our arboretum

"I'm just saying"

Him: if I don’t make it back, I want to be buried in Arlington. Don’t name one of your kids after me, it will give them a dead uncle complex. I don’t want an apple tree either. make it an evergreen. I don’t want the tree to ever look weak even in the winter. And don’t be stupid and plant mine next to grandpas because the pine needles change the soil ph and will kill the apple tree. Make it at least 25 feet away. Love you, sis. You are going to make a beautiful bride, an amazing wife, and someday an amazing mother.
Me: Stop talking like that. You are going to make it home.
Him: I’m just saying

My brother died in 2006 in operation Iraqi freedom, 3 months before my wedding. My family is full of foresters, and we have a strange tradition of every time a family member dies, we plant a tree for them in our arboretum. We planted him a spruce tree. It is the tallest tree we have now, 11 years later, which is fitting since he was 6'4". He was always a blunt, particular person. He was also very proud to be a marine and wasn’t afraid of dying. He talked about it often, the things he wanted etc. so this email wasn’t too out of the ordinary. He was never one to get sappy though, so when I read the last two sentences I started to realize that this time he really was seeing the writing on the wall. He was killed by a roadside bomb four days later. I didn’t name any of my kids after him, but my oldest son might as well have been. He has the same spirit, same blue eyes and is the tallest kid in his class by about 6 inches.

I still log into my old email address once in a while to read our old exchanges. I can still hear his voice as I read through them. He would have been a great uncle.