“Mommy, tell me about my Daddy please.”
She looked at me with her big blue eyes, and she didn’t falter.
It was the evening of her eleventh birthday, and the first time in eight years she had ever asked me to sit down and tell her about her Father. We talk about him often; he comes up in conversation, we talk about his likes and dislikes, his personality, and his life.
This time was different.
She was focused, serious, and so curious about a man she didn’t get to spend enough time getting to know.
I sat down on the side of her bed, and I said;
“Oh baby, he was incredible. He was the kind, gentle, charismatic, funny, and larger than life. He loved you and your brother more than words can say.”
Her eyes filled up with tears.
“That’s what I figured,” she said, holding herself together with a quiet resolve.
“Everybody loved him, and he loved everyone. He was an extraordinary person and you know we can talk about him ANYTIME you want. Don’t ever be scared to ask questions or talk to me about how you feel.”
“I know Mom; you’ve always told me that,” she said.
She continued, “Can I ask you a questions Mom?”
“Of course, anything” I quickly responded.
“Did he leave me anything?”
I stopped short of answering quickly, confused by the question. His death was an accident, so there was no preplanning for the kids birthday’s, holidays, etc.
“Addison, anything he had is set aside for you and your brother,” I told her.
“No, Mom….something just for me.”
I felt my heart break in a way that has become all too familiar. The pain we feel for our children and their losses is a pain that has brought me to my knees more times than I can express over the past eight years.
Here we sat, on the evening of her birthday, a happy day where she had expressed so much joy and happiness at the moment. Being happy at the moment is a gift she got from her father. Still, the sting of duality was pulling at her sweet and tender heart, and there was nothing I could do to fix it or take away her pain.
I wish I had a different answer for her. I wish I could have told her that I had years of birthday cards for her, little individual notes, and endless videos.
I don’t have those things.
We didn’t know; maybe we should have known, perhaps we should have planned. Hindsight is always 20/20.
I pulled her close, and I spoke the truth.
“We didn’t know honey. It was a bad accident. You and your brother were so young when he died. We just didn’t know better. All he had is for you and Matthew. Just know that he loved you so deeply and would want nothing more than your happiness. He’d be so proud of all you are; I know I am.”
She smiled, “I know, Mom.”
When I remarried in 2014, I had my wedding diamond reset in a necklace that I gave to Addison on my wedding day to Keith. She also wore my headpiece from my wedding to her Daddy in Heaven on that special day I married her now Dad on Earth.
She has photos of him.
She has photos of him and her.
She has a blanket with his clothing.
She has some video.
She has some of his flight books and high school memorabilia.
It’s all I have to give her besides my memories of a wonderful man who wanted them so badly.
I think she’d trade it all for a single note written just to her from him.
I know I’d trade almost anything to give them five minutes alone with their Dad so he could tell them how much he loves them.
I can’t give them that so I share openly and freely, all that I can, and I also allow them to move forward with as much joy and happiness as humanly possible. It’s not perfect, but I’m proud of how far we have come in the years since his plane crashed.
If you only take one thing away from this blog tonight, I’m asking you to take a fundamental lesson my daughter is teaching you.
If you have children, take a few hours this weekend and write to them, even if you think it won’t ever be needed. Tell them you love them, write it on a beautiful piece of paper (or scrap paper, doesn’t’ matter), in your handwriting. Tell them what you love about them, how you felt on the day they were born, and what made you want to bring them into this world. Tell them why they are unique.
Tell them as if they might see it, and God forbid they ever do.
Don’t tell me it’s not necessary and you don’t have the time. You don’t have the time NOT to do it.
The tears of my birthday girl tell me you must do it. It may be the most significant gift you will ever give them beyond the treasured moments and memories you create with them each day.
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