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Mother’s letter for healing spans three wars

In late 1864 a mother wrote a letter to her 16-year-old son coming home from four years in the Confederate Army. Randolph Helm had a “dark bitterness” in his soul, he had told his mother, having known war too young and too long. Fifty-five years later the letter was used again when Randolph’s nephew returned from World I. It was used a third time when a member of the family came back from Iwo Jima and Okinawa. — McCall’s

A Winter Day, 1864
Dear Son:
I’m glad you’re 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.
You got a deal of bitterness stored up in you for 16 years. Yes, people lied and cheated and sold each other out, but they’ve been doing it since the days of Eden. Just you see that you don’t waste yourself hating ’em. You see, the world never laid in ditches covered with water till they wondered if all the world was under water. They never waited in the dark of night till they thirsted and froze and willed to die for something they believed. These things they never done, and you must be easy with ’em.
Now, as I’ve told you before God’s still up there where He’s always been, and He’s having His way. You watch.
I’m standing now at the window looking out at the stars. Just you and God and me. I’ve put my hand in His and I’m saying a prayer. I’ll write it out so’s you’ll know. (He doesn’t need to have it writ.)
God, here he is and don’t be too easy on him. Because he’s fit a war and lost an arm he mustn’t git to thinking his work’s 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, till he finds the light?
Now good night, my son, good night.
Your mother,
NANCY HELM