A Letter to My Daddy in Heaven

Dear Daddy,

It’s been a long time since I’ve written to you. I miss doing that.

We shared so many big and little things in our frequent emails and phone calls. Our conversations shrank the distance and connected us every day. Now that you’re gone from this earthly plane, I miss those exchanges dearly. Our subjects covered pretty much everything, because you held a non-judgmental space for me, always.

You once told me that sharing the parts of my life that were hardest to disclose, my personal hurdles and heartaches, was a precious gift to you. When I finally got the courage to speak to you about my heaviest burdens and struggles, you welcomed that disclosure with a safe and accepting embrace. “It’s all part of life,” you assured me, and you were there for me through each step forward. I do my best to be this kind of nonjudgmental parent to my own children, and I tell them I learned that lesson from you.

When I was a child, you and I worked in the garden, mowed the lawn and washed the car, side-by-side. I helped you to build and repair things. As we worked, you sprinkled in plenty of silliness and wisdom, and I learned how fun and rewarding it can be to share the tasks that need doing.

As you became elderly and nearly blind, and then learned you had cancer, your example continued to teach me valuable lessons. You met the unanticipated and unsavory tasks, through each new challenge that unfolded, with courage, grace and good humor. When you felt sad or angry, you expressed those emotions too, sharing the full spectrum of your humanity. “It’s all part of life,” was a centering mantra.

I have some new life burdens now, Daddy. I know that you know what I’m facing. Some days my challenges feel very heavy to bear and the unknowns are downright scary. As I coach myself to open my head to my heart, I feel you with me, helping me carry that load. Now it’s my turn to courageously share the bumpy road of my journey and to remember that doing so is a gift to my loved ones.

It was a privilege for me to be with you in the days, weeks and months before you died. Sharing your final moments on Earth was a gift I will forever treasure. You were courageous. Tender. Generous. Honest. Grateful. You inspired me to open my heart and embrace your final chapter as a precious and sacred time.

Wherever I may be on my life’s path, whatever obstacles I face, I would like to emulate your example of peace, acceptance and generous love. Thank you for being with me and showing me how. You blessed me then, and you bless me now.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love you.

 

Julie Nierenberg

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A writer, editor and author coach, I am inspired by the journey of love and release through my father’s end of life. In 2013 I published a book about our experience. Guided by my father's living example as an author and activist, I write to contribute to how we prepare, individually and collectively, to live and support the final chapter of life. I write to immerse in the moment and to experience the satisfaction that writing can bring. Oklahoma is the home of my roots. I lived in McCloud, Tahlequah, Oklahoma City and Tulsa for many years before a recent move to Toronto, Ontario. As a young adult, I meandered through a variety of career emphases in environmental and biomedical sciences before realizing I was called to be an educator. Following my heart into education of gifted children, I enjoyed nearly twenty years, first as a Whole Language, Spanish and art teacher and then as an administrator. With a growing love of children, I courageously became a parent, twice! The joy and purpose I feel in that role is a guiding light in my daily life. Now my two daughters are firmly on the paths of their own journeys through life; I thrill to watch them as they navigate their chosen courses. In 2006, I grew wings that took me all the way to Toronto, where I joined my life partner and soul mate. There, I reinvented my career to flexibly accommodate travel between the home of my family of origin in Oklahoma and my new home in Canada. I established my own business as a writer, editor, author coach and self-publisher. It has been my great pleasure to work with other writers as a partner in authorship, or as editor and coach, and I look forward to many more such affiliations. With each passing day, more topics and opportunities present themselves and I embrace them with gratitude. During the months, weeks and days leading up to my father's death, I was present as much as possible. I was with him when he transitioned from this earthly life in April of 2012, so very privileged to be at his side. Later, as my sorrow washed over me in waves, I began to write our very personal story, and I connected with his memory, integrating my grief, through that effort. In 2013, I published the story as a short book and included resources to support others facing end-of-life issues. Since the book's publication as "Daddy, this is it. Being-with My Dying Dad," I have reached out to many grief and bereavement support workers, hospice and palliative care chaplains and end-of-life advocates with an introduction to my book. I make many valued connections as I reach out with this purpose. With one such connection, Victoria Brewster, MSW, I am now co-writing another book on Death, Dying and the End of Life. We hope this book will offer a unique and comprehensive perspective, with multiple contributors sharing their end-of-life experiences.

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