All of my Dad's letters to me are written on yellow notebook paper. When I was in college, we wrote to each other often, sometimes once a week. I have all of those letters with their familiar handwriting, a smattering of poems and quotes, descriptions of the many things Dad found intriguing or comical or poignant. I kept every letter, knowing there would come a day when I would want Dad's voice, his wisdom and love and teasing affection, and it would no longer be available to me.
I was in third grade when I first realized that my Dad would die someday. Dad had gone into the hospital for a hernia operation. I sat in class with a knot in my stomach, begging for my dad to be okay. That afternoon, a teacher called me into the hallway. The minute I stepped out of the classroom, I burst into tears, certain the teacher was about to tell me Dad had died. She actually wanted to let me know he had gotten through his surgery and was just fine. From that day on, though, the awareness of Dad's vulnerability and mortality hovered always on the edge of my consciousness, often manifesting in dreams. Although I wasn't raised with a practice of prayer, I prayed as much as any church-going child for the safety of my family. That seemed like the only important thing to pray for.
So, here I am, with yellow papers spread before me, hearing and feeling Dad's love, and I am so grateful that I was his daughter. Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote after I had spent a couple weeks doing carpentry work with him. I was 24 years old.
Know that you leave here with all the love and hope that is in my heart. I know that you will leave with everything you touched being better for your having been here. Sometimes I think that could be why we are here. Never stop believing in yourself, your beautiful ethereal spirit that glows from you, and in unconditional love. I know it exists because I found it in my own heart and it found me. I feel it every time our eyes meet. I know it is real because if it weren't, tears wouldn't be falling on this page as I write. Everything is connected. Some bonds can never be broken.