In honor of the second anniversary of my Dad’s passing, I wrote him a letter. I am sharing this today, hoping that it may resonate or provide comfort to someone else who is also grieving. – Liz
It’s been two years without you. 730 days since I watched you peacefully take your last breath. They say time heals all wounds, but I’m not sure I want time to keep moving ahead. I’m afraid that as time goes by, the memories will fade. I’m afraid to forget your voice. I’m afraid to look at a picture of us and think it looks so old. I wish so badly that you were here, in the present, with us. You’re missing out on so many wonderful things and it makes me miss you more.
The day I missed you the most was the day I gave birth to my daughter. It gave the word bittersweet a whole new meaning for me. My heart was filled with so much love but at the same time my heart felt shredded to pieces. This little girl would never meet the guy who was the center of my universe. She would never know her Grandpa, the greatest person I’ve ever known, the one I looked up to the most. She’s your fifth grandchild, which made me think of collecting nickels with you in our annual coin contest. Since you loved nicknames, I bet you would have called her your ‘nickel’.
My faith has truly been tested. I believe you knew her before we did. I believe that you are part of her life everyday, that you are always watching over her. But, I still can’t help but feel like she has been cheated. That breaks my heart. I want her to be able to go to the pool with you. I want her to ride on your back while you swim your laps, just like I did when I was little. I want her to go on walks to Graeter’s with you. I want her to go to Reds games, to go see the trains at Christmas, and to watch James Bond movies with you. I want her to color you pictures for the refrigerator door in your office. I want you to show her the ‘dent’ she left on the floor when she falls down, to distract her when you rip off her bandaid, and to teach her to start from the bottom up when combing knots out of her chlorinated hair. I want you to play ‘I bet you can’t smile’ with her when she’s having a bad day. I want her to go to breakfast at the Echo with you and then get breakfast dessert. I want her to ride her bike next to you when you go for a run. I want you to teach her to play softball, golf, and Scrabble. I want you to read her the Sunday comics and try not to laugh at the jokes. I just want you to be here for her. And selfishly, I want you here when she starts to go to morning swim practice. I always figured it would be okay if my kids took up swimming because I knew you’d enthusiastically drive them to the pool at 5 AM.
One of my greatest blessings in life is my special bond with my Grandpa. You are so much like your Dad – I know you would have been a perfect Grandpa to her just as your Dad has been to me. It just isn’t fair that she can’t experience that. But I do hope she gets to experience being best buddies with her own Dad. As soon as she was born and we found out she was a girl, I turned to Jonathan and said, “you two will be the best of friends.” There is nothing like a father-daughter bond. Jonathan will be the perfect Dad to our daughter – he learned so much from watching you. Jonathan has 18 years to figure out where to take her prom dress shopping. And thanks to you, he knows that despite the name, Dress Barn does not sell prom dresses.
Jonathan and I transitioned your room in our house into the baby’s room. It was so hard taking down your pictures and packing up your clothes. But I kept thinking of that day we sat in the room and you said, “this will be a great room for a nursery one day.” You were right. And we keep a picture of you in her nursery. Although my little girl will never know your voice, I want her to recognize your face.
During the late night feedings, I tell her stories about her Grandpa – your stories that have taught me lessons, shaped my values, and helped me become the person I am today. When she gets older, I am going to take her to women’s sports games and tell her about how you spent your life empowering women on the field, on the court, in the classroom, in the workplace, in the board room, and within the community. I am going to take her to the Para-Swim Open to teach her that disabled does not mean unable. I will take her to events that honor Veterans so she can learn about and appreciate the service and sacrifice of others. I’m going to teach her the importance of giving back to her community and making it a better place for the next generation. I’m going to teach her all these lessons you taught me by getting involved.
I’m going to read her the emails I receive from those on the Thought of the Day list who share how you impacted their lives. There are so many people who still think of you regularly. There are multiple honors, awards, and events held in your memory. Your legacy lives on in numerous lives. You have inspired people to get involved in the community, to build stronger relationships, to become better parents, friends, and role models. This is how my little girl will get to learn about her Grandpa – through all these lives you’ve positively impacted. She gets to grow up in a better world because of you. It’s just like the Louis Armstrong song you always played for me: “and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”
Grief is a funny thing. Some days are just filled with happiness and sunshine and some days are barely survived with the help of waterproof mascara. If this whole experience has taught me anything, it’s that people need each other – especially in the toughest of times. I still don’t know the perfect thing to say to someone having a hard time, but I do know that saying something, showing up, or just giving a hug is so much better than nothing at all. The people who have done this for me have taught me to do the same for others. Maybe that’s another way you continue to live on – your love and care for others is being spread with each text, email, phone call, card, hug, and smile.
Dad – I’ve missed you for 730 days and I will miss you for thousands more to come. And on each of those days, the hole in my heart will get patched up a little bit more, my smiles a little bit bigger, my laughs a little bit longer, and I will spread your love a little bit further. I am so proud to be your daughter and I am going to make you proud of the life I have left to live.
I love you, Dad. When I count my blessings, I count you twice.
Daily Lenten Commitment: “Let no one come to you without leaving better and happier.” – Mother Teresa