The Thinking 

A Letter Home

January 4, 2012

Eugene Curtin

THIS SATURDAY is the 61st anniversary of the death of my maternal grandfather, whom I obviously never met. Reading through family papers this week, I came across once again this eloquent letter he wrote to his mother from the front lines in France during World War I. And, I thought I might share it with readers.

My grandfather was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He volunteered for the British Expeditionary Force in early 1917, before America entered World War I. He became one of several hundred physicians loaned to the British Army for the duration of the war. He had the rank of lieutenant and spent two years tending to the wounded on the front lines.  After the war was over, he married, fathered seven children and ran a busy medical practice. Exposure to mustard gas during the war caused his health eventually to fail. He became seriously ill in his late fifties and died at the age of 62.

His mother, who had eight children, was widowed in her forties. My grandfather’s sisters worked as secretaries and teachers to put him through medical school at Georgetown University before the war. Here is his letter home on May 11, 1918 on the occasion of Mother’s Day.

Dearest Mother,

I happened to see in the Paris paper that Sunday, the 12th is Mother’s Day and that we might celebrate by writing to our Mothers, such letters to receive special consideration in the mails. So these are my thoughts to you Mother mine.

You must know it is not necessary for me to have a special day in which to remember you, for in my thoughts every day is Mother’s Day and many are the spaces of the day and the restless moments of the night that I think of Mother and of home and how much I wish I could see them both.

I have seen a good bit of England and of France and they are both quite nice but they can’t compare with little old Dunmore with all its mud and it’s not the excitement of the gay little place that makes me think it is so fine, but because you and the girls are there.

Tonight is most beautiful — warm and balmy — with thousands of stars above. Overhead you hear the monotonous drone of the planes and see their lights flashing in competition with the twinkling stars. In front are the uninterrupted flashes of guns — and out over lines rockets and chains of light, the signals of friend and foe. A wonderful night and how calm and peaceful the elements are but how disturbing and deadly the hand of man. The continuous roar of our big guns, the short angry cracking of the machine guns in the distance, the whiz and shriek of the Hun shells going on their way to still pound to dust the once happy and serene little villages of this beautiful land. Mother Nature must indeed be sorrowful these days to see how cruelly her lovely charms are trampled upon by the lust for power of man. How little we think, in these days, of the wonders of the budding flower or of the greatness of the mother robin with her young, but all of our thoughts are of the seventy-five mile gun of the latest type of aeroplane.

But better days will come upon this upside down world of ours and when all these great guns and instruments of death are useless and rusted away and the Kings and Kaizers [sic] of today are but dust, the love of Mother will still endure and that love more than anything else will make this planet a little heaven in itself.

I cannot wear a pink carnation tomorrow, but I know a lovely little woods that wears a carpet of bluebells. Early in the morning, I’ll steal out from my little dugout and take some fresh with dew and I’ll wear them all day long and each time these little bells tinkle over my heart, they will be chiming my love to you.

So be of good cheer and wait with me, Mother dear, for the most wonderful day of my life, the day in which we will begin long happy years, during which we will not be separated again — the great, happy, wonderful day when I kiss you again.

Love and Kisses to all.

Your loving son,


May 11, 1918 

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