James Foley's Family Shares His Hopeful Final Letter

In the video of his beheading, ISIL forced him use his last breaths to blame his death on America. What follows are his real last words.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Before he was killed, James Foley tried to write many letters to his family during his nearly two years of captivity, however, they were all destroyed by his hostage takers. With no other options, he asked a fellow hostage to memorize a letter for him, which she was able to repeat to his friends and family upon her release. The letter was received by the family in June 2013.

ISIL offered only two email communications with the Foley family and GlobalPost, his publication. In the first email, they demanded 100 million Euros, which FBI negotiators told The Wire is an amount organizations demand when they have no interest in actually negotiating. They sent a second email, declaring Foley would be killed due to airstrikes against ISIL.

In the video of his beheading, which was circulated last week by ISIL-controlled media outlet AlFurqan, the group forced him use his last breaths to blame his death on America. What follows are his real last words:

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.


Foley notes that he was held with 18 hostages at the time of this letter. The United States attempted a special forces operation to rescue Foley and, presumably, these other hostages earlier this summer.

Steven Sotloff, a freelance reporter, remains in the hands of ISIL and his life has been threatened by the same executioner who killed Foley. Though neither British nor US intelligence has confirmed the executioner's identity, it is widely believed he is rapper-turned-Jihadist "Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.