“It seemed queer to look at this letter and know that I would never get another one from the boys. Letters from the boys have been a big thing to me for many years. Billy and Tom were away from me for a long time before the war, and they never failed to write. Frank was never away from me until he went over, and he was not much of a letter-writer,—just a few sentences! ’Hello, mother, how are you? I’m O.K. Hope you are the same. Sleeping well, and eating everything I can lay my hands on. The box came; it was sure a good one. Come again. So-long!’ That was the style of Frank’s letter. ’I don’t want this poor censor to be boring his eyes out trying to find state secrets in my letters,’ he said another time, apologizing for the shortness of it. ’There are lots of things that I would like to tell you, but I guess they will keep until I get home—I always could talk better than write.’ ... But this letter is different. He seemed to know that he was going—west, as they say, and he wrote so seriously; all the boyishness had gone from him, and he seemed to be old, much older than I am. These boys of ours are all older than we are now,—they have seen so much of life’s sadness—they have got above it; they see so many of their companions go over that they get a glimpse of the other shore. They are like very old people who cannot grieve the way younger people can at leaving this life.”
Then I read the boy’s letter.
“Dear Mother,” it ran, “We are out resting now, but going in to-morrow to tackle the biggest thing that we have pulled off yet. You’ll hear about it, I guess. Certainly you will if we are successful. I hope that this letter will go safely, for I want you to know just how I feel, and that everything is fine with me. I used to be scared stiff that I would be scared, but I haven’t been—there seems to be something that stands by you and keeps your heart up, and with death all around you, you see it is not so terrible. I have seen so many of the boys pass out, and they don’t mind it. They fight like wild-cats while they can, but when their turn comes they go easy. The awful roar of the guns does it. The silent tomb had a horrible sound to me when I was at home, but it sounds like a welcome now. Anyway, mother, whatever happens you must not worry. Everything is all right when you get right up to it—even death. I just wish I could see you, and make you understand how light-hearted I feel. I never felt better; my only trouble is that you will be worried about me, but just remember that everything is fine, and that I love you.
O God, who hears the smallest cry
That ever rose from human soul,
Be near my mother when she reads
My name upon the Honor Roll;
And when she sees it written there,
Dear Lord, stand to, behind her chair!