Dad died yesterday. Born: 14 May 1946. Died: 19 Aug 2019. He was 73 years old. I’ve been mourning him since my last visit over Memorial Day weekend. It was the last good time he had. His health declined rapidly after my visit, then plummeted after my brother’s visit. He was diagnosed with IPF 4 years ago. It started getting bad about 14-18 months ago. It’s been the worst for the last 3 months.
I sent him this letter after I got home. Mom said he cried over it and reread it many times. I sent him a post card or greeting card every week since then. His favorite gift from me was a subscription to LetterJoy. He loved non-bill mail. It was the least I could do to try to brighten his day as the end neared. This letter says everything I could say as a memorial to him.
28 May 2019
I’m on the plane home from our visit. I thought, since you enjoy real letters so much, I would write you one. I’m so glad I visited. I’m glad you were having a good week and we got one last chance to spend time together. I’m glad I got to share “700 Sundays” with you. I knew you would like it.
It is both wonderful and terrible to know that you are probably speaking the last in-person words to your father you will ever speak. When you said that you were “on your way out.” I said, “I know.” I thought I had it all together. I didn’t. And I didn’t realize this until we spoke our probable last good-bye. Not everyone gets that chance.
As soon as we got in the car I thought of so many things I meant to tell you. Little things like the fact that I still have the Christmas letter you wrote me in 1980, giving me the gift of Charity. I have it framed and hanging on my wall. It’s something I will never forget. I cherish that letter. I think it changed me, changed me for the good.
There is so much of you in me. I know you don’t always approve of my actions—my tattoos, some of my personal opinions, my language—but I am your daughter through and through. I am grateful for many of the lessons you taught me early in life. Things like doing a job well, considering the consequences of my actions, taking responsibility for my successes and my mistakes. Fixing what I can and passing on what I can’t.
I remember dinners when we were growing up where you’d entertain us with jokes and stories. I remember the good times. The tough times have faded into an indistinct blur. We say that you are the sentimental one in the family. I think much of that has been passed on. I cherish our football watching days and times you would tell me about a particular stone I got for you.
I want you to know that you’re in my thoughts and always will be. I will never forget that you always tried your best with me, Shannon, and Scott. All I want for you now is peace and contentment. I hope you get it. I want you to be happy. I don’t know how to make that happen, but that thought is always on my mind.
You told me that you loved me and to remember that you’ve had a good run. I’m glad of that. Not every family gets to say such while they’re together. It will make Memorial Day that much more important to me. To remember you as a veteran, as my father, and as our last visit together.
Of course, “end stage” IPF means so many things. 2 months to 2 years on average. You’ve never been average a day in your life. If you live to see Memorial Day 2020, I will rejoice. But I’m never going to regret telling you these things. Some things are meant to be heard by the living and to be remembered after death. I wanted to make sure you know and understand how much you mean to me, how much of you lives on in me, and how grateful I am to finally understand this.
Sometimes a child has to grow up to understand the adult their parent has been all their lives. I love you. I will see you when I see you.
My favorite picture of me and Dad, Monterey Bay, 1992
If you would like to donate in his name, your local animal shelter would be good. Dad loved dogs and rescued many over his lifetime. Or PBS. He really liked PBS. Please send all cards to:
6830 NE Bothell Way, STE C #404
Kenmore, WA 98028