In late 1864, a mother wrote a letter to her sixteen-year old son coming home from four years in the Confederate Army. Randolph HELM had a dark bitterness in his soul. Knowing war is a tragedy in itself, but he knew it too young and too long.
Fifty-five years later the letter was used again, when Randolph's nephew returned from World War I. It was used a third time when a member of the family came back from Iwo Jima and Okinawa. "She puts rivets in her tenderness", this boy said. The letter is still as fresh today as it was when Grandmother HELM wrote it over 130 years ago. Let me share "The Letter" with you.
I'm glad your coming home. You'll make it in time for spring plowing. If General Lee offers you a mule, don't be proud -- you take it.
What makes you think I won't remember you? If you'd been away fifty years, I'd remember. I don't rekon you eat your vittles any different when you're hungry and still squirm when you say your prayers as if you had fire in your pants.
You got a deal of bitterness stored up in you for sixteen years. Son, people lied and cheated and sold each other out, but they've been doing it since the days of Eden. Just see that you don't waste yourself hatin' em.
You see, they never laid in ditches covered with water till they wondered if the whole world was under water. They never froze till they wondered if all the fire in the world had burned out.
They never waited in the dark of night till they wondered if all the lights in the world had blown out. They never starved and thirsted and froze and hated and burned and willed to die for something they believed. These things ain't never done, and you must be easy with them for they won't understand.
I'm standing now at the winder looking out at the stars. Just you and God and me. I've put your hand in His, and I'm saying a prayer. I'm writing it out so's you'll know. (He don't need to have it writ.)
God, here he is, and don't you be too easy on him. Because he's fit a war, and lost an arm -- he mustn't get to thinking that his work's all done. He's young and don't know that work heals and so does forgiving. His dark bitterness won't get him nothing.
Hold his hand, will you Lord till he finds the light.
Now, good night, my son, good night.
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