In November of 1918, just days after the end of World War I was announced, a young soldier named Richard Hogan was hospitalised in France with influenza. Two weeks later, he passed away. Shortly after his burial, Maude Fisher, the American Red Cross nurse who had cared for him during his final days, wrote the following heartfelt letter of sympathy to his mother.
(Source: War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars.)
November 29th, 1918
My dear Mrs. Hogan:
If I could talk to you I could tell you so much better about your son's last sickness, and all the little things that mean so much to a mother far away from her boy.
Your son was brought to this hospital on the 13th of November very sick with what they called Influenza. This soon developed into Pneumonia. He was brave and cheerful though, and made a good fight with the disease. Several days he seemed much better, and seemed to enjoy some fruit that I brought him. He did not want you to worry about his being sick, but I told him I thought we ought to let you know, and he said all right.
He became very weak towards the last of his sickness and slept all the time. One day while I was visiting some of the other patients he woke up and seeing me with my hat on asked the orderly if I was his sister come to see him. He was always good and patient and the nurses loved him. Everything was done to make him comfortable and I think he suffered very little, if any pain.
He laughed and talked to the people around him as long as he was able. They wanted to move him to another bed after he became real sick and moved the new bed up close to his, but he shook his head, that he didn't want to move. The orderly, a fine fellow, urged him. "Come on, Hogan," he said, "Move to this new bed. It's lots better than the one you're in." But Hogan shook his head still.
"No", he said, "No, I'll stay where I am. If that bed was better than mine, you'd 'a' had it long ago."
The last time I saw him I carried him a cup of hot soup, but he was too weak to do anything but taste it, and went back to sleep.
The Chaplain saw him several times and had just left him when he breathed his last on November 25th, at 2:30 in the afternoon.
He was laid to rest in the little cemetery of Commercy, and sleeps under a simple white wooden cross among his comrades who, like him, have died for their country. His grave number is 22, plot 1. His aluminum identification tag is on the cross, and a similar one is around his neck, both bearing his serial number, 2793346.
The plot of the grave in the cemetery where your son is buried was given to the Army for our boys and the people of Commercy will always tend it with loving hands and keep it fresh and clean. I enclose here a few leaves from the grass that grows near in a pretty meadow.
A big hill overshadows the place and the sun was setting behind it just as the Chaplain said the last prayer over your boy.
He prayed that the people at home might have great strength now for the battle that is before them, and we do ask that for you now.
The country will always honor your boy, because he gave his life for it, and it will also love and honor you for the gift of your boy, but be assured, that the sacrifice is not in vain, and the world is better today for it.
From the whole hospital force, accept deepest sympathy and from myself, tenderest love in your hour of sorrow.
Maude B. Fisher