Walking into his mother’s room, Johnny felt the cold silence as if the room itself knew that it would never feel the life of his mother again. His heart ached as he silently screamed for the walls to cry out with him, but they refuesed. He scanned the room, seeing that it looked exactly as it always had, perfectly neat and in order. Her brush and perfume bottles were arranged neatly on the dresser, and the bed was made with the quilt she had had sewn years earlier.
He had come to search for any tangible memory he could take with him for he knew he would never step foot in this room again. He couldn’t bear the memories of her loss for another moment. Suddenly, the chest at the foot of her bed caught his eye, and he knelt in front of it, slowly pulling open the lid. He was astonished to find that it was empty except for a stack of letters.
On top, one letter was lying open, and he reached down to get it. As he held the letter in his hand, he felt its frailty. He noticed that the paper was soft, for it had been held in his mother’s hands many times. It was beginning to yellow, and the ink was beginning to fade. Darkened circles blotted the paper where tears had streamed down her cheeks and landed on the paper leaving stains.
April 6, 1865
My Dearest Martha,
As I write this letter, I feel my heart becoming heavy with sorrow, my hands growing feeble, and my body losing its strength. I know that this will be my last letter to you for I have heard the final trumpet sound and the angels calling my name. My wounds are beyond healing. Though the atrocities I have witnessed cannot be described, the sorrow that I feel at this moment is more than I can bear for I will never see your face again nor will I feel the tiny fingers of my son wrapped tightly around my own. I am relieved by the knowledge that we will be together once again when we meet in the great beyond. Keep heart, my darling, knowing that we will not be parted for long. Remind little Johnny that I am watching him from above. Finally, remain devoted to our Cause. Although our sacrifices are immense, the lack of devotion to our greater welfare would be far more devastating.
Your loving husband,
Johnny wiped the tears from his eyes as he gently folded his father’s letter and placed it in his pocket. He had retrieved exactly what he needed to remember his mother. As he walked toward the door and turned the knob, he turned and surveyed the room one final time. Taking a deep breath, he turned and smiled. Not only did he find fond memories of the father he had never known, but he had found half of his mother’s heart, the half that had been taken to the battlefield.