Monday, March 14, 2016

A Letter to My Father

Dear Dad,

Tonight  it was like you were at dinner with us. James and I were laughing about Tommy's full head of curly hair. He gets it from me, of course. And I got it from you. I used to straighten it in high school and college, and you would say in your tongue in cheek way, "Anna, you're denying your Jewish roots!" This was so you in one statement: the gentle teasing, the double entendre, the pride in your heritage, the noticing, really noticing, and caring, what I did. 

I miss you so much. Sometimes when I remember you aren't here anymore, I struggle to catch my breath, I feel as if I am underwater, gasping for air, so profound is my grief. Most of the time, I don't feel like this. I go about my life, and I focus on what is in front of me. And a lot of the time, like tonight, I remember something you said or did and I'm able to smile. This is one of the gifts you'll always give me, the ability to see life for less than the serious affair we tend to think it is. 

Oh what fun we would we have if you were still here. You would love your grandsons so much. You died when Tommy was three and half months. (What a time that was, to be present for a birth and a death in the span of less than four months. What a reminder that this is all real, and it is finite.) Now, Tommy is nearly two and a half, and we have another, Oliver. He's the age Tommy was when you died. You would get such a kick out of Tommy. He loves music more than just about anything. I think he gets that from you. I am desperately sad that you didn't get to meet Oliver. But to move past this sadness, I think that maybe you did meet him. Maybe in that time after you left and before he came, you were somewhere, hanging out together. 

Sometimes I want to scream at the injustice of this. At how unfair it is that my mother still has her father, but I do not. At how unfair it is that horrible, hateful people are on this planet, but you, with your endless joy, patience, and generosity, are not. But to succumb to bitterness is to do you a great disservice. 

There are two passages that give me some comfort. 

The first is from The Little Prince, a story with much meaning for our family. 

“You - you alone will have the stars as no one else has them...In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night...You - only you - will have stars that can laugh.” 
― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince 

The next is a poem by Henry Scott Holland. 

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before only better, infinitely happier and forever we will all be one together with Christ. 

I miss you very much, Dad. Thank you for everything. 


Your Daughter 


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  2. A beauty of a letter! And the quote and poem were perfect. Having lost both parents, I so often wish they could have been here for more precious moments both to share and create. I still believe they share in some of these moments looking on from where they are, and I KNOW because of the "them-ness" in me, they still create special moments for our family. I believe it is the same for you and your young ones.

  3. I'm so glad I read your slice today. The beauty and feeling and pacing of it tugged at my heart. This is an exquisite, reflective tribute.

  4. What beautiful thoughts. I am so glad you were able to put some of your feelings about your father into these wonderful words. I know there is healing and peace in that. And I am so glad I read this today. I have an uncle who may be leaving us soon, and I needed to read these words for me - and may pass them on to my aunt if needed. Thank you for sharing your heart and your writing gift today.

  5. This is beautiful, Anna - I loved these lines:
    There is absolute unbroken continuity.
    Why should I be out of mind
    because I am out of sight?

    Your father is with you, and your boys.

  6. This is beautiful, Anna - I loved these lines:
    There is absolute unbroken continuity.
    Why should I be out of mind
    because I am out of sight?

    Your father is with you, and your boys.