Dear Dad – The Last Letter

Dear Dad,

There is so much I want to say. There’s so much going through my mind. Did I do enough? Did you know how much I truly loved you and wanted to be by your side every chance I could get? I hope you always knew that you were loved more than anything. I still love you. That will never change. I will love you for eternity.

That’s why I tried so hard. I tried so hard to protect you from the evil that lurks in this world. There’s so much evil, Dad. I never wanted to fuss at you. Ever! I hope you did not feel like I was fussing at you. It’s like I explained to you over the last few months. When I am afraid, I sound frustrated.

I wasn’t ever angry. You told me you knew I wasn’t because you knew me better than anyone. You said you knew how I am. We always joked about who was the most stubborn: you or me. You could tell I wasn’t angry because you could hear the fear in my voice. I definitely was not angry, but I was scared. I was so scared for you, for me, and for my kids. I could see what was happening. Maybe you could as well, but sometimes we are tricked into believing things are different than they appear.

I can’t dwell on it now. I want you to know that I fought for you to the very end. I walked through things I never thought I would have to and was braver than I ever thought I could be. I am still being brave for you.

The same day I walked in and found you lying there so helpless with every ounce of life gone from your body, I sat in church before I knew what had happened and made a plan on how I was going to get you out of there and away from the mess that surrounded you. I wanted you away from the people who had found your quiet sanctuary on the hill. I hated to see you being taken advantage of in your weaknesses. I missed the privateness of your life and home.

I was not the only one who roamed those fields and ran in and out of that white farm house for many years. Jamie had grown to love the place before you bought the property from his parents. He got to swing in that old porch swing before I did. Who knew just a little over ten years after you bought the farm, Jamie and I would start dating and eventually get married? We plan on fixing that old farm house up. But recently, the place seemed foreign to both of us. We were being shut out little by little. Not by you, but by others who did not care about your well being. We will call them squatters or moochers maybe even thieves for lack of better terms. Those terms are actually quite fitting.

That’s why you were on my mind as I sat in church this Easter Sunday. As I prayed, I decided I could not leave you there to suffer one more second. I prayed for you and others who are suffering from the same things you were going through. I was going to ask my preacher what day he could go with me to pray with you and have your doctor visit you as well. That doctor visit happened that very day, but in the worst possible scenario you could imagine. He pronounced you deceased only minutes after his arrival.

I was too late. My latest action plan never got to take place. Not the way I wanted anyway. You were carried out of that house as criminals surrounded me. They continued to breathe the air that you were breathing just 12 or so hours before. You were carried out of YOUR house, but not the way I expected. You were taken out in a body bag. You no longer had the option to get help. Heather and I hung a sunflower taken from your casket on your gate just a few days later. You loved planting huge sunflowers.

You and I both know I had tried several tactics to get these strangers off your property over the last few months. None of them worked. These people were ruthless. Drug addicts can be. The drugs make them only care about themselves. They make them lose all sense of reality. They only care about their next high and will get it any way they can such as taking advantage of a disabled man’s kindness.

They did not care when they left you lying there dead for hours as they hid your valuables and carried the things of their liking out of your house. You actually worked the same hard, labor job for over 40 years to purchase the things that you owned. You did not take advantage of others. Ever! I can’t think about all of that now. I can’t. It takes me to a dark place that I cannot dwell in. I have to keep my mind focused on the Lord. I have to know I did all I could in His strength and power. I have to pray for those that left you there in your condition. I do not want to become bitter. You did not even really know these people. God knows them, and He loves them and wants them to do better!

I hope you saw how much I wanted to see you healed. I pray you saw that I only encouraged you to make certain decisions because I hurt to the deepest part of my inner being watching you suffer. I do not blame you for my hurt. God made me this way. He made me a persistent girl who never gives up on those I love.

My hope was for you to find peace on this earth. Since I feel like that probably did not happen in the latter part of your adult life, I have to find peace in the fact that you got to see Jesus’s face on Easter Sunday. Not everyone gets to do that!

I have to focus on how, a few years ago when you were in the hospital, I asked you if you were saved. You said you were. I have to trust that you understood. Many years ago, Grandma Yvonne told me stories of how you loved to quote Bible verses to her. Sometimes strongholds take over at certain times in our lives, and we do not always get to fully live out the Lord’s plans. The Lord’s blessings are like none other, but we all make choices in life that come with consequences. 💔

Regardless of all of the choices that cannot be taken back, I will focus on the good times. Simple acts of bringing you food or making a million phone calls to get your disability and insurance set up were so worth it. The littlest things meant so much because it meant I got to spend time with you, or I was able to hear your voice. Hearing your voice helped me know you were still here! It made me know there was still hope for healing!

On April 9th, 2023 that hope of an earthly healing ended. The last year or so, I begged you to go back to the doctor or hospital. However, when you refused, I had to respect you as my father even though your decision broke me completely in two. It is going to be okay though. It really is. Over the last week, I have been reminded of all of the good times we had before things got really bad for you. I will cherish all of those memories forever.

I will always remember how you took me to the beach and taught me to swim. You taught me not only to swim in the pool but also in the ocean. Going out into those waves past the point of where I could touch the bottom took a lot of trust. I trusted you to be there if I needed you. I still need you, Dad. Every minute of every day…

I will never forget you showing me how to fish and the time you took me out on the little boat on your friend’s pond. You were the first person to fry up a big mess of fish for me. My boys and girls love to fish just like you. About a year ago, Jacob called you for advice when he fried up a mess of fish Jayce had caught. He brought you some, too.

Just a few days ago, Jayce’s face lit up when he got to check his minnow trap at your ponds. He had been wanting to check it for several months, but unfortunately, some other people who obviously didn’t really care about you or us had taken over his little fishing hole.

He is so glad to have that fishing hole back, but he wishes you could be there with him. He loved you so much just like all of the rest of your grandkids. They have all been talking about memories they had with you. Alayla has talked about how special you made her feel when she came over with her daddy, and they carried in the wood for your old wood stove. She said you told her she was one of the prettiest little girls you had ever seen. She smiled from ear to ear when she remembered your words. They have all smiled, but they have also cried. Grief is difficult.

I also sit here and think about your deer roast that you cooked on the wood stove every Sunday morning and how I would sit on the steps chewing on freshly cooked tenderloin. I was talking with someone not long ago about how you loved to cook for us. You were an avid outdoorsman. We never lacked for food.

Your freshly grown watermelon from the garden were always a big highlight in the fall. Not long ago, Jayla was bragging on how you gave us watermelon each year. You also gave us pumpkins, peppers, corn, and so much more. The list is endless. When Jaden sprinkled salt on her watermelon just a couple of days ago in Disney, it took me back to you and me adding just a pinch of salt to each bite as we sat watching television together at that yellow colored bar on those baby blue stools. I know that every time I see a hot pepper, I will think about how you always told me to eat the ones you had canned. I can still hear you say, “If you don’t want to be sick, eat you some of those hot peppers.” I should probably listen.

The camping trips we took year after year were always the best. I will definitely never forget the time you took Heather and me up on the mountain to your hunting cabin, and a chipmunk chased her out of the outhouse with her pants around her ankles. How could I forget that? We laughed so hard as she squealed. The hiking trips through the woods and visiting “Wayne’s World” made life worth living. You truly knew how to live off the grid.

I will always remember how you bought me my first horse and then a few years later when Heather left for college, you got me a Mountain Feist puppy named Belle. Jaden loves horses now all because you let me fall in love with that jet black Quarter horse all those years ago. Jaden has one who looks just like her. She calls her Dakota. I’m sure you know, she also has several more in various colors as does her brothers and sisters.

Don’t worry about not being able to get Jaden that truck to pull her horse trailer like you wanted to. She is going to fix up your old truck. It suits her just fine. She smiles when she talks about it. It brings comfort knowing you were thinking about her to the very end. You are helping her chase her dreams.

I wrote a book about my sweet horse, Midnight, probably 13 years ago. The story also included you, but the ending I penned has proven to be very different from reality. That’s how life goes sometimes. The beginning and middle are the parts that I will dwell on. Those are the parts I want to be ingrained in my mind forever. Too often, circumstances happen and remind us that we are not in control of other’s choices no matter how much we feel that we need to be.

Your love for animals has absolutely been one of the biggest traits the kids and I got from you. When Jaden rescued a baby opossum, I could not wait to tell you. She even snuck it to church in her pocketbook. You probably remember me telling you all about it. Her little Bonnie made me think of the tiny guy who hid in the pocket of your bibs. Let’s not forget about the time the dog carried a not so small opossum in the house. You just smiled and watched it play dead. It wasn’t so funny when it used the bathroom all over the floor.

You had cared not only for opossums but skunks, rabbits, owls, snakes, turtles, and farm animals. I am sure there were many more creatures you had cared for over the last 60 years. James has begged me to teach him how to rehabilitate wildlife. There is no doubt in my mind that your own upbringing flows over to your children. These kids bring me everything from toads, frogs, turtles, snakes, chipmunks, and all types of creepy crawlies. I smile and enjoy the moments with them. They make me recall how I did the same things when I was their age. They have also bottle fed a calf or two not to mention many lambs and goats.

However, there is no denying that my love for Dobermans actually rubbed off on you. Tyson, Axel, and Thunder were all very special to you as was my Rambo and Toby. I am certain you named Rambo for me because all the boys in my class had given me that nickname in the 4th grade. Maybe there was a little meanness lurking in the background that year.

I will never forget how you helped me build my first house or how you walked me down the aisle on that same river bank just before the building process began. I can still see that huge smile on your face when you held Jacob for the first time. When he caught his first shark several years back, the memory of you catching a shark when I was just a little girl standing on the shores of Myrtle flooded my mind. He also caught a stingray and several other types of fish that swim in that vast ocean.

Jacob is so much like you not only in looks but in his love for the outdoors and searching for relics. He’s so thankful for the Camaro you gave him when he started driving. You had promised it to him when he was just a little boy. You followed through on that promise, and I know he thinks of you each time he’s in that car.

I can’t help but think about all the times I wrecked when I was around his age. The first wreck I ever had, you were laying block at a house in Applewood and before you even heard the news, you already knew what had happened. Daddies just have a way of knowing. Thanks for coming to the ER a few wrecks later when I needed stitches. You held my hand and told me, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and reminds you that you are still living.”

I won’t forget how you rubbed my feet all those times I was in the hospital especially after Jaden was born, and I was deathly sick. I’m so glad I could return the favor to you just a few weeks ago on Jayla’s birthday. I could tell you were in so much pain that day. Jayla begged to see you on her birthday when I told her I was going to run over to Papaw Tim’s and check on him. I’m so glad she asked to go even if her heart broke for you. She’s my tender hearted child and like me in so many ways. She cannot stand to see people being taken advantage of. She saw the situation that she walked into for what it was. She is so wise for her age. She says she still remembers you holding her when she was a baby. I believe her.

I will remember all of the vacations, RC cars, holidays, and trips to Dollywood. You smiled so much when I was a kid, Dad. I will always remember that huge smile. Your smile made me smile. You were one of the smartest most humble men that I ever knew. I am sorry all of that was slowly taken from you with each tip of the bottle over the last 20 years or so.

Addictions are a thief including alcoholism. People think because it is legal that it is not so bad. But one day what you were able to control becomes uncontrollable. Alcohol robs you of your time and the person you used to be. It alienates you from the ones who love you the most. It allows you to become an easy target because you are not always thinking clearly.

I still recognized you even in the most difficult days, but I also longed for my original daddy, too. The one who labored every day to provide for his family. The one who went fishing and hunting and came to sporting events to support us. The one who competed in archery tournaments or skinned that big buck in the building out back. The one who whittled chains out of wood and even my name. I sat there with you and whittled little boats. You were such a hard worker and lover of life for many years. You were not a deadbeat dad who did not care about his children. You showed your love for us in so many ways over the years. You continue to show your love for us even after your death. Thank you!

It will all be okay. It really will. I understand how alcohol got a hold on you. You let life’s difficulties get the best of you. When we do not focus on the goodness of the Lord, that can happen so quickly. Despite the struggles, I will always want more time. More time to tell you I love you. More time to hear you say it back. More time to check on you. More time to open your door and say, “Hey, Dad!”

I am thankful I was strong enough to keep checking on you and coming to see you even though I had to muster up enough courage each and every time. Our last visits over the last few months left me in tears and a state of panic, but I am thankful for them. I am grateful you taught me how to protect myself over the years. I hope I never have to defend myself, but you never know in this old world we live in. Jamie had a good laugh as he told all of those at the funeral about that pistol you gave me as a wedding gift. You were one of a kind and one of the best shots in this whole county. Your true buddies were even talking about that at your viewing and funeral. I am positive you could have protected yourself in your last days had you been well. The decline in your health after the human predators showed up was deplorable.

You were different in the end. I could see you struggling not only physically but mentally. The stress had became too much for you to handle. You told me a few weeks ago that you were not going to change for me or anyone else. You told me you did not need help. I think you knew deep down what you needed, but you felt like it was too late. You did not want to be a burden. I respected that even if I did not want to believe it. The truth is, I wasn’t asking you to change for me. I would never do that. I wanted you to get help because I wanted your pain to go away. I did not want to lose you. I wanted to see your big smile again. I wanted you to be happy. I wanted all my kids to see you in the same way I got to all those years ago. I wanted them to be able to hug you any time they needed to. I needed those hugs, too.

All of that sounds so selfish, but I can’t help it. A daughter will always need her father. You always told me not to do anything that did not make me happy. I do not think you realized what would have made me the happiest was to see you thriving in the Lord’s blessings. Not for me, but for you! I have learned over the years that He is the only one who can bring true joy in our lives. The bottle only leaves us empty and craving for more. I have cried more tears than I could ever count since April 9th. Your death was something I had to walk through that did not make me happy! But I had no choice.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, we do not get what we want in this life. I will hold on to the fact that I will see you again one day. I will believe that in my heart because I still need you. I need at least one more hug. I have to see you whole again. I have to see you able to walk without pain. I have to see that huge smile that the alcohol robbed from you. If I could pour every sip back in those bottles, I would in an instant. I want more time with you. I want so much more time. But I know that is not possible and is insensitive in many ways. For now, I have to say goodbye, but until I see you again, I love you! I always will!! Don’t ever forget that. And so will all your grandkids, family, and all your sincere friends who stopped by your viewing and funeral. I am so thankful you had them during your 65 years! They were the ones who counted!

Love Always,

Amanda ❤️

I’ll love you forever, Daddy!

John 8:32 – And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

This entry was posted in Let's Reminisce and Reflect! and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Dear Dad – The Last Letter

  1. Eddie and Kim Doss says:

    Amanda, this is so beautifully written, my heart breaks that all of you didn’t have more time with your dad. I pray that the Lord (and I know HE will) will give you comfort, knowing that you did everything you could to help your dad overcome the evil of alcoholism. You know you did, and you know that he knew how very much you loved him, there is no way he didn’t know that. God Bless you sweet girl . . . .Kim

  2. Linda Sturgill Lechner says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I wish I could have knew your dad better. I am his cousin for Wisconsin. I always admired the life style being down there when we visited. Some of the things you said about your dad, reminded me of my dad. They always called him Uncle Earl.
    I will pray for you and your family. May God grant you peace.

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