As cliche as it is to begin a letter this way, I can't think of any other way to do it. So here goes . . .
If you're reading this, I didn't make it home, or at least I didn't make it home the way I intended. For that, I cannot apologize enough. I never intended to have you suffer the way I can only imagine that you are now. I always wanted to do something bigger than myself, and I felt that the military was the best way that I could give back to my country. It never went exactly like I thought or hoped it would, but sacrifices are never supposed to be easy. Looking back now, I would probably rather have stayed home and been a park ranger and still been there with you and Dad for all the birthdays, holidays, and Christmas mornings.
As far back as I can remember, you and I have been connected in a way that I really cannot explain. Even as a child, you knew when I was upset, needed encouragement or could have used a helping hand. You've always sent me little cards and notes that I have kept over the years. They have always been a source of strength and comfort to me. The countless conversations that we have had remain forever in my memory and will always be among my most cherished reminiscences of our time together. Even now, your influence in my life is apparent as I try unsuccessfully to refrain from the use of the passive voice.
I don't really know what to say, Mom. I feel like I owe you some viable explanation or comforting words. I know that probably seems as if I am placing such a great value on me as a person. It just hurts my heart as I sit here writing this in my bedroom knowing what will have transpired for you to read this. I just hope that regardless of the situation or circumstances surrounding my death that you will know that I was serving my country with everything that I had within me. I brought with me to work every day all the things you and Dad taught me, and I have tried so hard to implement them in the way I treat others.
Mom, you have been the single greatest influence in my life. As far back as I can remember, I have always cared deeply about your thoughts and perceptions of me and my actions. I have always trusted your judgment and advice, even though sometimes I didn't want to hear it. I knew that you only had in your heart what was good for me and that you only wanted to see me succeed and avoid failure. For these things and your perpetual guidance, I thank you.
I would be remiss to leave out your great strength, faith and personal drive. If anyone in my life has taught me the importance of setting goals and achieving them no matter the cost, it is you. As a child and a young man I watched you go from running to the mail box, to 5ks to the Memphis Marathon. I stood witness my senior year in high school as you worked on your bachelors degree, pursued a masters and eventually added Ph.D. to the end of your name. In the midst of all that you still loved me and made time to do things with me. I have learned so much from your time, hard work and dedication. Thank you!
You also taught me how to have fun. I will always cherish the movies we went to see together, the concerts we attended, and the museums we visited. As I sit here now, I remember being Charlie in The Foreigner while you played Betty Meeks. I can't tell you how fun it was to be on stage with you. It is easily one of the happiest moments and memories in my life. I don't know how many other 26 year olds spend their Spring Breaks with their mother's flying from one museum in London to another, but I had such a great time because you were there to share it with me.
I cannot think of any important event in my life when you weren't there. You have been a constant support and guide for me in my life. You gave me strength when I wanted to quit. You knew the abilities and strengths I had within myself even when I did not. You never let me forget that and you always pushed me toward bettering myself and helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I feel as if this letter should go on forever. Even as I draw it to a close now, I feel like I am doing you a disservice by not coming back home to you and not providing you with a novel that you may read over several days and receive some sort of closure. Please have faith that my soul has gone to where you always prayed it would go. Take comfort in the fact that I am now waiting for you in eternity, and I am not alone. As surely as I write this to you now, I know that Papaw was waiting for me when the angel carried me home to await the day that you and the rest of the family would join me. While my body is now gone, my spirit will linger there with you forever. Please know that if there is anyway I can watch over you from heaven that I will do it. I pray that you will think of me fondly and with a smile on your face instead of with tears in your eyes. Think of me when you hear the Arkansas Pops, when you attend a performance at The Rep, see a movie that Dad wont' go to or when you complete an extremely difficult crossfit workout. Please don't become bitter. Don't let my leaving affect your ability to influence others for the good.
I'm so sorry that I have to stop writing you. I hope that you are proud of me. I pray fervently that my actions in this life have not been an embarrassment to you but a life that you can look upon and be proud to have influenced so greatly. I am proud of you, for what it's worth, and could never ask for anything better in a mother. I love you so much, and if anyone can be plagued by sorrow in the great hereafter by missing someone left behind on earth it will be me missing you. Push forever forward. Live every day to the absolute fullest, and please remember me.
Love always, your son,
7 years ago