To Helvia, on Consolation XV

All my powers of consolation must be directed to the other point, the true source of your maternal grief.

You say, “I am deprived of the embraces of my darling son, I cannot enjoy the pleasure of seeing him and of hearing him talk.

Where is he at whose sight I used to smooth my troubled brow, in whose keeping I used to deposit all my cares? Where is his conversation, of which I never could have enough? his studies, in which I used to take part with more than a woman’s eagerness, with more than a mother’s familiarity? Where are our meetings? The boyish delight which he always showed at the sight of his mother?”

To all this you add the actual places of our merrymakings and conversation, and, what must needs have more power to move you than anything else, the traces of our late social life, for fortune treated you with the additional cruelty of allowing you to depart on the very third day before my ruin, without a trace of anxiety, and not fearing anything of the kind.

It was well that we had been separated by a vast distance: it was well that an absence of some years had prepared you to bear this blow: you came home, not to take any pleasure in your son, but to get rid of the habit of longing for him.

Had you been absent long before, you would have borne it more bravely, as the very length of your absence would have moderated your longing to see me: had you never gone away, you would at any rate have gained one last advantage in seeing your son for two days longer: as it was, cruel Fate so arranged it that you were not present with me during my good fortune, and yet have not become accustomed to my absence.

But the harder these things are to bear, the more virtue you must summon to your aid, and the more bravely you must struggle as it were with an enemy whom you know well, and whom you have already often conquered.

This blood did not flow from a body previously unhurt: you have been struck through the scar of an old wound.