Do you remember when we first met?
It was the beginning of spring and the air was changing. It was fresher and fuller, like there was somehow more oxygen in it. That time of year sends me dizzy, into a dreamland, into a world of my own. Without fail. I love the change. It’s like a weight is lifting off the Earth and my cares go with it, and I float, just for a few days every year.
To this day, I thank that dizziness for our first encounter. If it had not sent my head into the clouds, I may never have collided with you and you may have simply glided past. And that would have been that. We may never have met. I may never have sat down to write this letter. And you may never have waited to receive it.
But that wasn’t that. We collided. And somehow it was me that ended up on the floor. I looked up from my tangled heap on the path and I saw… you. That face! Wow. I met with quite some scowl that day. I must admit, at that moment in time, I hoped never to meet it again. That scowl. That face. However, at this moment in time, I am glad I changed my mind.
Now, I miss you. I miss you more than I thought it possible for one person to miss another.
When circumstance permits stillness – not that that is often – I think of you and I think of home. Your smile. Just picturing it brings a smile to my face, entirely involuntarily. Even now. Even in the midst of all this, despite the distance, you bring some warmth, some comfort, some humanity.
It is through you that I remember home. You’re like an anchor, fastening me to what is good and what is light and what I hope for.
I miss the fields of rapeseed in blossom. The zig and the zag of yellow and green, stretching out all the way to the woods. I swear it creates a light like no other. There is almost something cleansing about it. (The memory is so vivid. Though it is hard to imagine that a place like that exists from here.) I long to walk out from the farm to the woods and back to the farm, just like we used to, and to talk to you about everything or about nothing for hours… Or at least for as long as we are allowed before Elias finds us and we must play tag, or hide and seek, or some other game! Whatever happens to be taking his fancy that week! It saddens me that a boy like Elias must grow up in the midst of all this. Such life, such playfulness, should not be hampered like this. There is no sense to it.
Tag and rapeseed and walks are a far cry from this place. Here, there is only mud. Mud like clay. With nothing else to be seen.
I sometimes wonder what it was like here before. Maybe it was like home. Golden, and fresh, and full of life. Maybe there were farms, punctuated by forests, and maybe people like us wandered between them, talking of everything and nothing. I wonder where they are now. If this should ever end, maybe this place will return to what it once was. I like to think of that time, whenever it may be. Some kind of redemption, perhaps.
For now though, there is just mud. Pits of mud. Separated by mud. It seems that for now we will stay in our mud holes and that they will stay in theirs. It drags. I hope that it will not last much longer.
But I also fear that we are close to the end. I am sure you will have heard the news by now that the Wehrmacht have suffered heavily in Wesel - I hear the Allies have crossed the Rhine and are advancing rapidly. I fear it will take quite some effort to retake the ground lost. It is hard to imagine how things changed there quite so quickly. How is it that such dormancy can coexist with such change? How can such might mean such precariousness?
I have also heard word that the Russians have arrived in Bühren and that there is nothing left there to mention. I have tried to reach my family, but have heard nothing in return. Were they alive, I am certain that I would have heard from them by now. My mother writes regularly, but no letter has come for a month.
I do hope that you have heard from your father and from Elias. Please let me know you have heard from them and that they are safe! I fear that there is no-one left there.
No. I must not think of loss now. And I am so very sorry if I have made you even entertain the idea. May it be gone!
I hope that you are comfortable where you are posted and that you are finding some reason in your work. You must know that if you have cared for even one poor casualty even one fraction as well as you have cared for me, or for Elias, or for your father, then you will have done your duty better than any other nurse ever could. I know that no matter what you are facing, or what you encounter, you will be a force for good. When I think of you at work in whatever hospital or whatever tent you find yourself in, I am cheered. For I know that you will bring warmth and comfort and humanity, where it otherwise would not be found. Keep going. You are doing good work. When it is hard, when you are tired, remember that you are making life better for so many. Your work brings sense to senselessness.
And, when you look back in years to come, or in decades, this time will seem to be but the blink of an eye. Soon you will be home. Soon, we will both be home.
When we both return to Bühren, things will be just as they were before, and better still. We will walk again. We will talk again. We will run and play and laugh again. There will be light and freshness and lightness again. What has happened will be forgotten and life will be restored.
When we return, I never ever want to be separated from you again. Our time before all this burns so brightly in my mind, and yet I know that after all this, our time can burn brighter still. Together, we can forget all this mud and mess and fear. We can heal. We can grow. We can flourish. The world can flourish.
All that flourish, all that goodness, I want to share it with you – I want to enjoy it all with you. I want home to become our home. Our beautiful home. A place of light and of life, for us and for family.
Anna, when we return to Bühren, I wish very much to make you my wife. Dearest Anna, when we return to Bühren, will you make me the happiest man in the world?
Will you marry me?
Anna, I love you. I always will.