Skip to main content

Dear Mrs. Dearborn

I wrote this in pen in my journal while I was in D.C.

5/7/47

Dear Mrs. Dearborn,

My name is Sam Michaels and I served with your son during his time in the army. Before he was killed, we had become good friends and he made me promise, in the event of his death, that I write to you, to explain why he died and what he died for.

I cannot imagine the grief a mother must endure following the loss of her only son, only that as great as my grief for the loss of your son is, yours must be far greater and deeper. It is a deep hurt and you have my most respectful condolences.

Mitch was a good friend, a loud mouth that always managed to say exactly the right thing to soften the tension in any situation. For example, one tense evening in a fox hole, a German barrage began to shell our camp. Myself and the other two in the hole (PFC’s Hunter and Barry) were tensing, beginning to lose our nerve. Your son told us, “Hey guys, they’re playin’ our tune.” He meant the steady drum beat of the explosions. He set the words of a Bing Crosby song to the rhythm of the mortars. Although our predicament did not improve for another three and a half hours, your son’s serenade put us all at ease.

We appreciate him as only fellow soldiers in arms could.

I miss him.

When he was killed in action, I was standing beside him. In fact, the mortar blast that took his life could have easily taken mine as well. I know that it will come to no consolation to you that your son, by shielding me from the blast, saved my life at the expense of his own. I am now, and forever will be, grateful for his noble sacrifice. My wife also wishes to offer her deepest sorrows. She’s pregnant and we’ve agreed to name the baby (if it’s a boy) Mitchell Thomas, after your son, to honor his memory.

I’ve wept for him. I’ve wept because I’ll never know a friend as good as he again and I wept knowing there was nothing I could do to save him. I’ve wept thinking that maybe, after it all, there might have been something I could have done.

I am truly and eternally sorry that I could do nothing more than be there when he passed on and to write you this letter that he wanted you to have.

Writing this letter is the hardest thing I’ve had to do both during the war and after.

Please forgive me. And please, let me know what I can do to help ease the loss of your son, I owe him everything,

Sincerely,

Samuel T. Michaels

* * *

7/17/47

Dear Sam,

Thank you for your kind words about my Mitchell. I understand why writing me must have been so hard. The tear stains on the letter assure me that it was even more difficult than you described.

My Mitchell talked often and fondly of you in his letters home. You were a guiding spirit to him in the twilight of his too short life and, for that, I am thankful to both you and the Lord.

He said frequently that you were like a brother to him in both his hours of need and lack of it, making you, I suppose, something of a long lost son to me.

Again, thank you for your kind words about Mitchell. Your letter had warmed my heart after the gold star in my window turned it cold. I’m so sorry that it has taken so long to reply, but the hurt has simply been too much.

If you’re ever in Poughkeepsie (or within a reasonable distance) you would be more than welcome, in fact I insist, that you stay with Mitchell’s father and I and tell us more of your time together.

With love and thanks,

Mom

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Anatomy of an Opening: The End of the Affair

Instead of breaking down a scene from a movie, this time we'll break down the opening of a book. (Previously, I've done scenes from City Lights, Citizen Kane, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  I've also broken down the opening to Starship Troopers.

Graham Greene's The End of the Affair is absolutely one of my favorite books. The writing is lyrical and story heart-wrenching and beautiful. Greene's style of writing is such that he always has me gripped, whether it's the beginning of the book or the end. And he shows you so much about the character in his opening lines.

So, here are the first two paragraphs from the book:
A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which, to look ahead. I say 'one chooses' with the inaccurate pride of a professional writer who - when he has been seriously noted at all - has been praised for his technical ability, but d…

50+ Rules and Tips About Writing I've Collected Over the Years

I have twenty or thirty notebooks and journals filled up with snippets about writing, my plans for stories, bits of dialogue, interesting ideas, plotlines, scraps of short stories, and a dozen other things. I carry one with me at all times and it takes me a couple of months to fill one up.

One of the things I've kept in one of my notebooks was a collection of writing tips and rules that I've collected over the years in my travels. From teachers, from books, from wherever. Most of my career has been spent screenwriting, so a lot of these are most applicable to that, but I wanted to present them so they might be of use to you as well.

I've never stopped collecting these over the years and I never will.

To start the list are Kurt Vonnegut's eight rules of writing. They are the first in my notebook and, I think, the most useful. I'll add a star to those I think are applicable most to screenwriting. Some of these aren't applicable to everyone in every situation, but…

Anatomy of a Scene - City Lights

We're going to break down another scene this week, and it's one of my favorites in cinema history. It comes from the ending of City Lights by Charlie Chaplin, which I think is the greatest romantic comedy ever made. 
It's a touching film from 1931 and I would make it mandatory viewing for anyone who wants to learn to tell a story.
The scene we're going to be breaking down comes from the very end of the film, so if you haven't seen it, I don't want to spoil it for you. Go watch the film. You can rent it for $3.99 in HD on Amazon or for free on Hulu with a free trial or plus subscription. You should just buy the Blu-ray, though. You're going to want to revisit it.
For those of you familiar with the movie, or for those of you who are going to ignore my pleas to watch it and go ahead with this post anyway, I'm going to set this clip up a bit before you watch it.
City Lights tells the story of Chaplin's Tramp and how he falls in love with a blind flower …