Wednesday, October 11, 2006

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

Six Word Story

Hemingway once wrote a story in six words. Neal from Leftwich pointed me to it.

Here's mine:

He had it coming. Didn't he?