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With the passing of my beloved father eleven days ago, I’ve been going through his belongings and came across the following letter that I wrote for him at Christmas in 1999; nearly 20 years ago.

“Things remembered…

I could write an endless list of things that I have remembered over the last 30+ years. I’ve been blessed with a memory that can take me back to when I was not much more than a toddler.  It is with heartfelt joy and remembrance that I share these with you, Daddy…

  • A metal lunchbox with a note left on the kitchen table stating that it was “in the fridge”…
  • A Christmas tree that had to stand outside for a couple of days to “fall”, while I waited as patiently as I could until the day we could bring it in the house and decorate it, albeit, with “clumps of tinsel”…
  • Our first summer family vacation at Alton Bay, taken in the middle of “March”, or so it seemed, even though it was June.  The weather cold and rainy and an almost 5-year-old insisting that she had to go swimming.  The musty smell of the cabin, and Steve losing his fishing pole at the bottom of the lake and the man who was scuba diving found it and returned it to him…
  • Standing behind an overstuffed chair, combing your dark brown hair, but only for a few minutes, as a six year old can unselfishly commit to…
  • Hearing your footsteps on the back porch after you’d been working all day and seeing you come through the back door, pink-cheeked and smiling.  Happy to be home after a long day…
  • A trip to Mac’s Farm when I was eight years old; a wild ride from the lower pasture when the pony I was riding decided to hightail it back to the barn, and tossed me on my behind.  Big tears and scared out of my wits, I was adamant that I didn’t want to get back on.  A kind, but firm insistence on your part, you encouraged me to get back on that pony, lest I’d never ride again.  So I did…and later on (when I was fifteen), it cost you, big time, when you bought me my own horse on the day of your and Mom’s 23rd wedding anniversary!…
  • “Tess… could you come in here for a minute? “, and I walked into the living room, wearing my strapless mint green prom dress.  The Mills Brothers’ eight track tape paused on the stereo.  You hit the play button, took me in your arms, and we danced as they sang in perfect harmony, “Daddy’s Little Girl”.  I remember crying, and you were trying so hard not to, but you did anyway.  I thanked you by leaving make-up stains on the shoulder of your shirt…
  • Sitting in the back of the church as my soon-to-be-husband anxiously awaited my arrival down the not-so-long and narrow aisle.  Hearing the organist begin to play the “Bridal March”, and you taking my hand and me slipping my arm through yours as we walked down the aisle.  And when the minister asked, “who gives this woman…” hearing you and Mom answer, in slightly quavering voices, “we do”…
  • Finally beginning to comprehend what you and Mom went through when you lost Stephen, as you looked at your firstborn grandson, and knowing that our relationship would change somehow from that moment on because I was now a “parent”…
  • Watching  you with your youngest granddaughter, calling her “Papa’s little girl”, and being uncertain that she knew exactly what it meant and just how special it is to be your “little girl”.

Merry Christmas, Daddy.  I love you more than you’ll ever know.”

I knew the day would come when we’d have to say, “so long, for now”, but I also knew that I’d never be “ready”.  Some have said, “Well, he was ninety…he had a long life…he had a good life”; true, but that also means that I had him for a really long time, making it that much more difficult to let him go.  I am blessed…my family and his friends are blessed to have had him in our lives for as long as we did, no doubt, but as I sit here in his chair at his kitchen table, in the only childhood home I’ve ever known, the memories come flooding back, washing over me like a tidal wave.

The days, weeks, months and years to follow will bring tears of sorrow, smiles and laughter in remembering him for the nearly perfect husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend that he was.  I know I’m biased, but I’ve never known anyone who met him to think that he wasn’t the greatest guy…ever.

He was humble, thoughtful, kind, generous and most importantly, loving.  I never doubted for a millisecond how much he loved me, and I take great comfort in knowing that he was fully aware of how much I loved him and what he meant to me.

The night before he passed away, my sister and I were with him at home as he was transitioning.  Sometimes he was “here” with us, and sometimes he was “there”, smiling and waving to loved ones that were waiting for him.  During a quiet moment, as I was stroking his hair, I rested my face in the crook of my other arm and began to sob.  In a very lucid moment, he reached up and touched my arm and said, “You don’t need to do that…you’re much stronger than you think.”  A moment that carried me through the days following his passing…through his wake, the funeral procession to the church and all the way up through the very last line of his eulogy when I squeaked out, “Anchors aweigh, Daddy…rest in peace”.  He was a Navy Veteran and very proud of it.

I’ll never be able to thank him enough for the wonderful, blessed and loving life that he gave me (to all of his family).  No stone unturned…no regrets…no doubts.  Love was the greatest gift he ever gave me and it is eternal.

~Nehemiah 8:10 – “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

~1 Corinthians 13 – “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

 

 

 

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