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a teen from Tacoma, Washington

Diary: Year of 1789

Part 5

December 4, 1789
Freniere Plantation, New Orleans

We've received word from Marc that Mother is becoming worse. Dr. Lareau has consulted with his associate Dr. Renaud. They say that Mother's illness has indeed turned into pneumonia. Dr. Lareau doesn't think that she will live until the end of the month. It is so grave. And to think, Mother is only forty-two. I am so distraught. But Marc warned me that whatever I do, I mustn't come until the end, unless I am willing to risk bringing the sickness home and giving it to Claudia, which means I wouldn't dare come. He assured me that he will explain to Mother why I can't be with her these next few days. She will understand. She is so sweet. If she is still with us at Christmas, it may mean she is going to survive this terrible illness, and I will take Claudia to see her, and we will make this Christmas the best one of her entire life. My heart is breaking, for love for her.

December 22, 1789
Freniere Plantation, New Orleans

I received a letter by special courier this morning from Marc and Amber informing me that Mother passed away in her sleep during the night. Marc wrote that Mother's breathing had become very labored after dinner. I had received notes before saying she had undergone spells of hard breathing, but that she always recovered enough to rest and that her breathing would eventually ease. Marc writes that he thought she would rally again, and so did not send for me. When they went to bed, Mother seemed at peace, resting quietly. The nurse sat by her side all night and told Marc that in the morning, just before dawn, Mother stopped breathing completely. It happened very fast and she could not be revived, even by Dr. Renaud, who hurried to her side.

Marc is making arrangements for the funeral to be on the 29th. I know we won't have a very joyous holiday this year, if we celebrate at all.

December 29, 1789
Freniere Plantation, New Orleans

Today was Mother's funeral at St. Louis cemetery in the city. It was unbelievably sad. We stood at the grave site in a soft, winter rain, that drizzled incessantly and chilled me to the bone. Earlier we celebrated mass for her at the Church of the Blessed Virgin. On her coffin, we piled hundreds of her favorite red roses. The giant stone cross bears the inscription, "Adrienne Blanch Freniere, the daughter of Russell and Jeanne Gregoire, the wife of Pierre Freniere, the mother of Renee, Marc, and Amber. Born 3 June 1747. Died 21 December 1789. May her soul Rest in Peace."

When Mother's father, Grandpapa Jacques passed away, I had not yet been born. I miss not ever knowing him, but I did not grieve for him in a strong sense of the word, because I did not know him. But I knew my Grandmama Ophelie, and I loved her very much. She died at the age of 45, when I was four years old. Oh, how I cried! She is buried in Les Innocents in Paris, interred there shortly before it closed twenty years ago. My mother was the middle child of three, and I was her oldest of three children. When Grandmama died, I was only a little younger than Claudia is now. I thought my heart would split in two, I felt so stricken with grief. I know what Claudia is going through, trying to deal with her Grandmother's death. My heart aches to see her so despondent. Only time will heal our sorrow, and it will heal, eventually, with God's help.

Dearest Mother, may you rest in the arms of angels, until our Lord brings me to your side. I love you.

December 31, 1789
Freniere Plantation, New Orleans

This has been the worst year of my life, by far. I knew that eventually Mother would die, but I never thought that it would be at 42 years old. Marc and Amber seem to be taking her death rather well, whereas Claudia and I have been crying ourselves to sleep the last few nights. As for Christmas, we didn't have one this year, in the usual sense of the word. All we did to celebrate the birth of Our Lord, was to attend Christmas Eve mass at the cathedral, and have a special dinner on Christmas Day. Marc and Amber were with us, but Mother's absence was painfully obvious. Mother held our family together with her unbounded love. Father is a broken man. He has taken to his room and only comes out to eat with us. He is ashen faced and silent at meals. He is crying privately, and has allowed Louis to run the plantation without his direction. Louis and I presented Claudia with another one of those porcelain dolls that she seems to love so very much. But even that didn't seem to raise her spirits very much, and she played very quietly with it for only a few minutes, before she placed in on the window seat in her bed chamber beside her other dolls.

Some of the poorer parts of town have been hit hard by the plague. I must find a way to prevent us and our slaves from being stricken with this dreadful disease. Our cotton sales are way down from last year's. We must consider growing the hot peppers.

From this day on, I shall never judge a whole year by one beautiful winter day in January. Life is full of leaps and unwanted bounds which will forever be unpredictable.

***Editor's Note: With this installment, Lindsey has completed her first round of translations for the 1789 diary. She promises when she deciphers the more difficult-to-read entries, she will send those for you to read.***

© 1998 by Cayuse Press