I came across this letter recently and found it rather moving. On October 21st of 1942, not long after being called to New Guinea to fight the Japanese forces during World War II, a young Australian soldier named John Byrnes wrote a letter to his daughter, explaining why he would not be attending her 2nd birthday party.
His letter can be seen below:
Oct 21, 1942
My Dear Little Girl,
Last night was a beautiful moonlit night. Every star that studded the sky was sparkling like a jewel. The air was crisp, but faintly perfumed, with all the fragrances only a lovely spring night can devise. Today it is raining hard, the wind is fierce and cold. Yes! It is miserable, something you want to pass by quickly, so that the night will again be beautiful.
Life too, Anne, is like the weather. Some days are so lovely, the happenings of those days so enchanting, you never can forget them. Some are so unhappy, you wish they never happened but, alas, they must for your life, your Mother’s, mine, everyone’s is so mixed up with joy and sadness that you never have one or the other for long. One replaces the other with a speed that is amazing.
Thus it happened just two years ago. Your Mother knew and I knew that you were going to be born. Those days were anxious ones, Anne. As the days went by your Mother used to smile at me with those lovely brown eyes. Eyes that shone with courage and resolve. If she had anxiety in her mind she never showed it but it must have been there. In my heart and mind torments raged that no one will ever know. But through all the doubts all the worries and all the long, anxious hours an end came, bringing with it, you.
From that hour, it was early in the morning, the lives of two people were filled with inexplicable happiness. When I called to see your Mother that day I shall never forget the beauty, the happiness that shone up at me from her precious little face. Neither will I forget the pride and the joy that surged right through me when the nurse brought you along and I held you in my arms.
Soon we took you home. The months sped by, and you gradually took a hold in our hearts. You laughed so much at such silly things we did to claim your attention. We showed you off to so many people. Your eyes, so big and questioning never failed to win admiration. Your curly hair was indeed a special joy.
And as each month sped by you grew. First you sat up, then stood up, then crawled, then walked. As each stage passed funny little incidents occurred. Perhaps no one ever noticed them or remembered them. But your Mother and I did. Every night, when I came home from work, there were stories of your conduct through the day to be told. Some days you were good and others you were naughty. Like, for instance, the day when a little mischievous spirit seized onto you and strips of wall paper came from the wall, Other thoughts came crowding into my mind, memories of days gone by when we laughed at you, scolded you, and, some serious times when we worried over you.
The first year of your life passed away, quickly perhaps, but you grew so quickly every day was an adventure not only for yourself but for us. You had a party for your first birthday, and although you sat up like Jacky you probably will never remember it. But that day you got “Goog’ga” for a present. Poor “Goog-ga”. As each week passed he got dirtier and more worn. And the dirtier he got the more you loved him. Then at Xmas,”Teddy” came along. Dear old Teddy. So plump and with such a frizzy coat. In a few months he was still plump but his hair was not so frizzy. Then, you’d never go to sleep unless Teddy and “Goog-ga” were tucked in with you. You’ll never know how angelic, how like a cherub you looked, when after your bath you were popped into bed with your little playmates. Indeed God is good. How many times have your Mother and I crept in to see you sleeping. And how many times have I wiped away tears, gentle little tears of happiness from her eyes when we came out.
All those days were so beautiful, like the night I sat and watched yesterday evening. But soon came the rain. Your lovely country, so free and so proud, was fighting for its life. Those indeed were dark days. I had to leave Mother and you and become a soldier. Thousands of other Daddies went too, because we had to fight so that all the Mothers and little boys and girls could live happily. That was many months ago. I do not know how long it will be before we will be home again together. But rain my little darling does not last for ever.
Through the blackest clouds a little piece of blue appears. The wind blows, and soon the clouds go. So too will peace come and then we can be all happy again.
Because I’m a soldier now Anne I cannot attend your birthday this year. You are going to have a party and I wont be there. But while that party is on I’ll be thinking of you and your Mother. Thinking of the day you came along, and of the days that have gone by since. You are lovely now, like your Mother. Some day, when you grow up, some man is going to be lost in your loveliness, like I was when I fell in love with your Mother. But no matter. We cannot have you forever. While we do we’ll teach you all the lovely things of life, and there are so many beautiful things in life. There are, too, bad things and, these also we will tell you about so that you’ll know how to pass them by.
Maybe it will be years before you will be able to read this letter but when you can you’ll know at least how much we love you and how much you mean to us.
I am looking forward to seeing you soon and to seeing those big brown eyes of yours laugh back at me. Until then my little girl.
Goodbye and God bless you on your birthday.
From your adoring
Endnote: Two weeks after penning this letter John Byrnes died in combat.