I never knew it existed.
I was too young to even remember they were even sent.
It added to the list of things now 3 years later I continue to learn about my late father who passed away too quickly after his short battle with lung cancer. Today marks exactly 3 years, yet still feels like yesterday was the day I watched him take his last breath.
But my mom surprised me, and introduced me to this new thing about him I didn’t know she had tucked away.
A few weeks ago, my mom surprised me and stole me away for an afternoon in my sweatpants and without make up or hair done. She told me we were going to his gravesite, but I never expected what she would pull out of the back of his truck. She still drives his truck from time to time. I secretly hope she never sells it because somedays I can still smell his scent from the passenger side.
She pulled the truck around so that the tail end was facing his grave. She told me to have a seat on the tailend while she got something out of the truck.
She reappared with… a box. On the outside, it was golf shoes.
“Did you keep daddy’s golf shoes or something?” I questioned.
“No,” she laughed, “Something better.”
She opened the box and tears immediately fell from my eyes.
It was a box of love letters. From my dad. To her. And to me.
I couldn’t stop crying. How could I not know these letters existed?
There was a time my dad had to go away for work and be away from us for weeks and months at a time, and during this time, he wrote us letters. As she began to read her first one, I cried happy tears because of how cute my dad was in expressing how much he loved my mom. It was mostly simple things like sneaking in “I love you” in the inside of the envelope, or “XXX Kisses” at the end of the note. Despite all the hard times I saw them go through as I grew up as a witness of their marriage, I always knew deep down how deep their love was for each other. And seeing my dad’s love notes all over his note, it was another reminder that the love built in a marriage, through both good and bad times, IS worth sticking it out “until death do us part.”
Then in the next envelope, there was a letter to me. Seeing my dad’s handwriting writing my name made me cry even more. Then I opened the letter, and all I saw was the first line that then really made me lose it.
My favorite girl.
I miss you and love you.”
As I sat there in front of his gravesite, I couldn’t help but think, if he only knew how much I would need to hear that right now at this point in life. Though I’m not 7 years old anymore when I first received those words from him in 1988, even now at 31, the little girl inside of me needed to hear that her daddy missed her. Because, gosh….. words can’t express how much I miss him still everyday.
The tears eventually turned to laughs as my mom and I continued to go through the box and remember all my dad’s funny ways of saying things, and cute expressions of affection. Even back then, my dad was always reminding my mom to check the oil in the car the same way he used to do that as I would drive off to college. He was always so protective of his girls in all the small and big ways.
As we combed through more and more letters, I realized how I hate that the beauty of handwritten letters has been so lost in our digital generation of texting and email. It made me want to immediately go home and print out all of Stephen and I’s emails we exchanged when we were getting to know each other. Sure, they weren’t handwritten, but it was the beginning of our love story. And I never want to lose that if a harddrive were to crash. I want to have a box tucked away to share with our children one day and show them how much mommy and daddy loved each other. I want to have a box for myself to remember in our old age, or when times feel unbearable as I know every marriage goes through.
I have learned through my parents marriage that love is worth fighting for. I have learned love is worth taking the time to give handwritten love notes. I have learned that it’s the hard times when you really see the depth and beauty of the foundation of your love. I have learned love can surprise you when you least expect it to. And I have learned it’s never too late to say I love you.
In lighter news, TODAY is also Stephen’s birthday!! I love how God turned it into a day of celebration with how He orchestrated my husband’s birthday on the day I lost the first man I ever loved. Be sure to give him lots of birthday wishes in the comments below!!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY LOVE!!!
Stephen, for all the ways you make me laugh every day, and your tenderness with my heart, I have loved every minute of sharing our lives together. I know with your back injury we can’t go out and do much to celebrate, but even just sharing simple moments with you around the house have grown to become some of my favorite memories. You are loved, and my life has been so blessed because you were born!