Sunday, December 9, 1945
Ml'Abbe Robert Maugeot
Saint Die (Vosges)
Dear Mamma of Peter:
Yesterday, Saturday, I received your letter and I do not want to delay in answering and to tell you all that I have been feeling - I recognized Peter as I had seen him and just as my memory and my heart had kept his picture.
He had almost exactly the same face as on the photo where he is sitting in your home, I believe this beautiful face, reflection of a soul which must have been beautiful - this straight forward look, so clear, was not completely dimmed by death. And strange coincidence, the photo gave to his gaze the same bright misty look that he had when I saw him and that look, which had impressed me so much, that it remained deeply imprinted on my heart I found exactly on the photo. It seemed to me that I had found again a brother, whom I had always known; he had become so familiar to me. I had contracted with him, I do not know why or how, a true friendship which goes beyond the grave. I have often felt his presence: on one occasion particularly, when I was in prison and in terror, as I heard the Germans martyrizing another prisoner. I could see him (it was eight days after his death) clearly saying to me, "I am staying with you, I shall save you". And he did pray for me, I am sure of it, because, miraculously, I was delivered, fifteen days after and several times, at certain hours, he was nearer to me than when I wrote to you the first time. To-day it is with his eyes on me, that I am writing to you. I have put him on my desk beside those I love, and near my crucifix.
It is astonishing that Peter should have recovered, in death, that same expression that he has on the photo, taken at your home. It is striking.
Dear Mama of Peter, I see that I am calling your beloved son by his Christian name; pardon me to name thus, that friend to whom I feel intimately attached, and to you as well. How grateful I am to you, for having sent me four photos of your dear departed one; nothing could have given me so much pleasure.
Peter must have been attractive….All that you have told me about him, I already knew…he showed it on his face. It seemed to me that you were speaking about a brother, whom we had lost and of whom we were hearing things which we already knew about him, and when I read your letter, I am tempted to say, but good and tender mother of Peter, I have always known Peter. Was he not gentle? How much he must have loved you. Oh yes, he cannot have experienced discouragement…Moreover, he knew how to smile - in death - to the very end, as though to give a last leeon - he smiled even in his sufferings…Courageous always; he who loved aviation could only desire to die thus, bravely, in the service, doing his duty.
Dear Madam, be proud of your child…Never has he been so close to you. He certainly had but one regret that his own dear ones, and especially his poor little mother, would be grieved. Certainly his last thought was for you waiting and praying for your little boy, who left one day in good spirits. No, do not cry in grief. Oh I know and I feel how hard it is for a mamma to accept the fact that she will never again, here below see her child, and I feel how much you must suffer…but in spite of all - if tears are that Christ had kept for him, "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God"
Listen to Him as He repeats these words.
No, Peter was too pure and too good not to be quickly welcomed by Him, who is all purity, all love….and Peter remains with you more than ever…You cannot see him, nor touch him, nor feel his caresses; but still, he remains more than ever close to his dear mamma and is helping her to bear her big sorrow.
You asked me if Peter had his watch and his signet ring. His watch surely not, nor his ring….I only saw his medal…As for the medal, in spite of all my inquiries up to the present, I have not been able to find the person in whose hands I saw the medal; but I promise you, to do all I can to find it, as soon as possible and to send it to you immediately. During the Christmas holidays, I shall devote my time to the search of it. I shall also make a little pilgrimage to the grave of my dear little aviators and especially I shall go to pray at the tomb of your dear Peter and I shall ask him to help me find what could be, for you, an extra consolation and to help his family to bear bravely, and in a Christian manner, the absence of their son and brother so dearly loved.
It is not necessary for me to tell you dear madam and Mr. Biollo that as I consider myself guardian and friend of Peter, I promise you that I will look after his grave, just as I would, that of my favorite brother and I shall visit it often. I made that promise when I was in prison. I renew it now.
You ask me if I am destined to go some day to this dear Canada. Alas! I am the first to regret not being able to go, as I would love to tell you personally, how much I sympathize affectionately with Peter's family; but I am destined to be a priest in France; anyhow, Canada is very far away and the journey very expensive; otherwise I would allow myself the desire to tell you in person how much I feel united to Peter, to you, and how much I understand and take part in your sorrow.
You ask me to send you one of my photos. Please pardon me, but I received the cassock Nov. 21/45 and I have only one photo left, in civilian clothes. I kept it for an American soldier, a friend of mine, who did not come back. I shall send it to you and later on, I shall send you one in which I shall be clothed in the habit of a future priest. On the 29th of July, 1944, I was in civilian clothes. I was born 19th of September 1924. I must be a little younger than Peter. The photo I am sending you was taken a month after I left the prison, a short time after my country was liberated, 18th of September 1944….at 20 years exactly.
You will receive my letter, dear Madam, a few days before the feast of Christmas. Allow me, dear Mamma of Peter, to come, in his name to tell you that he, so close to God, asks Him to give you all the consolation you need.
It is the second Christmas that you have received nothing from your beloved child. I know that these days will not be what they used to be long ago, when he was there and these days will be very sad ones; dear Mamma of Peter, I shall be with you during those days and I shall pray to Peter and to God to console you. Would you like me to tell you the day on which I shall make my pilgrimage to Peter's grave. It will be Friday the 28th, the feast of the Holy Innocents. I shall pass the day at Chaumausey, but I shall go to pray especially in the afternoon, about three and four o'clock, and I shall try afterwards, to go where Peter fell. I cannot go sooner, because it is a 8th (eve that he fell) It is a Friday (day that he fell) feast of the Holy Innocents (because he is so pure).
I do not dare say, "joyful Christmas" dear Mrs. Biollo; but I say, consoling Christmas. May Jesus bring resignation and consolation to all the family, especially to Peter's little brother; may he remember his bother, who has shown him a beautiful path of grandeur. May he show himself worthy of it.
Please offer my respectful sympathy to Mr. Biollo and tell him that I pray for him also and that he may be proud to have such a son…I want to imitate him and get from him force, courage and joy. I am working under his gaze so pure and so loyal. When I shall go home at Christmas, I hope to be able to send you the card, which was given to me, after it had been picked up near the airplane….Card on which was marked the route of the plane and the place where it stopped; a few kilometres from the spot, where it fell. It was perhaps Peter who marked it. Anyhow, I held on to it and I think I shall be able to have it sent to you. As for the medal, I shall do all I can to find it. You may trust me for that dear parents.
I beg of you to let me know anything of interest concerning Peter, to whome I feel strongly attached.
Also, I would be very grateful, if you have it, to receive the address of the aviator, who escaped. I would like to know if the Germans took care of him and if he was able to return home.
I hope to be able to send you the last souvenir of Peter, as soon as possible.
Again I am offering you all my respectful and sincere sympathy and the assurance of my profound affection for Peter and for you, dear Mamma and also for your family,for whom I pray almost daily.