We honour the dead with a cherry tree in our regiment. The tradition is an old one. In the cherry blossoms, we see the bravery and courage of our brothers. Above all, we see our fortune. Life is about inches, isn’t it Ramona? An inch here or there and I could have been a cherry tree. Yes, it would be a beautiful death, but for heaven’s sake, I’d never trade it with your company, no matter how pinkish cherry blossom I will be.
Albert was killed three weeks ago. I planted a cherry tree for him, its just a twig now, but its only three weeks and I miss him so much. He was like a brother to me, and he was just a few inches away from me when they started firing. I couldn’t save him, Ramona. He kept groaning in pain and in trenches we had no one for his ease. His last words to me were, ‘write-home’. I told him that I will but what do I write Ramona? How do I tell his wife? How do I tell his young son that his father is the youngest cherry tree now? How do I overcome the fear that someday you’d read a letter like that and I’d be a cherry tree? How do I live knowing that three weeks ago I was standing in my lucky inches?
I know what your answer would be, thinking about that makes me laugh. You’d say that you would kill me if you found that I’m flirting around in heaven. How can you kill the dead, I would say and we’d both laugh like children. How I love being around you Ramona. I can’t wait to hold you in my arms again.
I’ll be on the frontline tomorrow for the first time. Shall I tell you a secret? Don’t tell anyone, I’m so scared but I’m pretending that it’s all cool. Do you remember our teacher told us to look for courage inside us? How wrong was he, ever since Albert has died, I don’t feel as courageous as I used to be. So I go and see the cherry blossoms, they give me courage. Or I look at your photograph. If I ever see our teacher again then I’ll tell him that courage is not inside us, it’s around us. If I do not return tomorrow then you’ll find this letter in the woods of my cherry tree. I promise I won’t flirt around in heaven, I promise to wait for you. Hug the tree, and I’ll feel loved.
Yours and Only Yours,
As she finished reading the letter tears rolled down from her eyes. She hugged his cherry tree forever. She felt the courage. She knew what she was going to tell Albert’s wife and son. Their husbands are the youngest cherry trees, indeed. Someday they’ll be a symbol of courage to many soldiers. The courage that’s all around us.