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The letter...


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I have been thinking about Melanie's post for days.

I decided to start a new thread because I didn't want to hijack her topic with my own story. Her letter was amazing.

The "letter" reminded me of what happened when my dad passed away.

He was a stoic man. never let us into his feelings or if he was scared or resigned, or angry. He fought the good fight like the brave hero he was, never complaining- not once!- even though we knew his pain must have been great the last couple of months.

The best thing to know was that he loved me. He told me that alot. He told me many thank you's , and worried about me (can you believe that?) but we didn't get into what this cancer was doing to him, the loss of his future dreams, or how he felt about the possibility of dying. He didn't want that. He wasn't like that.

He died gracefully and with his last breath, gave us all a smile. A comforting thing to leave us with.

A few days later, after the shock began to dull- I was left with so many questions and wondering so many things- mostly, I just wanted my dad.

I went into his study and tore it apart. My mom came in to see what I was doing. I was possessed going thru every paper, every file and even looking under the desk and drafting tables...with tears streaming down my face bouncing from one end of the room to the other.

She just stood there and started crying too.

She asked me what I was looking for.

I told her that I was looking for a letter.

Daddy must have left me a letter. Or you a letter, or something telling us all the things he wouldn't have said to us while he was here, that he loved us and that we'd be ok, that he'd be ok. something, anything.

I thought she'd be mad at me, but she started tearing thru everything right along with me; looking thru letters and drawers and files.

That was my first serious breakdown. and I took my mom with me.

With my dad, you got what you saw. There wasn't a deeper philosophy; he was a simple man. You do what's right, you tell those you love you love them, say thank-you when it's appropriate- and be a "man", thru and thru. Take care of your own business.

It wasn't him that needed to leave us with something; he had said all he needed to while he was alive, it was us that needed more, some comfort, something tangible to hold, after he had died.

I learned alot that day. I was alittle mad at him when after an hour of crying and trashing the study, we found nothing. Then I laughed at myself and my mom laughed at me and said, "What do you expect? Your dad never did say too much". And we both laughed like lunatics.

What I learned was to say everything I needed to say in a single day to those I love.

What I can leave you with is the idea that maybe you need to open up a bit with your loved ones, maybe take time to say all those things you've been putting off or that are just "understood" between people who care about each other, and maybe take a minute or two and write that letter to your loved ones, letting them know that your love is boundless and endless and that whatever happens in this lifes journey- we live in each others hearts and are a part of each others souls, forever.

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Dear Katie,

That was beautiful. I went through a similar experience when my Father passed & I think that is a part of what prompted me to write my letter. It is so important that your loved ones know how you feel about things. With me I was given a heads up that I had better take care of things like this when I was told I had stage IV cancer. So many don't get a warning period. That is why everyone should say the things to their loved ones that they would if it was the last day of their life everyday. You just don't know what may happen.

God bless you!

Hugs & prayers,


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I guess you have us all crying... what a sad yet inspiring story you have shared... your father sounds absolutely amazing and my prayers are with you and him, what a great man.

My father was a great man as well. We didn't have time for goodbyes, one day he was there, the next the sheriff was at my door, it tore up my world and has never been the same. I would give anything for one hour...minute... with him again, and I used to ask the question constantly "is it better to know your loved one is dying and have the time to say goodbye, or is it better for them to die quickly and have no suffering, but no goodbyes..." now my mom has stage IIIb lung cancer.

I guess in the end, I will say it is better without the goodbye, the goodbye is eternal, it's in your spirit because it's never goodbye really, just "see you over there" and the love is always the same and just as great wether you get to say goodbye or not. The suffering is what tears us apart inside, to see it, to know it's there and wish it was your own or that you can take it away. Your father sounds like a very, very strong and incredible man...

I remember after my father passed away, I did the same thing as you, my mom or sister couldn't stand to even go into his apartment, but the day after he died I spent the night there alone, pouring through his things.

When I first got there the lady he worked with came over and went on and on about how my dad talked about me constantly and how proud he was of me and on and on and then she asked me how Med school was and I shyly said "oh, that's not me, that's my sister" and then she said "Oh, I didn't know he had another daughter". That hit me hard, because I know my daddy loved me but I never was a success like my sister.

That night pouring through his things I found a card in his breifcase, unsent, I still have it. It said "I know I don't say it as often as I should, but I just wanted you to know how very proud I am of you and who you have become" It was like him talking to me from where he was, answering my sadness for the comment the lady had made.

Just your dad's smile to you, at the end, is such a beautiful thing, a smile I am sure you will carry in your heart until you are together again. I know it's different for all of us, but I know the deep pain of losing a father that you are suffering. The moment they are gone, something irrevocably changes in your life forever... but time helps heal the pain and the love is never, ever lost.

God bless you and your family


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While I don't post often, after reading what you wrote I felt compelled to respond. I lost my Dad shortly after you on Oct. 14,2003. He died from lung cancer. Whenever I come to the board I ALWAYS read your posts. I relate so much to the relationship your Dad and you had to the relationship my Dad and I had. I am a Daddy's girl and always will be. When I lost my Dad a part of me seemed to be lost also. It took me quite awhile to get back into life. There are still days when I have a hard time living life without him. Since losing Dad, I like Lisa, have wondered if it is better to know you are losing them to say your good-byes or not have the chance. I decided for me it was better to have that opportunity. My Dad was never one to express his feelings but, knowing he would be leaving us gave him that opportunity. We both got to say the things to each other that had never been said before and I will always treasure that. I was able to be with Dad and hold his hand when he took he last breath all the while telling him how much he meant to me. To me that was priceless. Know that your are in my thoughts and thank you for the beautiful post. You have brought up memories of my Dad for me today by sharing yours.

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Dear Katie, thank you for that very beautiful post. Every day, the resilience, courage, beauty and humor of people affected by this disease are shown on this site. You, and the others here, contribute so much. You give of yourself and your experience so freely. Thank you.

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I picture you very well, trying to find

a last love word.

Time plays hard with people, in September

2003, Mike wrote to a friend in New Zealand,

mostly about me, the letter was lost for a

while, she finally found it and is sending

it to me (kept a copy) now I will get it next

week. I am counting the days.



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I was 27 yrs old when I lost my father to a series of strokes. The one that claimed him happened on a Tuesday night. His funeral and burial took place that Friday. The following Wednesday I gave birth to my first child....Dad's first grandson.

Your post was very moving Katie. I just wanted to say, for me it happened "in reverse". Some six months or so after Dad died...I wrote HIM a letter, telling him all about his new grandson, whom he'd just missed meeting.

It was so cathartic for me. My dad did some traveling with his job...so I just "pretended" he was away on a trip and I was writing him a letter to mail to some distant city.

For someone who struggles with the loss of a loved one...sometimes much of it is because there are things we didn't get (or take) the chance to say or share. In my case, writing Dad that letter helped me find some closure to having lost my dad before he got a chance to meet his grandson...his namesake.

What I learned was to say everything I needed to say in a single day to those I love.

A most valuable lesson. I say "I love you" to those I love, every time we see each other OR talk on the phone.

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Love you Katie

You made me laugh, not cry, because I've been there too -- maybe not as frantically, but I looked, because my husband did know how sick he was -- long before I did, I'm sure. Like your dad, he wasn't a person to express his feelings much through words; he chose actions too. He would always go to incredible lengths to do things for our daughter and for me, but he didn't feel the need to talk about it.

When I was paying bills and doing all those paperwork things we all have to deal with after a death, I also hoped to find some kind of letter or note. Amazingly, I did find a birthday card under the blotter on his desk. It was a Husband to Wife birthday card, but unsigned and nothing written on it. It was a little weird. He died on Sept. 1 and my birthday is Nov. 22. Now, I'd kinda like to think he bought the card in advance and didn't have a chance to write on it or sign it, but I'm more inclined to believe he bought it for a previous birthday and forgot it -- or perhaps found two he liked one year and stuck the extra one under there for next year. Don't really know, but my daughter pointed out that it probably wasn't that he bought it early thinking he might not be here on my birthday -- if that were true, where's the card for her birthday on Oct. 5 -- before mine! And we both laughed. I was happy that she felt so confident in his love that she KNEW if he had bought the card in anticipation of not being here, there would have been one for her too. And she's absolutely right. She was his pride and joy -- another Daddy's baby girl.

Katie - I've had nothing I can attribute to signs from him, BUT I've experienced things that feel like help, such as going to the desk -- which was primarily his territory, and he paid the bills, did all the paperwork -- to look for something I thought would take real searching, such as his army discharge papers and info on a small pension he received from a long-ago employer. EVERYTHING I needed was easily found. And neither of us were that well organized.

There are things around the house that let me know he was aware that he'd never do again some of the things he'd done all his life -- I don't think he necessarily was aware that he wouldn't live long, but I think he knew he'd be limited -- maybe even in a wheelchair. Old lumber, pieces of lattice, plastic pipe, etc. that were stored in an area at the side of the house were all gone - lumber was cut into blocks of a size that would fit in the fireplace insert and stacked by the woodbox out back. (He was a general contractor, and worked from home). When I've cleaned out the garage, I can tell by empty drawers that he reorganized and gave away some stuff.

The only real instructions he gave me were for the sprinklers, when he realized he couldn't go out and turn the valves anymore. He had some convoluted, jerry-rigged methods that required opening a valve on the waterline, then manually opening one of the manifold valves, reclosing them after the run, etc. This was all because there was a leak in one of the lines that he hadn't been able to find, so solved it by installing a shutoff so it couldn't leak between runs -- not very automatic sprinklers, but if he hadn't shown me how, I'd never have figured it out. I intend to have somebody redo the whole works someday so if I go on a trip, I don't have to put my poor neighbor through this routine. :lol:

Anyway, it doesn't surprise me to have no signs from him -- even if it's possible, I can just imagine him saying -- "why? you know how I feel".

Right now I'm organizing my household files and trying to put things in order -- mostly trying to figure out if I should retire at the end of this year or work a few more years. I have an appointment with a financial counselor and have to dig out info for that. Then I'm going to put it all together in a notebook with a detailed list of assets, liabilities, etc.

From my own wish for notes or letters, I intend to intersperse some notes for my daughter. She's more like her Dad than like me, so it's easier to just tell her what notebook or drawer to look in if something should happen to me than it is to talk to her about such stuff.

Like some others have said, I now end every phone conversation with my daughter, mother and other family members with "I love you" and say it to my daughter every time she leaves my presence. Losing someone does make you more aware and appreciative of what we have.

Keep on keeping on, Katie -- we'll all make it, but it will never be easy.

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  • 3 weeks later...


I'm so glad Lisa O bumped your story to the top with her reply today. I had missed this. I clung to every word of your story. Now I know that I am not too crazy, or at least that I have company.

I too went into my husbands 'room' about a week after he died and started frantically looking in his closet, his underwear drawer, anywhere and everywhere, just knowing he had left me a note to find later. No note. I did spy some boxes up on the top shelf of his closet and opened them up. They held every mushy card and love note I had ever written to him, and there were a bunch! Someone said that he did leave a note then, just not in the form I was looking for.

My friend lost her brother to lung cancer in 1996 at the age of 46 and he left her his car. When I told her I had searched Jim's room like a crazed lunatic, she started laughing and recalled how she had torn her brother's car apart looking for that 'same note'.

Thank you so much for posting your wonderful story, but not just because it was a familiar scenario. But, because your words express such a warm love for your Father and you carry the message to all of us to remember to let our loved ones know how cherished they are.

My Jim sounds much like your father, men of few words, but with huge hearts.

Thanks again for posting this,


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