The Grief And Glory Of Helen Hunt Jackson

*Note: This audio essay first aired on KRCC (Colorado Springs’ NPR affiliate, 91.5 FM) on March 25, 2021. The link to the program is here; the audio file and the text from the essay are below.

You know that feeling when something catches your eye and everything stops?

That recently happened to me at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, when I saw the last words Helen Hunt Jackson wrote, four days before she died at age 54 on August 12, 1885. 

She titled it “A Last Prayer,” but I think of it more as a last roar, a reminder for all of us to make every moment count. It reads, in part:

“So clear I see, now it is done

That I have wasted half my day,

And left my work but just begun;

So clear I see that things I thought

Were right or harmless were a sin;

So clear I see that I have sought,

Unconscious, selfish aims to win;

So clear I see that I have hurt

The souls I might have helped to save.”

 Sight isn’t only with eyes. It’s not just what we see around us. It’s what we see in us.

Helen saw grief. Both her parents died when she was in her teens. Her husband died, her younger son died, and she also lost another son. 9-year-old Rennie died of diphtheria, a disease now cured by vaccines. 

Helen poured her grief into writing and moved to Colorado Springs in 1873. 

She met and married a railroad officer, and they lived at 228 East Kiowa Street, right across from what is now the downtown bus terminal.

She wrote poems, but also two widely-read books about the terrible treatment of Native Americans – A Century of Dishonor which came out in 1881 and Ramona, published in 1884. 

She was buried near Seven Falls but disinterred and later moved to Evergreen Cemetery

In 1966, Colorado Springs named Helen Hunt Falls after her. It’s a place to see clearly and reflect on doing good, before our time is up. 

Until our next mountainside chat—be good, be well, and no matter what, climb on.

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