Last Letter Home

Last night we had our first chorus rehearsal of the spring season. It looks to be a terrific concert, including works by Schoenberg, Brahms, Mozart, and others.

One piece we’re singing, “Last Letter Home,” blew us away. It was composed last year by Lee Hoiby; the text comes from a letter written by a U.S. soldier who died in Iraq. Private First Class Jesse Givens was killed on May 1, 2003, when his tank plunged into the Euphrates River after the bank on which he was parked gave way. The other crew members escaped, but Givens drowned.

He’d written a letter to his family to be opened in the event of his death: his wife Melissa, his stepson Dakota (nicknamed “Toad”), and his unborn son, nicknamed “Bean.”

We sang it for the first time last night. Half of us were wiping our eyes afterwards. My voice kept breaking as I tried to sing the text.

…I searched all my life for a dream and I found it in you. I would like to think that I made a positive difference in your lives. I will never be able to make up for the bad. I am so sorry. The happiest moments in my life all deal with my little family. I will always have with me the small moments we all shared. The moments when you quit taking life so serious and smiled. The sound of a beautiful boys laughter or the simple nudge of a baby unborn. You will never know how complete you have made me… You opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed…

Dakota you are more son then I could ever ask for. … You have a big beautiful heart. … I will always be there in our park when you dream so we can still play. I hope someday you will have a son like mine. … I love you toad I will always be there with you. I’ll be in the sun, shadows, dreams, and joys of your life.

Bean, I never got to see you but I know in my heart you are beautiful. …

I have never been so blessed as I was on the day I met Melissa Dawn Benfield. You are my angel, soulmate, wife, lover, and best friend. I am sorry. I did not want to have to write this letter. There is so much more I need to say, so much more I need to share. A lifetime’s worth. I married you for a million lifetimes. That’s how long I will be with you. … Please find it in your heart to forgive me for leaving you alone. … Do me a favor, after you tuck Toad and Bean in, give them hugs and kisses from me. Go outside and look at the stars and count them. Don’t forget to smile.

Here’s the entire letter. Links to the original, handwritten letter are at the bottom of the page.

His son was born a few weeks after he died.

One thought on “Last Letter Home

  1. Jeff,

    The Heartland Men’s Chorus is also singing “Last Letter Home” in our spring concert. Very moving piece. I think we’re taking it to GALA this summer.

    Didn’t your chorus change its name recently?

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