Letter to an Unborn Son

During World War II, when Yugoslavia was attacked by the invading Nazis, all the Yugoslavs, whether they be soldier or civilian, went out into the field of battle to assist their beleaguered country. One such Yugoslav soldier, whose wife was in the family way, went out to defend his home and family. Before he left his family, he sat down one night to write a letter to his unborn son. He was killed by Nazi bullets some weeks later. When his companions found his body, they discovered a letter in his pocket. Newspaper reporters got hold of it, and soon it was published in the January 25, 1943 issue of Time magazine. This letter contains a legacy of noble experience and a sublime prayer for hope, not only for the author’s unborn son, but for all sons all over the world.

My child, sleeping now in the dark and gathering strength for the struggle of birth, I wish you well. At present you have no proper shape, and you do not breathe, and you are blind. Yet, when your time comes, your time and the time of your mother, whom I deeply love, there will be something in you that will give you power to fight for air and light. Such is your heritage, such is your destiny as a child born of a woman–to fight for light and hold on without knowing why.

May the flame that tempers the bright steel of your youth never die, but burn always; so that when your work is done and your long day ended, you may still be like a watchman’s fire at the end of a lonely road–loved and cherished for your gracious glow by all good wayfarers who need light in their darkness and warmth for their comfort.

The spirit of wonder and adventure, the token of immortality, will be given to you as a child. May you keep it forever, with that in your heart which always seeks the gold beyond the rainbow, the pastures beyond the desert, the dawn beyond the sea, the light beyond the dark.

May you seek always and strive always in good faith and high courage, in this world where men grow so tired.

Keep your capacity for faith and belief, but let your judgment watch what you believe.

Keep your power to receive everything; only learn to select what your instinct tells you is right.

Keep your love of life but throw away your fear of death. Life must be loved or it is lost; but it should never be loved too well.

Keep your delight in friend ship; only learn to know your friends.

Keep your intolerance–only save it for what your heart tells you is bad.

Keep your wonder at great and noble things like sunlight and thunder, the rain and the stars, the wind and the sea, the growth of trees and the return of harvests, and the greatness of heroes.

Keep your heart hungry for new knowledge; keep your hatred of a lie; and keep your power of indignation.

Now I know I must die and you must be born to stand upon the rubbish heap of my errors. Forgive me for this. I am ashamed to leave you an untidy, uncomfortable world. But so it must be.

In thought, as a last benediction, I kiss your forehead. Good night to you–and good morning and a clear dawn.