as the close drew near. About three o’clock in the afternoon, she was for the last time laid on the bed, with the assistance of her truly affectionate and dutiful son: she then seemed more at ease, and moved her limbs a little for a few hours.
We expected every hour would be the last. She had ceased to speak, or look, or swallow – the pulse fluttered – the breathing became slower – yet she held out, hour after hour, till about half-past three on the morning on the 27th, when she quietly departed. No struggle was observed, and the last breath was scarcely discerned. We all sat round the lifeless body for about twenty minutes. I felt in degree petrified-----My aunt Sally and I walked into the garden. The air seemed to me to be chill and death-like. Yet all nature was alive; it was the height of summer; the birds singing; and the weather hot. We returned to the house of death.
28th. – All who saw the remains, were struck with the sweet countenance.
29th. – The funeral, which was held at an early hour, was remarkable quiet and solemn. No doubt, my beloved aunt is now tasting “purer joys” than her dear Ballitore had ever afforded her. So we deposited those precious remains, as she had always wished, amongst the graves of her fathers. But the memory of her virtues, her amiable qualities, and her perpetual kindness and love, lives in our minds, and I believe we shall have to say, with Burns,
                            “Time but the impression stronger makes,
                                As streams their channels deeper wear.”
We must continually miss her. We shall miss her on the every-day occasions of common life; and in joy or grief, we shall miss that participation and sympathy, of which, in her life-time, we were always certain. The same virtue of perseverance, which enabled her to continue her diary for fifty-six years, preserved to us her continual, unvarying kindness – and ever new delight, ever fresh, ever green. She was a most precious companion to her family, to her neighbours, and to all her friends. Oh! where shall we meet the like again? There was no alloy in the pleasure of her friendship. I wonder she lived with us so long: but, as we did enjoy the happiness and the privilege of her company and example for so many years, let us try to imitate her. Let us endeavour to follow her, as I am persuaded she followed Christ, in all meekness, and love, and charity, and forbearance; and, finally, in humble hope of everlasting life.
7th Month, 8th. – We talk freely of my aunt. Indeed, I sometimes think that we, lonely survivors, resemble the disciples walking to Emmaus, and conversing by the way. We talk together of all that had happened. We walk, and are sad. Our minds are ever turned to the same object. We are unwearied in speaking of her virtues, and we recount over her sufferings. But I would by no means wish to lower the holy subject alluded to, by comparing it with our domestic afflictions.
                                                                                           
 
 

John McKenna will launch the Annals of Ballitore, by Mary Leadbeater on behalf of Kildare Library and Arts Service at the Athy Heritage Museum on Tuesday March 31 at 8pm. In conjunction with this event here is an account of the final illness of Mary Leadbeater written by her nephew and friend, Theadore Eugene Suliot.


Powered by
Movable Type 3.2