Standing beside his grave, wiping away my tears, I remembered our childhood. We were the children of a poor farmer. Our mother had died three years after I was born. I, Susan Woods, was only three years old, and my brother, Kyle Woods, was only eight. After our mother was gone, our father worked hard for us. He was himself illiterate, but he wanted us to attend school, and if possible, go to college also. Though we were still poor, but we managed to get along. If there were some things that we were rich at, they were love, respect and loyalty, and it was our father’s dream for us to be rich in education too. Kyle began to go to school while I was still very young. After school, he would work with our father at the farms and later study for school. Although Kyle had a very busy routine, he would still take out time for me. We would either play tag in front of our house, or he would take me to the cliffs some miles off. It was there where Kyle’s passion for flying begun.
One day when we were at the cliffs, playing, I playfully pinched Kyle and ran off. He ran after me. It was almost sunset and we were getting late from home. I didn’t notice where I was running because I kept looking back for Kyle to see if he was catching up or not. Kyle purposely ran slowly because of me as I was too little and Kyle was much stronger and faster than me. Suddenly I stumbled, and before even realizing it, I was falling off the cliff. Seeing this Kyle dashed after me, and in effort to get hold of me, he dived. He did get hold of me, but unfortunately, he lost his own balance and we both fell downwards. I do not know what happened after that because after a moment, darkness gathered in my eyes. I then woke in a hospital and found a doctor peering down on me. After realizing what was happening, I called out for Kyle. My father came beside me and gently squeezed my hand. He said some encouraging words to me but I did not listen attentively. All I wanted at that moment was to see Kyle. I struggled to get out of the bed, but my father kept hold of me. He told me that Kyle was all right and was in the next room, but I didn’t listen. My father looked pleadingly at the doctor who then gave his permission to let me see Kyle. A nurse came and took me to Kyle’s room. My head felt heavy, and when I touched it, I came to know that it was bandaged. When I entered the room, I saw Kyle lying on the bed. His arms were plastered and his head was bandaged like mine. I went near him and jumped up on the bed. The nurse told me not to disturb Kyle and let him sleep.
Later I learned from my father that Kyle’s injury wasn’t severe, all he got was a little cut on his radius bone, and his head had bumped to the rock. They told us that Kyle would be all right soon and would return to his original shape. I had to spend two nights at the hospital and on the third morning I was discharged. Kyle was still unconscious. My father and I visited him everyday, and thankfully on the sixth day, he begun to show movements, and that night, he was finally in his conscious. He was glad to hear that I had only served a little cut on the left side of my head, which was quickly healing, and that the rest of me was all right. It turned out that while falling, Kyle pushed himself under me so that I would land on top of him and would not be much hurt. Luckily the cliff was only of seven feet. A month later, Kyle was discharged. The cut on his bone begun to heal, and after that accident, Kyle and I were banned from going to the cliffs. We were allowed to play outside, but never far off. It didn’t bother us not to go to the cliffs because now we both were afraid of heights.
Two months passed and suddenly Kyle begun to come home late from school. Father always questioned him but he always made up excuses. We began to get more worried when Kyle started to come home with bruises on his legs and arms. Because of Kyle’s continuous absence, the work at the farm begun to slow down, and because of it father had to do all the work himself, and he would come home late and would always be tired. He started to get really angry at times. Seeing this, I begged Kyle to come home early and help father. Years passed and I was ten years old. Kyle still came home late, and father was still always angry. I had begun to go to school although the budget went low and low everyday. Kyle started to remain very quite and he and father were always getting into small fights. Kyle even stopped playing with me, and both of them paid little attention to whatever I did, or wherever I went. So one day, while coming home from school, I decided to take a long cut, and go towards the cliffs to avoid going to home early. I was still afraid of heights but I was determined to not to give way to fear. I hiked up the cliffs and that is when I heard voices. There came a loud thud after every four minutes. I wondered what it was and decided to check. I had gone a little way ahead when I saw a figure of a boy ascending the cliffs from my opposite. I hid myself behind a huge rock and the boy didn’t see me. I peered out and realized that the boy was none other than my own brother, Kyle. I saw him going towards the edge of the cliff and bend forward. I realized what he was going to do; he was going to jump off the cliff. Realizing he was going to kill himself, I jumped out from behind the rock and leapt after him, yelling his name. He turned around in surprise and saw me. Then, he lost his balance and fell off. Shrieking, I went down the cliff from a safer way and saw him sitting on a rock, clutching his knee. I reached and sat down beside him.
"Just what do you think you were doing, scaring me like that?" he snapped at me.
"What was I doing? What were you doing? Why were you trying to kill yourself?" I snapped back.
"I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I was just-" Kyle stopped short. I stared at him, waiting for him to give an explanation. Kyle’s knee was bleeding but he didn’t care.
After a while when Kyle still didn’t say anything, I got up with a stern face and voice, said, "I’m going to tell Father about this" and I turned and started to walk away. Kyle grabbed my leg, pulled, and I fell face-forward. I rolled and sat up angrily.
"What was that for, Kyle?" I asked.
"Promise me you’re not going to tell father about this" Kyle pleaded.
"I won’t until you tell me what you were doing. And why were you trying to kill yourself?" I aid stubbornly.
"I wasn’t trying to kill myself, ok! I was just trying to fly" Kyle burst out.
Hearing this, my lips stretched in a smile.
"Kyle I’m ten years old and even I know that human beings cannot fly" Kyle looked at me knowingly and said,
"I knew you wouldn’t understand. No one ever does" I looked at my brother for long. His face sagged with sadness and now I could see tears in his eyes.
"Try me!" I said to him. Now, it was Kyle’s turn to look at me. He did, and finally started,
"Two months after we fell off the cliff, I started taking this route to come home from school. Although I knew I was scared of the cliffs, but I tried to be stronger, to set an example for you. My teacher always told us that, ‘sometimes you have to do the things which you fear most, and in the end, it turns out that you’re no longer afraid.’ I thought about it and finally took it up to me to make your fear disappear. I started coming here everyday and would stand at the edge and would watch the birds and eagles fly by. I don’t know what happened, Susan, but I suddenly wished that I could fly like them. So then, I started practicing flying. I would come to the edge and would jump and would try to fly. Every time I did this, I fell down and got hurt. But I never lost hope, and I know that a day will come, when I will be able to fly" Kyle stopped and became very quite.
I could see his tears sliding down his cheek. Then, I hugged my brother tightly, and tears started to fall from my own eyes. When I broke off, I said to him,
"This is your dream, Kyle, and I will help you make your dream come true" Kyle smiled through tears, gave me a playful shove, and started to get up. We went home together.
Kyle bandaged his knee and then went out to the farms to help father. Father was shocked to see the sudden change but he was happy also. After that day, Kyle and I would come home together, and Kyle would immediately go out to the farms to help father. Everyday, while coming home, Kyle and I would talk about our dreams, our passions and our aims. We would cry, smile and play along, but we never lost faith in ourselves, and in each other. Things went back to normal, and then the day came, when Kyle was graduating from High School. Father and I were very proud. Kyle was always the best student in his class and he managed to get a scholarship to College. Father was getting old, but he worked harder and harder everyday. He managed to have Kyle go through College and me through High School. A year before my High School was over Kyle came home after completing his College. Now, he was an educated, fine young man. We gave out a little party for Kyle’s homecoming. All our friends were invited and we were having a really great time, when Kyle stood up and started to give out a toast. This is what he had to say to us all,
"My dear friends and family, I present this toast to two beautiful souls who helped me through my life. My father, who worked so hard just to give us comfort and a good education and taught us love, respect and loyalty, and my little sister Susan, who made me believe in my dreams and helped me follow them. Here’s to you!" he drank to us and so did everyone else. We all refilled our glasses. Kyle begun again,
"Years ago, Susan and I made a promise to each other, and that was, that no matter what happens, no matter how big an obstacle is, we’ll crash it down and we’ll follow our dreams, and will always have faith in ourselves and in each other. And I think that my time has now come, and I’m going after mine. But before I go, I want to ask permission from my honorable father. Father, (he turned towards our father who looked up at him with pride) will you not see your son excel? Will you not help him conquer his dream? Will you not let him be what he most wants to be? A pilot?"
Before this, all heads were bowed, but now everyone looked up at Kyle and then at Father and then back at Kyle. The reason of this bewilderment among them was that these were the days of World War II, and if Kyle goes and becomes a pilot, there’s a good chance of him of never coming back. Father and I were stunned and sat speechless. Moments passed and Kyle stood watching us, his refilled glass raised towards us. I looked in his eyes and found them pleading. Then I looked at father, he had tears in his eyes. At last he stood up and raised his glass, and said through tears,
"If that is your dream then I would not stop you from making it come true. To Kyle!" he said and everyone raised their glasses and drank to him.
After putting down his glass, Kyle came to us and hugged us. We hugged long, and a big applause rang through the table. Kyle stayed at home for two months and then left the town to follow his dream. Three months later, we heard that Kyle was selected for air force. Father and I were very happy for him.
I graduated from high school and on a scholarship, went to the same college where Kyle went, only I took medicine, and Kyle had taken up engineering. Kyle often wrote to us, telling us about his flying trainings. He told us that his trainer, Capt. Sean Stanford, always remarked that he had trained over two hundred people in his life, and Kyle was his best and fastest learner. Kyle’s performance always remained on top, but he never boasted about it, but always said that he needed to be better. Within two years, Kyle was selected as a fighter pilot and he was supposed to take part in the war. I was at home for Christmas when his letter arrived. Kyle said,
"Dear Father, and Susan,
I don’t know how to tell you this, but I have been selected as a fighter pilot. Now, I guess you should’ve understood; I’m going to war! I’m so happy; I’ve never been this much my entire life. As you both know how dangerous this war is, and there are a lot of chances that I might not come back. If I don’t, remember me not as your son or a brother, remember me as a martyr who gave away all he had to save his country. But in your hearts, I will always remain the same son, and the same brother. I wish now that Mother would have been alive. Even though I know that she is watching over me from heaven and is very proud of me, but I still wish that she were here. I cannot tell you how much I miss you both, and what you mean to me. Just in case I never get to say these words again to you, I want to say them now; I love you!
Pray for me that I may defeat as much of the enemy as possible and if death is near, I may die the death of a martyr.
P.S. Remember your promise, Susan. Believe!"
Tears gushed down our cheeks when I finished reading this letter to father. We felt proud, but we were also scared. It was as if we almost knew from the start, that Kyle would never come back. But still, giving up all hope of Kyle’s return, we prayed for him, and for every other man out there who was risking his life. We prayed for our nation! As I had promised Kyle years back, I took up medicine and aimed to be a doctor. When Kyle will find out about this, he’ll be very proud of me, because I was now following my dreams. Kyle had already followed his, and now he was out there, putting his life in danger just so that our nation remained safe. We sometimes received Kyle’s letters. All he said in them was that, "Death still hasn’t come, but I have a hunch that it’s not far now! Just remember, that I love you, and keep praying for me as well as for all the others." And in the end he would always have a special line for me, "Remember your faithful promise, Susan. Believe!"
Three months later when America was under massive attack, we got the letter. The final letter! Father’s legs gave way when he set his eyes on that letter. We both knew what was written in that letter. A whole week passed and Father and I never spoke to each other. Some weeks later, Kyle’s dead body arrived. And with it came Kyle’s last letter; the letter that never reached us. Kyle said,
"Dear Father, and Susan,
The most extraordinary thing happened last night. While I was at rest in my bunk, I saw a faint light appear through the window. A woman came and stood in front of me. And then I realized that it was Mother! For much too long we talked about this war and about you two, but when dawn approached, she suddenly vanished.
I have a hunch though that she came to give me hope. Father, her words were so encouraging that she reminded me of you. Her innocent features reminded me of Susan. And before she left, she had a mysterious smile on her face, and she said something which I could not really understand. I don’t know but I have this feeling that maybe now is my time. Soon, I might be joining her. I’m almost trembling with happiness. I would be sorry to leave you two, but you must understand that my country needs me more than you. For all my childhood, I’ve always hoped of doing something for my nation, and now I’m finally getting the chance to do so. So please, pray for me that may my wish come true, and do not weep, for I will stay alive in your hearts and in the hearts of my people. I will die a martyr, and my name would go down in the records of history. I have waited so long for this, and my dream is about to come true!
I love you both! Take care,
P.S. Remember your promise, Susan. Believe!"
The whole town showed up on Kyle’s burial. Kyle was being buried near the cliffs, where his passion for flying had started. This is where Kyle would’ve wanted to be! When the record list came out, it was mentioned that Kyle had managed to bring down twenty five Japanese fighter planes. Japan had been the biggest enemy during the war, and Kyle had paid them for that well.
Finally in 1945, the World War II officially ended. Peace was regained, and people begun to get busy rebuilding their nations. The land where blood was once spilt, a new life begun. Some people recovered from the shock, but some lost their normality due to the horrific episodes of the war. Many people had lost their loved ones; some were already getting over it, but some…
We remembered Kyle in our every day’s life. He never got out of our mind. We would think about him when we woke up, and would still be thinking about him when we went to sleep at night. Everything in our house, everything near us reminded us of him. He was not like everybody else. He was special. He was a martyr! He had died for the safety of his nation, his people! He could never be forgotten. He would remain in our hearts till our heart ceases to beat. His presence would still be felt till our soul remains in the refuge of our body. For others, he had died, leaving an awfully handsome record behind to be admired at, but for us, he had just gone to another place; to heaven to watch over us, to make sure that we remain protected. He was alive in our hearts. He was living in our souls. He was living beneath the sand of his own land, the land that he had so proudly defended, and had died doing so. His body was beneath the land, but his soul was in heaven. Kyle lived even after he died.