Last Years

A New Method: The Story of Louis Braille

Chapter 6. Last Years

Louis’ health worsened as the years went by. He improved somewhat during vacations in the fresh country air of Coupvray, but his heart was with his students and his work. He could not stay away long.

In the early months of 1844, Louis became too weak to continue teaching. He lived a calm, quiet life, enjoyed a warm and loving companionship with his friends, and encouraged and advised his former students.

He managed his money carefully, buying only what he needed, so that he could save a little from his small income to help others. He used his own money to buy books and braille writing materials for poor students, paid them to copy the books into braille, and then gave the books to others.

Louis was known for his great kindness, but he never wanted to be thanked. After his death his friends found a small box on which he had written “To be burned without opening.” They were curious and opened the box. In it were hundreds of notes of debt from students to whom he had loaned money. His friends respected his wishes and burned the box and its contents.

Louis’ health seemed to improve in 1847 and he returned to teaching for three more years. Although he was weak and had to talk softly to save his strength, his teaching was of the highest quality, and his students loved and respected him.

During this time, the braille method of reading and writing was used in all of the activities at the Institute. Books were copied into braille. Teachers and students used braille in the classroom. Braille was used in music classes and in chapel services. The method began to spread throughout Europe. In time it would be used by blind people all over the world.

His health again worsened, and Louis asked to be allowed to retire. The director knew Louis would not have enough money to live decently, so he kept him on as a teacher. He taught only a few piano lessons when he was able.

Louis became gravely ill in December of 1851. He remained calm and at peace, convinced that his mission on earth was finished. During this time he said to a friend:

“Yesterday was one of the greatest and most beautiful days of my life… I tasted the greatest joys. God was pleased to hold before my eyes the dazzling splendors of eternal hope. After that, doesn’t it seem that nothing more could keep me bound to the earth?”

Louis Braille died on January 6, 1852, two days after his forty-third birthday. His body was buried in the little cemetery at Coupvray.

Next: Chapter 7. Louis Braille – Epilogue