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A Letter To My Father

Two years ago, this very night, you were still here among the living. You had no idea of what was to come in the early hours of the morning, but I know you had some inkling. You'd been talking about it for a while, and the Sunday before, I was told that you 'd made things right.Your mind and body were weak from fighting to hold onto your spirit, but your spirit was so much stronger, and it was determined to be set free. Your pain would soon be over, but you liked to fight, always did. You were the most stubborn human being that I have ever known, and I know that at the end, you were no different. I'm sure it wasn't your choice to go, despite all those times you cried, saying you wanted to die and be put out of your misery. When the medics had worked so long on you and decided to give up on you, your heart started back beating, as if out of spite.  I wonder sometimes what those last few hours were like for you. I wish I could've been there for you, like all the times you had been there for me. Had I known, I would have tried to comfort you, sat there and talked to you to get your mind off of things. We would have eventually fought about something. We always did. At least I could've had that time with you. I would give anything to argue with you again. I'd love to see your face wrinkle up and your eyebrows furrow after I'd said something just to piss you off. Still, despite all of that, I know you loved me, and I hope you know that I loved you, too.

That night, did you listen outside your window at the soft breeze blowing through the water oak beside the house and wish that you could get just one good breath of that night air? When you went to sleep that night, did your dreams take you back to a time before your body failed you, before your lungs were filled with fibers and dust and smoke? Did you dream of a time back before the mornings when you'd have to go outside at three in the morning to smoke a cigarette and cough until you were able get your breath again? I remember those times before that. I remember when we'd walk the woods all night, following a pack of dogs without stopping for hours. The logs you hefted, stacking them and nailing them in place, they were sometimes more than you could handle after a long day at your regular job. But you did it anyway. I remember how hard you worked building that house for us. How you saved up to buy materials as you had the money, often having to make do with what you had at the moment. Any extra time you had, you put into building that house. You sacrificed more than your share to provide for us a home. I wonder if you knew then, the night before you died, how much I appreciated you.

I know that I put my share of wrinkles on your forehead and white hairs on your head. All the stupid mistakes I made, and all the times I let you down. Maybe I didn't turn out quite as good as you hoped I would, but I did turn out. I know you had an idea of what you thought I should do with my life, and I'm sorry, but I didn't agree with that. You'd have to admit though, I got some good traits from you, one thing, in particular that you valued above everything else-- a deep love for my family. I, like you, will sacrifice anything to provide for my family. I learned that by watching you. I would die for my wife and kids. Like you, too, I'm as stubborn as a jackass. As you always said, You can't tell that boy nothing. You always fussed about how hard-headed I was, where do you think that came from?

In the final years of your life, I spent many long nights crying over you. I worried myself to death over you, taking years off of my own life, trying to save yours. I prayed for you and cursed your name in the same breath. I loved you and I hated you. The man that gave me life was killing me, and I kept on trying to fix you. I know you would have done the same for me. Everyday, in some way, you still effect me. I see you every time I look at my reflection. I hear myself say things, and it's the same thing you would've said, and that drives me crazy. I couldn't escape you then, I can't escape you now. When I least expect it, there you are. Driving down the road, a thought crosses my mind, and I can't see to drive for the tears. When I drive your old truck, I sometimes feel like you're right beside me. When I pass your house, I can still see you sitting on the porch swing, still motioning for me to stop, and I still keep driving on.

I thank you for introducing me to the outdoors, and for encouraging me spend time doing the things that make me happy. Thanks for telling me how you enjoyed something that I wrote. You told me I'd better save those things, you never know, somebody might publish them one day. Momma asked me to write something for your funeral, and that night after everybody went to bed, I wrote a poem for you. I gave it to the preacher man, for him to read. He handed it back to me, said he thought I should read it. After two ativans, I got up in front of all of those people and read it. The preacher didn't have anything that could've topped that. I had everyone in tears. When I had my first poem published, I wanted to call you up and tell you about it. I know you would've been proud. With everything I do, I want to make you proud.Chase will be graduating high school in a few days, and Anna will be getting married this time next year. Aubree will be a third grader and Alivia will be starting kindergarten. You would be so proud. I know you'll be there with me, through every phase of my life.

Right now, as I sit at this keyboard, tears stream down my face. I miss you like crazy, and I wish things could've been different between us. I want you to know that I love you, and that I'm OK. I think I am finally at a place in my life where I can talk about my pain. I now see that it can help people to feel that they're not alone, that it's alright to grieve, that it's alright to be broken. I write as a way to heal, and if what I write could help someone else in some way, I feel like I've succeeded.

I  know that I'll see you again some day, and there are so many things that I want to say to you. As for right now I want you to know, most of all, that I am proud to be your son.



  1. Touching tribute, Josh. Both of my parents left us through Hospice care. You did a fine job here.

    1. Thanks so much, David. Always appreciate your kind comments.

  2. I. Cannot. Catch. My. Breath. Your pain is real and loud and, and , well, loving and resolved to make sense of it all. You are a BIG man, Josh, and I don't mean your size. Keep working it, tender heart. _Teresa

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Thanks for a tribute to your father. We all have our "warts" and our positive attributes. I all comes down to making the right decision in the end about where and how we want to spend eternity.
    I appreciate what you write.

    1. Thank you, Larry. That is so true. I appreciate your writing, too. All best.

  4. This is the deepest into your very gut that I have seen in your writing, Josh, and you touched some similar emotions of my own father/son relationship, though my dad and I found resolution and reconciliation long before he left us. I find my father's spirit still close, as you do, and am grateful that you can express so well how you are affected by it. You remain one of my favorite writers and loving, supportive fathers. Stubbornness is not exclusively a negative trait. Remember, God's own favored people are know for theirs.


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