Dear Wartime Widow;
You don't know me. Well, you do; I was your neighbour, we lived beside each other for two years and I watched your huskies while you were on duty in Afghanistan. I spoke with your husband daily and gave treats through the fence and cried a little when I woke up one morning and saw your eldest dog had passed away, the others huddled close to it as if to keep him warm. Your husband, he had the same name as my daughter and we chuckled whenever this not-so-strange occurrence came up in conversation and his hair was red like fire.
I used to watch him, a Goliath of a man, digging the garden in your backyard, rebuilding the fence line, laying down boards just underneath the surface of the earth to keep the dogs from digging in to our yard. I helped at midnight when somebody thought it was funny to launch fireworks in to your backyard at the dogs, I'd give you clippings of my climbing vines so you could plant them on your side of the fence and we could have a matching screen of leaves. Through eight seasons and one pregnancy for me, we lived side by side and rarely spoke; your husband was much more outgoing than you; kinder. That's not to say you weren't, but you must have seen things in your service that you can not un-see, it hardened you, made you silent.
The day we received the news was a hard day, a long day. Your dog had died yet nobody was there to deal with the corpse. The stench, the other dogs, the winter and the cold. Once you returned home and realized your pet was gone to another world, dimension, you probably felt as if it was the end of your world to lose a loved one. Thirty minutes later your phone rang and you were likely relaxing with tea or coffee, a good book or the television. Your husband, your lifeline, your eternity was shattered in an instant with that one ring, pickup, and hello. A landmine or a suicide bombing or a car bomb had taken his life and now you were left down two things you loved, and you hold your daughter close as you hang up slowly and try to figure out how to explain to her that her father is never coming home again.
You tried to sell your house, I tried to bake you cookies. I tried to be a good neighbour and talk to you, comfort you
but I couldn't do it. So two years later, I will write this letter to you. I will tell you everything I wanted to say that day, everything I wanted to be able to convey; I will tell you I am sorry. The cookies that I intended to bake for you (or was it a cake, and does it matter now?) mean absolutely nothing in the broad scheme of things, I know, and my words mean next to nothing as well, but here they are. I watched the funeral procession, the whole town showed up to honour your husband, I continued to feed treats to your remaining dogs, and I watched you through your window from my backyard as you went through the process of mourning. I want to tell you that your loss effected me, outside your home, outside of your life, and that I will always remember your husband just as you will, only in a different way.
On this day, at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh month I will write to you to tell you that I remember. I remember every day I ever saw him, I remember when you asked for a discharge from service yourself, I remember your dogs. I will always remember because my daughter has the same name as your gentle giant and every time I look at her, I will know that somewhere out there, a man was brave enough to fight for something he may not have understood but in doing so, and in dying for it, there is not a day that goes by that he won't be remembered for what he did.