Sunday Morning: Dear Son


20 October 1944
US Army Air Force Base
Italy

Dear Son:

I hoped I would never write this to you.  In a little less than an hour, I’ll be strapping myself into my old plane and pointing my nose westward.  I’ve seen the orders.  I think it will be for the last time.  And, so, suddenly I find my life stripped away, like the branches of an old, black tree.  All that matters is that I write this to you.

I know that you won’t remember me.  Not really. When I spent three days with you last year when you were 6 months old, and although you can’t yet understand it, I loved you more then than you might imagine loving anybody right now.

Now listen to me.  This Life, know that it is precious.  You’ve got to grasp it, every little whiff of it that passes by you. It won’t be easy. It won’t be certain. Not now. Not in your unimaginable future.  Don’t be surprised. No, embrace the stiff winds and the lonely heights. Remember your name.  Never turn away from the right course because it’s hard.  Above all, love.  Scrape out the bottom of your soul.  And love for all you’re worth. And when you find her, risk everything. Die a thousand deaths to get her.  Don’t look back.  When you grow older, older than I’ll ever be, blow on the embers of that first heroic choice. You’ll be warmed, sustained.

Some day, you’ll have a son, remember, he’s your greatest gift.  Tell him these things.  Make a man of him.  Love him.  Don’t live to get money.  Have a few things, but make them good things. Take care of them. Learn how they work.  There is beauty in the smell of good machines and old leather.

When you walk, alone, in the autumn, down roads at night, with trees tossing in the sunset, know that I would give everything to walk with you and tell you their names.  But I there, in the light, through the branches, and I’m loving you where I see you.

I must go now.  All my love. For ever and ever.

Dad


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