Very poignant letter of tuberculosis taking two daughters


Date Written

June 20, 1841

Dr. Norman Lyman was 53 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Rev Orange Lyman, was 60 when it was received.

Dr. Norman Lyman died 9 years, 4 months,
It was written 182 years, 3 months, 3 days ago.
It was a Sunday.

20th June 1841

Dear Brother,

When I received your last letter, I designed to write you and answer by the next mail, but the circumstances of my family put the subject by for the time. Two things in particular led me to delay. I hoped & believed that I might derive some way to borrow money in this state & assist you in your pecuniary embarrassments, but found increasing difficulty in meeting my own engagements because my time & efforts were in great measure directed to another object & my expectations unexpectedly increased in several ways which I will not take time to name.

My daughter Eunice who had for the most part before that time been healthy was taken down with what seemed at first to be a sub-acute and very moderate form of pneumonia, but instead of subsiding as I had hoped or were of believing at all benefitted from medical treatment came to be attended with daily chills & exacerbations of fever & within a few weeks she was attacked with hemoptysis; still, on account of her age and previous health, I indulged hope of her recovering; hope attended with much fear; hope against evidence of a fatal decline. She has for several weeks past had regular hectic purulent expectorations, rather rapid wasting of flesh and strength.

The time of her attack was about the 25th of January 1841. Mary as I have before informed you had been declining with a few intervals of partial improvements since Dec’r 1840. She has declined slowly but pretty regularly through the last winter & spring & has now extreme emaciation, large expectorations of pus, swelled feet, hoarseness, etc. etc. The unequivocal indications of the last stage of that fatal disease Tubercular Consumption. The two sisters have very different forms of the same disease & the final result in both seem likely to be very near. Probably in but very few weeks more the whole story may be told. Now you know why I could not write to you and I could not get ready to tell the story. I am not without hopes that the dear girls are in some degree prepared for the great change which seems to be near them.

I have labored and prayed that they might be. Brother pray for us.

11th August. A long gap in a letter. I was obliged to leave my letter & have been so constantly worn and bowed down that I have not before resumed it. A few weeks after this was commenced, both Mary and Eunice expressed a wish to be admitted to the church. They were admitted two weeks ago yesterday.

Mary declined slowly but steadily till last Friday the 6th of the present month; about noon she was released. The last week of her life she could converse but little. She died apparently in full possession of reason, not with triumph and assurance, but as we hope and believe with calm and humble trust in the Savior. For several of the last weeks of her life, she seemed to contemplate her approaching dissolution with deep solemnity but without agitation or alarm. A few hours before her death, I asked her if she knew she was almost gone & that she could continue but a short time. She answered, “I suppose so”, & said nothing more on the subject. Perhaps no one was more quiet than she was through her whole sickness. I believe she did not speak one peevish or complaining sentence. For 4 or 5 months she would be only on side & was unable to raise except when in an erect posture, but made no complaint & very rarely mentioned any suffering.

But enough & more than enough of this. Eunice looked on & saw her depart with a composure that was quite astonishing. To me, no two sisters love each other more. They never spoke or seemed to feel unkindly to each other or to their brothers, even for a moment. Eunice has purulent expectorations, sore mouth & throat swelled first strongly marked hectic, is much emaciated & very feeble, but can be carried out a mile in pleasant weather. Mary made out only a week before her death.

Eunice can last but little longer. It seems hard to think how soon we must lay her beside her sister. But it is all right. If I did not hope they were prepared for this early death, I know not I could endure the separation. If our children can be prepared for heaven while young we have great reason to thank God forever. You need not be told that I a worn out with [?] & labor. I cannot write a decent letter. But you are the very man who will make all reason able allowance. The rest of my family are in comfortable health though. This Lyman who is always fickle feels the wear of more than six months uninterrupted night walking.

Our friends in N. Hartford & Litchfield are well so far as I know—Have nothing for them in particular interest to write, but you will forgive me. I hope all your dear children are minding the best things. Tell them to “labor not for the meat which perisheth but for that shall influence unto eternal life”. My wife & children would be affectionately remembrance to you & yours.

How pleasant it would be if we could see each other again. How much better if we can meet at last where there shall be no more parting & where God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. We don’t prize heaven enough yet not withstanding all we have suffered here. Let us think of heaven & live for Heaven—Live by the faith of the Son of God. I write with a house full of company & of confusion & much loss.

I remain as ever your affectionate brother.
[Dr. Norman Lyman]

Rev. Orange Lyman
Love to all your family.

{Eunice passed away September 12}

Scans of Letter