This poignant letter of condolence, written by Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Lydia Bixby toward the end of the Civil War, was printed in the Boston Evening Transcript on November 25, 1864.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
Although there is historical question as to the loss of all five sons, Lincoln's heartfelt point recognizing the deep loss to families remains true and accurate.
The lines from the second verse of the Star Spangled Banner say it so well:
"O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand,
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!"
This Memorial Day, remember to give thanks for those who have gone before us, those who have suffered and died for the freedoms we appreciate today. Don't take them for granted. They come at great cost.