On this July 4th weekend, I wrote this short story to commemorate our slain soldiers- killed in the unjustified Iraq war.
Erin, this is Michael. Yes, it is your loving husband, contacting you from beyond this life. Don't be frightened, for I think I must now be with the angels.
I know it has been three weeks since the two uniformed men knocked on the door of our home, telling you that my patrol had encountered an improvised explosive device in Iraq, and that I was one of the two that was killed. Through a way that I cannot begin to understand but I have to believe is made possible by His grace, I was able to see you slowly go to tears, and our dear Kaitlin and Joshua asking "what's wrong, Mommy?" I remember all of you weeping at my funeral, as they placed my flag-draped coffin into the ground. I remember Josh and Kaitlin crying as they realized Daddy is not coming back.
Why Daddy is not coming back is too strange for a five year old and seven year old to understand. I know you told them that I loved our country so much that I signed up for the Army and made a great sacrifice so that the bad people wouldn't come back and crash airplanes and take thousands of children from their Daddies too.
But here, in what I think is heaven, I have had time to think. A lot of time.
I was thinking about how I got here. It all happened so fast - me and my men driving down this road outside Baghdad, the loud explosion - about 30 seconds of searing pain, and then the white light. And then I came here.
I think this is heaven. I haven't seen any angels with wings, nor met Him or His Son. And I no longer am bound by my body. But I do exist, and I see others, including Aunt Laura - she is free of the cancer that took her two years ago.
Time does not exist here, but it must be more than three weeks. Although my 29 years on Earth have ended, I do go back to the special times we spent together. But I also think about why I am no longer with you. That's why I am trying to contact you today.
Remember the morning of September 11, 2001? You were making pancakes. I was on my way to the machine shop. You called, saying that a crazy pilot had banged into the World Trade Center in New York. We turned on the tv at work, and then we saw the second plane hit the Tower, and the plane hit the Pentagon.
In church that Sunday, the Reverend talked to us about good and evil in the world. Then, on all the talk radio shows we listen to in the shop - Rush, Sean Hannity, and so on, they were talking all about Iraq and how they must have had a hand in this attack on the America we love. And when our President Bush came on television and told us about the dangers we were facing, I remember us on the couch, your hand in mine.
And surely you remember our sleepless nights around that time. "I have to do something," I kept on repeating. I knew that Grandfather Herbert had been in World War II. And I thought to myself all I am doing is wasting time here when my country needs me. And you kept on saying that I should volunteer and when I get out, I can go back to college on the G.I. bill and become an engineer. Go back to the college I had quit when you became pregnant with Josh and I had to go to work to support the family we were starting.
I remember how proud you were of me when I enlisted, and after I came home in uniform during my first leave. From where I am now, I can see those pictures on the mantel.
And I also remember the following Christmas, when you prayed for my safe return. Josh was at the age then where he started to understand what it was that Daddy was doing and why he was doing it. You bought him some toy soldiers. He still has them in his room, I can see that from here.
Erin, now I have a request for you that may sound strange. I want Josh, and Erin, too, to grow up loving this nation. But I would like you to listen to those who now say the war was wrong. Listen for yourself, and then rather than in anger, use your beautiful inner moral compass to decide. But if you are looking for guidance, I know we didn't find any Weapons of Mass Destruction, but we did find a turbulent land whose people now fight amongst themselves. And a land where more than 2,500 of my brethren have died. I cannot see their faces, but I do believe I have sensed the spirit of some of them in this place where I am.
And of course, this week is the Fourth of July. I remember our hometown parade, and you do, as well. I cannot tell you not to take the kids to the parade, and not to feel proud. But if our Congressman, who we voted for, tells the crowd that we must stay the course in Iraq, I want you to pray that he will see the error of his ways.
Erin, you can sense me, you can hear me, can you not? I think so, for you see, in my three weeks so far, I have made the acquaintance of a spirit without a body. Some might call her a guardian angel, or at least a higher being. But although she is incorporeal she has somehow let me know that when I have a very strong wish, she can take that wish to Glory - and if it is Glory's wish that it be done, it will be.
I have just told this angel, or spirit, that I wish you to somehow sense these words. Then I also told the spirit that I wish that after you sense these words, you would feel my presence. She suggested that she would ask Glory for a short, gentle breeze to blow through our window.
And it has been done. Did you feel that, Erin? That was me.
I am now in a place of peace. A peace that I wish for the Earth as well.
Tell Josh and Kaitlin that you know Daddy is in heaven, he can look down, and that he misses you both very much.
And as I miss you. Always and forever.