May 7 1812: Martha Ballard's Last Diary Entry

On May 7 1812, Martha Ballard, at home and probably confined to her bed, feeling very feeble still notes that the day is clear but very cold and windy. Martha had a number of visitors that day but nothing is said about her husband. Does this speak to a closeness and understanding that did not need to be noted? What thoughts did he have as he saw his wife of fifty-eight years grow weaker? We do not know.

We do know that her daughter and grandchildren visited her that day. Martha tells us that in her diary, but we do not know what words were exchanged Did her grandchildren, teary eyed, come to her bed to receive a last kiss and blessing? We do not know.

Her friends Mrs Partridge and Mrs. Smith also came to see her. Did they stay for a short or long time? Did they look on their friend and speak in an awkward cheeriness, recalling past joys and happier moments, while their eyes swelled with anguished tears at the sight of their now frail and dying friend?    

Reverend Tappin was her next visitor. Did Martha ask for him to come or did her family tell the minister that now was the time? Martha does tell us that she and Reverend Tappin talked "sweetly." Did the Reverend speak to her of a heaven to come? His words of comfort are lost. Martha does tell us that the Reverend "made A Prayer adapted to my Case". That is all we know.

Then, some time two hundred years ago, Martha made her final entry in her diary. The habit of twenty-seven years of recording the day's events still retained its hold on her. Did it comfort her to hold the diary in her hands? Did she feel its pages and think has it really been so many years? It seems such a long time and not enough. What we know is that she wrote:
Clear the most of ye day & very Cold & windy. Dagt Ballard and a Number of her Children here, mrs Partridg & Smith allso. Revd mr Tappin Came and Converst Swetly and made A Prayer adapted to my Case.

at home, very feeble, Revd mr Tappin [  ] see me.
Then the diary stops.  

Whether she died that day or the next day we also do not know. A notice of Martha's death was published on June 9, 1812 in the American Advocate which read: "Died in Augusta, Mrs. Martha, consort of Mr. Ephraim Ballard, aged 77 years." So Martha died sometime between May 7 and June 9, 1812. If the diary had not survived, we would not know that there once lived such an extraordinary woman as Martha Ballard.

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