The Goodbye Letter

**disclaimer** I don’t know if this really belongs here, on this blog. I don’t know if I will leave it up. I wrote this several years ago, after one of my dearest friends in the world was killed serving his country. I hope it might speak to others who have had to give someone up for ‘the greater good.’

Dearest Michael:

     I was driving down the road today, and one of our old songs started to play. And suddenly it hit me: you’re really gone. I had to pull over to the side of the road, the tears coming so fast I couldn’t see. Suddenly I was with you again, sitting on the roof of your apartment. Glasses of chianti and that old beat up stereo playing Janis Joplin all night long. Listening to the ball game from across the street, with the orange line rumbling under us. Walking down those narrow stairs to your door, warm and giddy from the wine. Sinking onto the hardwood floor in front of you as you picked out old show tunes on that beautiful guitar. Finally crawling into bed as the sun came up, pulling the down comforter up tight.
     Do you remember the day we went out on John’s boat? Sailing around Lake Michigan, trying to catch something? Then you finally got a bite, and we were laughing so hard we dropped the net before we landed the fish? Standing at the bow of the boat, wrapped in your giant green sweater and watching the sun go down? That night we went to the Blue Note and made the band keep playing the same song over and over? All of these images came flooding into my heart and mind, a torrent so powerful it seemed it would tear me apart.
     I remember the mornings when I’d wake up and roll over to find you gone, just a note on the mirror. You’d disappear for days, weeks sometimes with no word. And then appear again one night, crawling into bed next to me. Just wanting to be held, that haunted look in your eye. Time would pass, and it would go away, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before work called you away again. That’s why I couldn’t marry you, you know–I couldn’t bear to share you like that.
     I still play our game, you know. Every time I see a plane take off, I start making up the stories: she’s going to meet her lover. He’s off to see his newborn grandson. The woman in first class is terrified to fly, but she’s off to meet her online love for the first time. It’s a habit with me now, along with so many other little things that we used to do.
So this is for you: the man who was my friend, my lover, and then my friend again. The first man to ever treat me as something truly special. The world will never know your story, and what an amazing man it lost. There will be no nightly news broadcasts about your heroism. The people that you died to protect will never hear your name. And your funeral will be small…just the brothers you served with in attendance. The only thing that comforts me is knowing that your coma was so deep that you never suffered. You never awoke to see the horror that had been done to you. For that , I’m grateful.
     John called me, told me about the service. He said when he was looking for your watch he came upon a tattered green sweater. And wrapped inside it was a framed picture. It was us, as well you know, standing on the bow of the boat, watching the sun go down. I never knew John took it. He promises me that he’ll place it in your casket, along with this letter. So this is my eulogy for you. You who watched me from afar, who never forgot what we had. You kept me safe, you kept me loved. And now that you’re gone, there is a hole in my heart that I don’t think will ever heal. I will always love you, my dearest. Know that you are missed.

me

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