As slain photojournalist James Foley's friends and family commemorated his life this weekend, his parents released a heartbreaking "letter" their son sent while being held by Islamic radicals in Syria — a note that revealed his struggles, his hopes and his reliance on prayer.
While Foley's captors reportedly seized all of the written copies of letters he planned to send family members, one of his fellow prisoners who was eventually released is said to have memorized Foley's final message, later reciting it to his mother, Diane, over the phone, according to a post on the Free James Foley Facebook page.
In the heartbreaking letter, presumably dictated this past June, Foley recalled the fond memories he had of spending time with his family — recollections that he said helped sustain him and take him away — at least mentally — from the prison conditions.
This September 2012 file photo posted on the website freejamesfoley.org shows journalist James Foley in Aleppo, Syria.In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP Photo/freejamesfoley.org, Manu Brabo, File)
He also spoke of the power of prayer in helping him cope.
"I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all, especially when I pray," said Foley, a devout Catholic. "I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray."
Foley also told his family that he was among 18 prisoners being held and detailed how the group told stories, played games and helped one another get through the traumatic experience. And he also delivered special messages to each of his siblings and those closest to him.
"Grammy, please take your medicine, take walks and keep dancing. I plan to take you out to Margarita’s when I get home," he said. "Stay strong because I am going to need your help to reclaim my life."
Read the entire letter below:
Dear Family and Friends,
I remember going to the Mall with Dad, a very long bike ride with Mom. I remember so many great family times that take me away from this prison. Dreams of family and friends take me away and happiness fills my heart.
I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all especially when I pray. I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray.
Eighteen of us have been held together in one cell, which has helped me. We have had each other to have endless long conversations about movies, trivia, sports. We have played games made up of scraps found in our cell…we have found ways to play checkers, Chess, and Risk… and have had tournaments of competition, spending some days preparing strategies for the next day’s game or lecture. The games and teaching each other have helped the time pass. They have been a huge help. We repeat stories and laugh to break the tension.
I have had weak and strong days. We are so grateful when anyone is freed; but of course, yearn for our own freedom. We try to encourage each other and share strength. We are being fed better now and daily. We have tea, occasional coffee. I have regained most of my weight lost last year.
I think a lot about my brothers and sister. I remember playing Werewolf in the dark with Michael and so many other adventures. I think of chasing Mattie and T around the kitchen counter. It makes me happy to think of them. If there is any money left in my bank account, I want it to go to Michael and Matthew. I am so proud of you, Michael and thankful to you for happy childhood memories and to you and Kristie for happy adult ones.
And big John, how I enjoyed visiting you and Cress in Germany. Thank you for welcoming me. I think a lot about RoRo and try to imagine what Jack is like. I hope he has RoRo’s personality!
And Mark… so proud of you too Bro. I think of you on the West coast and hope you are doing some snowboarding and camping, I especially remember us going to the Comedy Club in Boston together and our big hug after. The special moments keep me hopeful.
Katie, so very proud of you. You are the strongest and best of us all!! I think of you working so hard, helping people as a nurse. I am so glad we texted just before I was captured. I pray I can come to your wedding…. now I am sounding like Grammy!!
Grammy, please take your medicine, take walks and keep dancing. I plan to take you out to Margarita’s when I get home. Stay strong because I am going to need your help to reclaim my life.
Diane and John Foley, parents of James Foley, address the congregation during a Catholic mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish August 24, 2014, in Rochester, New Hampshire. (AFP PHOTO/DOMINICK REUTER DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
This letter comes just days after John and Diane Foley, James' parents, released a disturbing email they received from Islamic State militants just one week before their son's death.
In it, Muslim radicals taunted the family, threatened U.S. citizens and pledged to kill Foley as a result of America’s “transgressions” against the Islamic State.
Foley was captured on Nov. 22, 2012 in Syria.
(H/T: New York Daily News)