Feb 07

Notes From a Field Hospital VI

July 5th, 1916

The slaughter continues. Sophie is still strong and brave, and I still relive Theodore’s death a hundred times a day. There is no rest, there is no peace. There is only blood and sickness and infection. And the ever looming possibility that the next blonde or auburn soldier is Frederick or Edwin. How long will this continue? I miss everyone terribly. I still cannot sleep. 

July 7th, 1916

This cannot be real. This is a sick fragment of imagination, I will wake up in a cold sweat any moment. This. Is. Not. Real. The unimaginable, terrible thing that happened today is not real. There is nothing left for me to do in this day but cry. The worst has happened. 

July 10th, 1916

Tears cannot show how much I grieve. Nothing can show how much I grieve. I have cried, and sat in silence, and worked, and slept and written since it happened. I wish that I could say that I am alright, but I am not, and I fear that I will not be for a long time. I don’t know what to say. It was Frederick. He came to the hospital, in the late afternoon, and 

July 11th, 1916

I could not continue yesterday when I tried to recount what happened to Frederick, but I will do it now. He came to the hospital in the late afternoon, with several injuries. These included an arm broken in three places, a horrible case of trench foot, seven punctures from machine gun bullets, and a cough of blood instead of phlegm. I could not bear to see him this way. He was drenched, of course, because of the wet, but he was drenched in his own blood and the blood of his comrades as well. 

When he came through the door of the hospital I almost did not recognize him. He was thin and haggard, stubbly and covered in mud and dirt. As soon as he came close, however, I recognized his eyebrows and the shape of his face. I called for Sophie, and luckily she was not occupied at that exact moment, and she rushed over and helped me assist Frederick to a table. I would have given him a bed, but all the beds were full of patients and I could not find it in me to remove one of them, even for my beloved brother. It took a few minutes for him to realize that I was tending him, and then to realize that I was crying. I think he may have wanted to tell me something, but he could not. He could not speak. Here he was, on a table. My sweet, brave, intelligent, confident, teasing brother. Helpless and wounded, dying right before my eyes. His face swims in my dreams. He is always in my mind and behind my eyelids. I used to think that this happening would be impossible, and here was my worst nightmare. It was all of his injuries combined that killed him. Killed. It is such a harsh word. I still cannot believe that I can use it to describe what happened to my Frederick. I cannot believe that this is real. 

I miss him. I miss him so much. I wish that he were here, and I wish that he would be there when I came home from this. 

What is the point of war? Why do we kill each other? Why do countries feel the need to send innocent people to their deaths?

I do not know how much longer I can bear to stay here. I could tell myself that I will go home, to be with my family, and then return to continue with the war effort (if it has continued that far), but I know that once I leave I will not be able to return. I must stay, or leave for good. I am healthy, and useful. I have learned a large amount about medicine, and I am, if I do say so myself, good at what I do. I will stay until I can absolutely bear no more. 

The war has taken from me two people who are dear to me. If there is a third, who could only be Edwin, I do not know what I shall do. I have lost faith in the universe, and I would not be surprised if Edwin too arrived stricken to the hospital. 

July 14th, 1916

I will not write for a while. There is nothing more to say. I grieve and work. Nothing else.