Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Eighteen Years

"It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once. The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have known before." --A. Lincoln in his letter to Fanny McCullough December 23, 1862

All of the words above hold great meaning for me, but none more so than the ones in bold letters. My father died eighteen years ago today, on his 44th birthday. He was the most amazing single father a girl could ever wish for. Meek and mild, wicked smart and with the best sense of humor, he spent his days teaching us how to lead a purposeful life.

It's hard to get through this day without thinking of how hard he struggled through the years to make ends meet, or how he worked so much I often wondered if he really got to enjoy life - but I understand now as a parent, myself, that everything we really are and everything that really matters can be seen by looking into the souls of our children.

I know that while for years and years I held onto resentment and anguish and horribly vivid memories of watching him die a long, slow, painful death from brain cancer - I am now thankful that I can say we spent the toughest times, together.

I was only 14 when he died and I used to cry my eyes out thinking of the million things he would miss. Graduation, my wedding, the birth of my kids.. It was almost too much to bear.

But when I read the last line of the letter above, "The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have known before.", I find solace.

I know that a part of him will always be a part of me. I see him in myself, I see him in my children. His memory is all around me.

I still miss him, but I am content at knowing that I had the chance to stand by him during his darkest hours, that I got to tell him that I loved him, and that in our final conversation he suddenly became very lucid and aware and looked straight into my eyes and with a warm smile said, "Babe, you know I love you and am proud of you, don't you?".

That, is what keeps the sad sweet feeling in my heart.

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