On November 29, 1918, Maude Fisher, a nurse in the American Red Cross during World War I, writes a heartfelt letter to the mother of a young soldier named Richard Hogan to inform her of her son’s death in an army hospital.
“My dear Mrs. Hogan,” Fisher began, “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.” Richard Hogan, who survived his front-line service in the war unscathed, had been brought to the hospital with influenza on November 13, 1918–just two days after the armistice was declared. The influenza soon developed into pneumonia. Hogan was “brave and cheerful,” Fisher assured Mrs. Hogan, “and made a good fight with the disease….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.”
Before two weeks had passed, however, Hogan was dead. Knowing the woman would only receive an official governmental notification of her son’s death, Fisher gave a more personal account of his last days, including his joking with the hospital orderly and the other nurses’ affection for him. According to Fisher, Hogan was buried in the cemetery at Commercy, in northeastern France, alongside other fallen American soldiers of the Great War.
“A big hill overshadows the place and the sun was setting behind it just as the Chaplain said the last prayer over your boy,” Fisher wrote. “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.”