January 29, 2006

Dear Joe

Dear Joe,
It was so wonderful to get your letter on Friday. I thought reading your funny cheerful letter would be the perfect way to end a really stressful week at work. and start my weekend on a positive note. At first I thought it strange that one of your men would write me directly, but after reading his letter I'm really grateful he did.

Sorry about writing my response here, but I just had to write and thank you for the pictures of the men and your girls and share some last thoughts with you. I cannot believe how much they’ve grown since I first saw them at the end of your first deployment. How time flies! I can believe it’s been a little over 3 years since we first began corresponding while you were in the middle of your first tour in Iraq.

I want you to know that since that time I’ve grown to appreciate you more each time and now consider you more like a younger brother than a close friend. I never really thanked you when you and the guys called me for mother’s day last year. I thought it was the sweetest most touching thing you’ve done and a memory I’ll treasure forever. Of course I still think you all sounded like wailing cats, but it’s the thought that counts, eh?

By the way, I finally started using the Schaeffer fountain pen you sent me for Christmas. I LOVE IT!!! It's possibly the best present I've ever gotten. I didn’t get a chance to tell you before because I only started using it Friday night to write in my journal.

It’s strange to be typing this letter because we always handwrote our letters to each other. In that way you and I were very much alike, old style communicators. I was really glad I decided to keep your letters, because I’ve been re-reading them and laughing all over again at some of the silliness in them. I finished the most recent ones this morning and have been thinking of sending them to your Aunt so she could hold onto them for when the girls get older. I think it would be great for them to see how much you loved them and how proud you were of them. Since you write so much of them in every letter, and they express your thoughts, hopes and dreams for them, I thought it would be fitting for them to have. God I’m going to miss your letters.

I want to thank you for being a persistent pain-in-the-a$$, and making me your friend. In writing my letters I was able to start giving my soul a voice once again. It helped me enormously too because I began to reach out and slowly let you into my life in a safe way. Believe me, I didn’t want for us to become good friends because I really didn’t want to have to mourn yet another person in my life. But you were insistent and reminded me that in changing the person I was, the free spirit, the adventurous, the risk taker, I was closing myself off from the possibility of experience moments of happiness and joy. As you said, being on the front lines straddling the line of life and death forced you not to piss away life’s precious moments.

For over a week now I’ve been thinking about my life in terms of what you said and what Tammi wrote in her blog about "taking risks". I was once again wondering if I should make an effort and get to know the people from work by socializing with them afterwards. What’s the risk? The risk is getting close and then losing them, and having to endure and mourn the loss of someone else. Yeah, yeah, I can almost hear your voice saying: “Abso-freaking-lutely! Because without the opportunity to experience pain, there is no opportunity to experience joy!” I remember you saying that during our first internet call during your 2nd deployment. I can still hear your hearty laugh when I asked you did you become a “F*^king Sufi-mystic.” You laughed so hard you fell off your chair and we nearly lost our connection. That still makes me laugh! I think of it every time my son starts tipping his chair.

Joe, I’m going to miss you! You were a brother and a friend that helped me start on the road to healing. And I will keep the promise you asked for in your last letter. I will remember only the laughs and good moments we shared through letters and not on the fact that you’re gone. I also promise that someday I’ll make it to Wash State to meet with the girls when they’re a bit older and explain the importance of why you were there, why you sacrificed as you did, and how much you loved our country.

Kiddo, please know that I loved you very much! Although I never said it while you were alive for fear that you’d confuse it with something else, the brotherly love I felt for you was very strong and grew with every exchange we had. My muse wants to thank you most of all for the encouragment you gave me while writing, for reading my little stories and for all the feedback you collected from your men.

I know that you are smiling down on me from heaven and possibly cracking everybody up with your jokes. Know that I believe your light has not been extinguished with your death but has grown brighter with our love and appreciation for you having been in our lives. Yes, you will be missed, but you will be remembered much more and with greater love. God Bless You Joe, and thank you for having been in my life for the short time you were!

Posted by Michele at January 29, 2006 12:19 PM

I just need to tell you how incredible you are and that I love ya darlin'. I really, really do. And shame on me for not telling you more often.

Hugs from Northern Illinois!!!!

Posted by: Tammi at January 29, 2006 12:33 PM

With apologies to Tammi, "incredible" seems an understatement.

Posted by: Sgt Hook at January 29, 2006 01:03 PM

That's a heck-of-a Open Letter.

Posted by: _Jon at January 29, 2006 01:18 PM

Wow. That is one heck of a letter, and I am glad you have shared it with us all. I am glad you shared so much with Joe, and his men, and that a part of him lives on this way. Incredible is too pale a word for you, for you are a wonderful and special person. Thanks for being a part of his life, and most especially for being a part of mine.

Consider yourself hugged.

Posted by: Laughing Wolf at January 29, 2006 09:17 PM


Posted by: Harvey at January 31, 2006 03:35 PM

... I am floored.... totally... Michele, you are a truly kind spirit... as was Joe.... I am happy that you found him and yourself... I can't say more... thank you for sharing this letter with us.... thank you..

Posted by: Eric at January 31, 2006 06:27 PM

I don't know how you were able to pull this letter together but I'm am so grateful that you shared it with all.

Posted by: toni at January 31, 2006 08:05 PM

... just... thank you.

Posted by: RSM at January 31, 2006 10:45 PM

Another thank you. To you and to Joe. What a wonderful way to remember him. {hugs}

Posted by: oddybobo at February 1, 2006 09:52 AM

Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that...

Posted by: Richmond at February 1, 2006 02:24 PM