I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while, and ironically despite the title I’ve actually found it probably the hardest blog to write so far, not necessarily emotionally but for the first time I knew I wanted to write but I wasn’t sure what to. So here goes…
An open letter to my Dad.
It’s been 4 years and 51 weeks since you left this world which means next weekend marks five whole years of my life without you. That’s a weird concept because sometimes it feels like it only happened yesterday and other times I’m almost certain you are still here, in that light flicker, that weird knocking sound, that odd sense of comfort I get sometimes for no reason.
I wanted to write to you because I want to let you know that I’m okay.
I miss you, and yes my heart does hurt sometimes when I’m lonely or sad, but I’m surviving. No wait, I’m thriving.
Don’t get me wrong I would do anything to have you here again but I want you to know that I’m living life again. I stopped for a while, I hid from the world and it felt like things would never make sense again, but strangely they do.
Your death taught me more than I think anyone has ever taught me whilst they were alive.
It has taught me to be humble, to use my empathy for all the good I can possibly use it for. The day that we spoke in the hospice and I finally opened up to you about my mental health issues that I’d hidden for over a year was the biggest eye opener for me, to hear you open up back to me was like a power I’d never really understood before. That was the moment I realised what being open, honest and unashamed of who you are can really bring to other people’s lives.
I’ve told a lot of people about you, sometimes I worry I talk too much about you but I don’t do it for attention or to remind them that my Dad’s dead, I do it because I’m so proud of you, I’m proud to have been your daughter. They say that you keep people alive by talking about them and my god some days that feels true.
I just wish I could introduce you to all the new people I’ve met, I wish you could have got to know Campbell more. And I know you’d have loved Bear and Snow. Snow’s very much like Bramble, a proper princess.
We’ve kept up the dog charity work too, I made sure I got involved with another one as it felt like something that made sense after all the work we did with the Greyhound Rescue, I think you’d have loved this charity too. Thanks for letting us have dogs (sometimes too many?) all our lives, they are the one thing that has made sense to me throughout all the darkness.
I finished my degree by the way. No idea how, but I did it! Thanks for always giving me the room to quit whatever I was doing because that sure as hell taught me that I was allowed to give up whenever I wanted, and because of that I don’t want to. And I won’t give up.
When we talked just before you died you said to me that we never talked enough, and I guess that’s true but that sentence meant that I have made sure I have said and done everything I needed to do so far in life. That sentence opened up so much for me without you even knowing, I guess it meant that I regret absolutely nothing in life now. You made me realise I never want to reach that stage where I haven’t opened up to the important people in life, but it also meant so much to me that you recognised that.
Thanks for unintentionally teaching me that although work and my career is important, so is being happy. You may not have directly taught me this, but your death did. All the clichés of life being too short rolled into one, but happiness for me comes above everything else.
I see people struggling in their jobs, struggling in their lives and not seeing the bigger picture. I see them unable to make small changes and embrace therapy and emotions, and that makes me sad, because after all this the one thing I know is that I don’t understand why we should live an unhappy and unfulfilled life just to die. So thank you for teaching me to put myself first and find my own path, if you hadn’t have died I don’t think I ever would so I guess it’s bitter sweet but somehow you set me free.
I’ve got two businesses now, I remember sitting with you in the pub in second year of uni fretting about what to do after I graduated and you just looked at me dumbfounded and said self employment of course. That’s where it all kind of began, I didn’t realise how far I’d get with it but my god I wish you could have seen my work up around London last week, and I had a spread in a top US print mag yesterday. You’d have been so excited!
I still remember the last shoot I showed you, that Frida Kahlo one in the tropical gardens. I don’t know whether that’s why it means so much to me still but it’s one of my favourites.
Also how weird is this, we live not too far from Wimbledon now. I drive past your old school a lot, sometimes I go to places round here and wonder if you’d ever been there before. I like the common too, it’s so calm and it makes me think of you.
But the point of all this, I’m okay. I never thought I would be again, but I am.
I’ve had two separate medium readings over the years and both of them brought up the song ‘You Are My Sunshine’, I always wondered why that got stuck in my head, I don’t know if you used to sing it to me but that’ll just go in the box with all the other unanswered questions.
I keep that photo of us up by my bed, I don’t have many photos of us because I had to leave them all behind but I know you’re here – “just a thought away”.
Your rallying helmet is right behind me as we speak on my shelves in the office. I’m still sad we never got to rally together. I’ve been getting Campbell to teach me how to box recently, you’d have loved it, and you’d have loved the white collar we went to last week. I remember how we used to sit up and wait for the Amir Khan fights together. And you’ll be pleased that Campbell sometimes forces the Chelsea matches on me, I’ve still got my hoodie from that first match you took me to at Stanford Bridge when I was 16.
Anyway I digress, I just wanted to let you know I’m okay.
The Christmas’ aren’t as sad anymore, my birthdays are getting there, we’re making new memories and new traditions. We’re not forgetting you, you’re always in my heart, I’m just letting myself live again and I think you’d be proud of that.
After all, in every decision I make your words are in the back of my mind.
It’s funny as well, because for a long time I could only really remember what you looked like when you were ill, and I used to cry because I couldn’t remember what you sounded like, but now I can hear your laugh again and see your massive spade teeth when you would smile.
Even the other day I heard myself mimicking you as it was Campbell’s birthday and I couldn’t help myself but say “haven’t you done well” in that piss take tone you always would.
So this is it, you are still a part of me, a part of this world, you still exist even though it’s a more existential being, you are still here.
And I’m okay.
p.s. Sorry for the tattoos (let’s face it, it was going to happen either way wasn’t it?) and the distasteful dead Dad jokes (you’d find them funny, honest).