Letters to My Father: On Death, Love, and Also the Act of Seeking Wonder

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I recently lost my father. He was 89. He was frail and ready to be done on this planet. But he was vital and thinking right up until pretty much the very end. Now, less than three months after he’s gone, the two books he was writing are both nearly ready for publication. It’s exciting to be working on these projects as the new sole proprietor of the publishing business he created. My webmaster brother and I are currently working on updating the site to make it an appealing place for readers to visit, as well as an honor to him and the work he did.

That’s exciting, but it’s also hard. Because today, I just miss my Dad. In the last 2 or so years of his life, calling him on the phone got tricky – our schedules never seemed to mesh; when I could talk, he was sleeping. I felt guilty for not being in touch more. So I began to write him letters. I was actually inspired to make this a regular practice by Skip Prichard, then CEO of Ingram, the company that distributes our books. He is a thought leader, and while he’s no longer associated with Ingram, I continue to value his posts because he has made it his calling to share about leadership and about making connections with people. He is always listening and learning, and I respect that very highly.

I invite you to explore this post in particular (and follow the links to other thoughts within it, if you’ve time), because it has made a tremendous difference to me, and to my thinking about the ways in which I can meaningfully relate to those I value when the phone just doesn’t seem to work very well for me.

When we celebrated my Dad’s life at his memorial – held on what would have been his 90th birthday this past St. Patrick’s Day – we were surrounded by old and new friends alike, in the town where he had served as beloved doctor for many decades. Along with many others, his children spoke. We each shared what he gave to us. Among the many words we chose when sharing about him and the lessons he taught were these: respect, gratitude, honesty, compassion. My word was wonder. And I spoke about the last letter I wrote to him.

In the last letter I wrote to my father, I mentioned a little dish that has been part of our shared history for much of my life. It’s this little dish here.

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My Grandma, Esther, gave it to me when I was a teenager, along with a delicate silver spoon. When he first saw it in my hands, Dad’s face lit with delight.

“It came in the Wheatena box!” he said, “when I was just a wee tad!” He used to eat hot cereal out of it, with that very silver spoon.

It has a picture stamped in it, of a kitten playing with a ball. There are two words there, too: BE PLAYFULL , spelled just like that. He loved this dish, loved the experience of eating tiny bites from it, exposing the treasure hidden there. The act of eating became an event, the action of seeking wonder.

Eighty-five years ago, his Mother put Wheatena in this dish. Last week it held some nuts and dried fruit, and its history once again brought me the lesson, as it does each time I handle it. Here I see the life he gave to me – in this dish.

The treasure is always there, and the wonder is exposing it. Look – through a microscope. Look – through a telescope. Peel away a layer, and look. A layer of earth, of skin, of human frailty. Open your eyes. The wonder is there, waiting to be uncovered, and then, celebrated. I wonder how many dishes of Wheatena he practiced on. He was really good at finding wonder, and celebrating it, by the time he got to share what he practiced with me.

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About vst3in

I am a writer, avid reader, library techie, birder and runner. I make felt and teach others. I love colors and textures and birds and books. I'm working on a historical novel and reading lots of books for young people. I am running to get stronger, and I sail with my husband. This blog contains thoughts about all these things.
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6 Responses to Letters to My Father: On Death, Love, and Also the Act of Seeking Wonder

  1. skipprichard1 says:

    Someone just shared your touching post with me. I’m sorry to read of your father’s passing. I’m sure your dad valued your letters more than you could realize. What’s amazing is just today I was reading a letter from my own grandmother. I was instantly transported back to the first time I read the words, and equally moved.

    Wishing you all the best and, with this post, you keep the memory of your father’s life alive. I’m sure he was proud of you!

    • vst3in says:

      Thanks so much. I’m currently writing a novel based on a distant relative of my husband’s. I recently pulled her things out to plan for some photography, and was reminded again of the original inspiration for her story, which came from… letters. I think this is why your original post stuck with me. Glad I finally got to do it justice.

  2. Richard Merrill says:

    Beautiful post – letters are a good thing, and more valuable in these days of email and texting. Touching, wonderful writing.

  3. barbaraberkley says:

    Such a beautiful post. This really struck a chord with me. Thank you for sharing your story and your insights.

    • vst3in says:

      Thank you, Barbara! It is so good to revisit this one, and especially to be reminded about the power of correspondence on the one hand, and wonder on the other.

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