Sarah Helen Whitman

On June 27, 1878, Sarah Helen Whitman passed away quietly at the home of her friend and caretaker Mrs. Albert Dailey. It was half past nine o’clock when Helen drew her last breath. Her cause of death was “affection of the heart, complicated by other ailments.” She was 75 years old. Helen’s friends were beguiled by her cheerful, uncomplaining manner during her final days. She requested that a formal announcement of her death be sent to the papers AFTER her funeral, and that no invitations be sent out. But this request did not halt so large a turnout. The service took place at the home of Mrs. Dailey at 97 Bowen St, Providence, Rhode Island. Her remains lay in a casket veiled with white cloth, surrounded by an array of gorgeous flowers. A wreath of green leaves and ripened wheat sat at the top of the coffin, while her hands pressed to the breast, a bunch of beautiful roses. The service closed with scriptures read by a Miss. Anna C. Garlin, followed by a recitation of a poem from the works of the departed, “The Angel of Death.” Helen’s remains were interred at the North Burial Ground towards the closing of the afternoon. Her grave was lined completely with laurel and evergreen so that none of the naked earth could be seen, and after her casket was lowered, friends tossed upon it more bunches of greens and each a scatter of flowers. Although Whitman requested that no stone be placed above her remains, Mrs. Albert Dailey (who was also her literary executor at this point) commissioned a “suitable tablet” in her honor. In death, Sarah Helen Whitman was smothered with emblems of immortality that truly reflected the legacy she would hold. “Ave atque Vale.”