The 44 Things I wish i could tell my dad this christmas

Originally Written December 15, 2015

“When I delivered my Dad’s eulogy in September 2014, I felt like a ton of bricks had landed in my lap as my head was spinning from the sudden and unexpected loss of my hero, our beloved Dad. Looking back, I now know there were no words available to me at the time to capture the essence of a man like our Dad, especially only a few days after losing him to cancer — nine days after he walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. His unexpected passing followed the devastating loss of our baby sister, Kass, to cancer in 2012. 

I wrote these words almost 3 years ago today. If I had a chance, I would have shared these messages about him, and the many memories I have of my Dad, in the church that day. We will never (and could never) forget our beloved Dad.” 

The unexpected passing of my beloved Dad has taken a toll on our entire family. For me personally, I still have not been able to wrap my head around a life that does not include my Dad or my sister, Kass. Last Christmas was a fog. I was literally going through the motions and trying to make it seem like everything was okay when it truly was not okay. It is as if life is moving on and your entire world has been shaken to its core. Everything you have known over your four decades of life is changed forever. Yet, as a society, I do not believe we deal with grief very well. We give people five days off from work and then expect them to head back there ready to perform. We do what we have to do. But, the pain never subsides. 

As Christmas approaches, I have been thinking continuously about my Dad and the many gifts he gave to me for which I am forever indebted. Those daughters out there who have lost their Dad understand this fact: there are truly no words to capture the ache and the pain of saying goodbye to your Dad. It is indescribable. 

If I had a chance, these are the 44 things I would tell my Dad on Christmas Day this year, one thought for every year of my life that my Dad was with me.

  1.  I talk about you and to you every single day. I think I always will. 

2.  You were the absolute epitome of what fatherhood should be: love, example, honor, integrity, with just the right amount of toughness and tenderness.

3.  I lived my whole life wanting you to be proud of me. I find comfort in knowing that you were always so proud of all of your kids. That means the world coming from a man like you who had all of the gifts and accomplished so much. 

4. I could never repay you for living your entire life as an advocate for children, most especially your own.

5. I am forever grateful to you for allowing us to be who we are, to try new things, to explore our surroundings, and to create with our own hands.  I remember our childhood with such great joy. We were always outside playing in the yard, walking in the woods, sitting around a campfire, telling stories, singing songs, sled riding, cross country skiing, climbing trees, building a fort, painting a picture, whatever it was. Always outside. Always having fun. 

6.  When I hike, I remember you holding me on your shoulders as we walked through the woods in the Adirondacks when I was just a little girl. Thank you for introducing me to the natural world and all of its splendor. I never hike without thinking of you.

7. I talk about you to your grandkids all of the time, as I am sure Tim and Tom do, too. We look at old pictures and videos and they laugh and recall their own tales. I beg them, “Please do not forget about your Bop/Pap.” One day, Katie said, “How could we ever forget him?”  Still tears me up….

8.  I miss sitting on the deck drinking wine with you and Mom.  Talking about the latest news or whatever was on our minds and hearing your always-wise perspective on the world.

9.  In the uncertainty of the world we now live in, I often wonder what you would have to say. From politics, to terrorism, to education, to the economy, you always had knowledgeable and insightful opinions about the world around you. I always admired that in you. I miss your thoughts on so many things.

10. I walk through the fields at the farm and long for you to walk beside me, pointing out the trees in the woods and the birds in the meadow. How did you know so much about everything?

11.  In fact, there is not anywhere I can go on this property without hearing your voice, remembering being there with you at some point in time, and feeling a sense of peace for the opportunity. 

12.  I wish I could tell people about what was in your heart. I think most people saw the straight-talking, business-like side of you. I bet so many never truly understood what was going on in your insides. You had a heart of gold and cared so deeply for people. You always put others above yourself and you gave your whole life to your family. I bet not many people knew those things about you. But, we always knew.    

13.  I wish for so many of your gifts, but the way you could tell a story…..that is your gift I long to have. You always had a story and you always told that story so well. So many of your friends have told us how much they miss hearing your stories since we lost you. Another of your many gifts. 

14.  I am grateful that every big moment in my life always included you. You never missed one single milestone or meaningful moment over the 44 years we spent together.  Not one. As I have grown older, I realize how special that fact is and how so many other kids in this world have not been as lucky. I never took for granted the warmth of looking up and seeing you and Mom in the crowd. Always.

15. I miss your laugh. It was unmistakable. A belly laugh of sorts. I also miss your “all in” laugh that forced you onto the floor, on your hands and knees, holding your head, laughing so hard that you cried.  I will never forget the drive to Disney when you had to crawl out of the restaurant because you could not stop laughing. I miss those moments when everything seemed right with the world. 

16.  That train set with the beautiful scenery, the little village with the ice skating rink, and the white church steeple….the one that you set up in the family room every single year of my life at Christmas. I sure do miss it. I miss watching you showing it to your grandkids and watching their eyes light up as the train passed by. You once told me that you always wanted a toy train when you were little and now that you could have one, you would always set it up at Christmas.

17. Living in your spaces for the past 6 months has been difficult. Seeing the stack of books you loved to read still sitting near your nightstand reminds me of you constantly. But, just as the sadness falls over me, I am engulfed in a blanket of peace knowing that this is where you lived and where I now live…sharing your same spaces is another treasured gift. 

18.  We stacked enough wood for the winter, which has been quite mild. “El Nino,” you would say. “That is why the winter is mild.” And, you would explain the warm ocean currents on the west coast and how they affected our weather here. When we stacked the wood, we saw your handwritten notes on the wood shed, recalling the date, how many cords you stacked that day, and the list of who was there to help. Your last entry was July 2014, two months before we said goodbye. It brought tears to my eyes but helped me to know that what we were doing was carrying on for you, right where you left off. 

19.  We plan to restore your greenhouse next spring. I want to replace the broken glass that broke over last year’s strong winter.  We were not able to keep up with your gardens last year, but we plan to restore most of them in the coming years. We will start with the greenhouse and Kass’s Garden that you loved so much. Then, we will work on the raised beds and then on your main vegetable garden. I admire the work you did on these gardens over the years. I have come to understand just how much work you did on this property. I am in awe of your strength to keep up with it all after 75 years of living. 

20.  I often wonder what you might say about the new addition we are adding to the house. Your house. We keep Mom involved in each and every decision we make. We ask her, “What do you think Dad would say?” She always says, “He would just be happy that you are here with me.” That makes me happy. I do hope you would be proud of what we are trying to do here. Someday, I know we will accomplish your dream for Stillmeadow Farm.

21.  The gift of your writings that you left behind is a treasure beyond imagination. Seeing your handwritten words on page after page of your writings has been a most special gift to treasure.  Reading your words provides even more richness to my life. I continue to be mesmerized by your greatest gift, the written word. 

22.  I long for the smell of the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon when you were cooking and had invited us all up for dinner. Walking through the front door never changed over those years. The experience was always the same. The smell of candles burning, wood burning in the fireplace, music playing, the warmth of the air, and your big smile as you greeted us, wine glass in hand, cooking towel over your shoulder, with a great big hug, “hello, my dear.” We knew we were in for another great afternoon filled with laughter, stories, and making plans for the future. 

23.  When I take Kato out early in the morning before the dawn, I always look up hoping to find you and Kass in the night sky. It is quiet here then. I think about how you were always up early and likely stood in these same places, planning out your day with a list of chores well beyond accomplishment within a 24-hour cycle. I know that somehow, you always found a way to get it all done. I hear the rocks crunch underfoot as I make my way back into the house and I am reminded that you are still here. 

24.  We still walk to the cabin on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just like the tradition you started, we have continued to go there, even though it does not feel the same. We always feel you there with us, for one cannot be there without you being there. Mom told me that you used to walk there every day with Jebbie to write, to paint, to sit, and to be. You have left such a special gift for us. We will treasure it always. 

25.  Tim, Tom and I had a nice talk about you over this past Thanksgiving. It was a very special moment between just the three of us. I was talking about how hard it has been to move forward without you. I know they are hurting, too. Grief is a very personal experience and we all have to walk our own path.

26.  Your puppies, Abbie and Jennie, are doing well. So is Jebbie. He is getting older now, but he is still in charge. Mom has been doing an amazing job of caring for them. They have a new friend now, our puppy, Kato. I often think about how you would laugh seeing me with him. The slobber, the hair all over everything, the chewed up shoes, and all of the other things that used to drive me crazy. But, I also hear you saying, “I told you. I’d take my dog over most people any day of the week. My dogs have been my best friends over the years. And, now you understand.”

27.  I hear your voice in my head frequently. It is usually when I am in a moment and I wish you were there. You say to me “Enjoy yourself, Krista. Enjoy your life! It goes by so fast. Do not wish it away and do not look back. It is okay.” I know these words because you said them to me too many times to count after Kass died. 

28.  Mom found a handwritten list you wrote of every tree you identified on your property over the years. I thought to myself, “Who does that?” Such a treasure! We will frame it and hang it in our new addition and every time I see it I will be reminded of the amazing man you were. 

29.  You were just a unique person, Dad. I am not sure how else to explain it. I have met so many thousands of people from all over the country, and the world for that matter, through my work and travels over the years. So many people, and I have yet to ever meet someone as wise or as interesting as you. You were a treasure and a gift from God.

30.  I have called upon the strength, courage, and perseverance that you instilled in me too many times to count since the day you died. I am grateful that the reserve you built up in me is wide and deep. Life has not been easy, but I have never once doubted that I would make it through the sadness. “In adversity is where we find our true strength,” you would always say. How I have needed these lessons over these past months. 

31. I  remember you saying in the hospital that you wanted to meet with Mom and me.  We never had a chance for that meeting.  I spend a lot of time in my head wondering what you would have said if we had been given the chance.  I know that you would have said something profound. I am going to pretend it was this: “It is okay.  I have to go now because Kass needs me. You have found Jamie and now I know you will be okay. I have given you all of the tools, now go and use them. Live your life and be happy.”

32.  I want to ask you what Heaven is like and if it was Kass with you in that hospital room on the day you died. I would also want to know how she is doing there, standing beside you once again. 

33.  Your greeting for me was always the same over the years:  “Hello, My Dear.”  I remember it always. On the phone, in person, it was always the same and the first thing you always said to me. Oh, to hear those words again, Dad. I still hear you saying it in my dreams. I was so honored to be your dear….

34.  I treasure the relationship I had with you, Dad.  I have always believed that Dads raise daughters and Moms raise sons. We could not be more alike. I still hear it from others all of the time and I take it as the biggest compliment. I always felt steady and secure in my life because you were always there to help me through the rough spots.   

35.  I am eternally grateful for all of the things you taught me: how to drive, how to fish, how to plant a garden, how to check my oil and change a tire, how to shoot a gun, how to ride a bike, how to climb a tree, how to build a fire, how to throw a ball, how to cook pasta, how to paint, how to find the Big Dipper in the night sky, how to balance a checkbook, how to launch a rocket, how to make a bluebird house, how to tap a tree, how to use a drill, how to read a map, and how to do 1,000 other things that I now do without a thought. You taught me all of those things. A treasured gift I can never repay. 

36.  You also taught me: to look at the sky, to spend time in stillness, to write, to read, to live with purpose and passion, to forgive, to enjoy solitude, to know my surroundings, to be humble, to never forget where I came from, to have compassion for those less fortunate, to believe in myself, to laugh even when my heart wants to cry, to believe in God, and to have faith that there is eternal life. 

37.  There were no words left unspoken between us and this has been the greatest gift. No regrets. Nothing left unsaid. Just genuine love, respect, and admiration from a daughter for her Dad. 

38.  I would give everything I own for just five more minutes with you.  I would ask you: “How am I doing, Dad? Am I doing okay?” I would ask you this because I really have no idea how I am doing.  You were my guidepost…my mentor….my North Star.  I could really use your reassurance that I am going to be okay.  And, that you are okay, too. 

39.  I was heartbroken the day you died. Truly heartbroken. I did not know what to do. I still do not know what to do. But, as you taught me, I trust in God that there is a purpose for all of the pain and that someday, it will be revealed to me. 

40.  I feel blessed and honored to be chosen as your kid. 

41.  I do not really know how to live without you, but I am trying.

42.  I owe everything I am to you. You gave me the greatest gift: you believed in me. It is a gift I can never repay.

43. You being my Dad has been the best part of my life.    

44. Merry Christmas! I truly love you, Dad. Until we meet again…..

At the Triangle Tavern, December 2012. One of my favorite pictures of me and my Dad. 

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