Letters from Dad

Letters from Dad

The written word is superior for its ability to inspire, spark imagination, and express love and appreciation.
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I said this to a life-long friend recently. He couldn’t believe his ears.

He reminded me that dad had written me hundreds of letters over the years, prior to his death in 2005. Each of them was signed, “Love, Dad.” They were his way of expressing love to me.

Today, my biggest regret is losing those letters.

I didn’t realize how meaningful they were at the time I lost them. I had just moved back home after college and had no space for anything when I moved back in with my mom. My focus was on my career, not a box with some letters and old mementos. Today, I have no record of any of his writings.

My father’s notes were frequent and meaningful. His handwriting was immaculate and my grandmother had the report cards to prove it. In the 50’s and 60’s, they still taught penmanship in school…and my father got straight A’s. To this day, when taking the time, I will occasionally write a sentence that looks like his handwriting and smile. I realized recently that I have always tried to emulate his style, but I’ve never had the patience it takes to write that well.

His letters were carefully crafted pieces of literature to me. Often about golf (he was my golf instructor after all) and often about life, his words always seemed so carefully thought out and from the heart. Rarely did a page have an error on it, and if it did, it was perfectly blotted out and a new line begun. He never wrote on lined paper and yet the lines were always perfectly straight. I always assume he wrote with a lined piece underneath for direction…but he didn’t.

I’ve gone into this much detail to show that my father did say “I love you.” With every stroke of the pen. With every thought put on paper. With every painstakingly crafted word he wrote.

More than seven years ago, my father passed away peacefully in his sleep from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He’d stopped writing when the dementia set in a year before. The beautiful prose I’d come to love was suddenly gone with no warning, the victim of a dreadful disease for which there is still no cure.

The same friend who reminded me of the letters was the one who broke the news of his death to me. Thanks to him, although I do not have the physical pieces of paper, his words live on in my mind and heart forever. He reminded me of a father’s letters to his son.

The written word is unparalleled in all of mankind for its ability to inspire, spark imagination, and express love and appreciation. And it is memorable beyond comparison (music being a close second).

Rich Langdon shared a video in a comment on Jon Stolpe’s guest post here, The Power of Gratitude: A Thank You Thursday Story, that reminded me again of my father’s letters. It’s a TED Talk by Hannah Brencher entitled Love Letters to Strangers. I share it with you below in the hope that you too, if you have not already, may begin to put pen to paper and express your love and appreciation as my father did.

Question: What will you write today and to whom will you send it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Thanks for the video, very touching and definitely re-affirms the value of Thank You Note Thursday! As part of starting my Thank You Note Thursday I have been planning to start writing notes to my wife and kids who love to receive mail as well. This just shows the benefit of these letters again. It reminds me how much my kids eyes light up every time they receive a letter in the mail.

  • This post is so relevant today for me that it’s creepy. Today is the 5th anniversary of my dad’s passing. I shared how a few weeks ago I found a hand-written note from him, that fell off of nowhere. It was my 6th grade graduation (we do celebrate that in Mexico) and he was away on a business trip. He told me how proud he was of me and how he felt connected with me like the day I was born. The most touching part is when he wrote that even though we were apart physically, he felt very close to my heart; just as we are today.

    I’m sorry you lost your dad so early Matt. I am certain that he is very proud of the man you have become.

    • Oh and after watching the TED talk, I’m so signing up at moreloveletters.com!

    • I remember that post Lily. Can you post the link here for the others?

    • I just read your post Lily, I missed it last time! great post, and the comments on it are closed, so I couldn’t comment. so i’m telling you here, thats a great post!

      • That’s strange. I did check just now and it allowed me to see the comments option…. Hmmm And I see that Disqus has deleted my lovely avatar…

        • I could SEE the comments posted previously, but was unable to find anywhere where I could contribute my own vast knowledge to the discussion :)
          I’ve had that problem other times when I tried to troll your blog for posts I’d missed 😉

          • I fixed that. I didn’t realize it automatically blocked comments for posts over two weeks old. I learned something new today!

          • I thought you were just making sure that I didnt become a troll :)

          • At least you’re transparent about your trolling activities…

          • Oh absolutely. I’m not hiding out under a bridge!!

          • You’ve been watching Dora the Explorer again…

          • Funny you should mention it…that is EXACTLY what I was thinking of…I can even sing the song: “Im the grumpy old troll…who lives under the bridge…I’m the grumpy old troll, who lives under the bridge…”

    • Lily – that is a great memory. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for the reminder, Matt. I definitely can step it up in writing notes to my wife and kids. They deserve my gratitude and expressed love more than anyone else.

  • My dad, rarely said “I love you,” my mom has a bit more. I think it’s a generational thing. My dad passed away in 2010. I make a point to tell my daughter at least once per day (at bedtime), but some days several times. Sometimes I write notes on her lunch napkins.

    • Anytime and anywhere Dan! Keep it up…and turn it up!

    • I like the lunch napkin idea! Alot of times I’ll tell my daughter (4yo) “You know daddy loves you, right?” and we have a game we play where she’ll come up to me, hold her hands about an inch apart and say, “Dad I love you this much” to which Im suppose to say (and if I dont, she reminds me) “Awww, thats all???” and she’ll get a huge smile and say, “But watch!!” and she’ll put her arms all the way out as if to say “I love you THIS much” and then give me a huge hug.
      Ahh, good times.

    • My mom and dad are both twice divorced. So, I let my wife and daughter know how deeply I care for them.

      I can relate to you Dan!

  • I taught a class at my church called “Letters From Dad.” You can find it if you Google it. It was a four-week program and it really brought the men who took it together.

    Four weeks, four letters. To your parents, your spouse, your children, and the final “letter of your life,” read after your death.

    • I hadn’t heard of that but it seems really cool. This has reminded me to start writing more to our daughter (20 months). Not so much for right now, but for her future.

      Thanks Bret!

  • Great post Matt! I completely relate to your dad not SAYING I love you. My dad never did as I grew up. He does now, but only if I tell him I love him first, and even then I can tell its REALLY uncomfortable for him to do so. But looking back I can see a LOT of examples of his love. Cars fixed, playing with me, coming to soccer games when I know he really needed to be farming, countless hours taking me and my brother hunting, and always letting us shoot first.
    I think you’re totally right about the power of written words. There’s something different than even a typed letter. After reading EntreLeadership and Love Works, I’ve tried to be more proactive at writing letters to express my gratitude.
    I’ve started handwriting a letter to each of my kids on their birthdays and keeping them to be given to them either when they are grown or in the event of my untimely demise (dont get any ideas Matt!!). I do the same for my wife on our anniversary.
    I also try to write them letters and leave them for them where they’ll find them when I leave for work.
    I dont feel like theres much of any interest in them, but I know my words, my testimony, my convictions will someday be priceless to them. Not because I’m great, but because I know what my parents mean to me. Thanks for this awesome post Matt!

    • Mark – have you read the 5 love languages?

      I’m sitting here thinking about all of us that want to hear “I love you” from parents that may have said it differently, but were saying it none the less.

      That’s what your comments made me think of.

      • I have read the 5 Love Languages Todd. Great book. Looking back at my comment, ya, I think of that book too! I think its important for each of us to ask ourselves how those around us show love so we dont miss them “saying” I love you to us in their own way! Great point!

        • That was a big one for me.  Discovering the love languages.

          ——– Original message ——–

    • Wow Mark. Beautiful idea. I’m stealing it. Thanks!

      • steal away…just make sure that in EVERY letter you make mention of your hero and mentor, Mark Sieverkropp to which you owe so much!

  • Wow. I am a person that keeps things, so losing those letters would be very difficult for me. I can only imagine how tough that must be for you Matt. Gosh.

    Here is an idea: Write down some of the things that you remember your Dad put in those letters. It is not the same thing, but, it is a way to preserve some of the old memories.

  • Incredible post Matt. I lost Daddy 19 years ago, and your post made me realize I don’t have the letters he wrote me in college – I guess at the time they didn’t seem so important, but they were such expressions of love. I do have such lovely memories of him even when he was sick (died of cancer 6 weeks after diagnosis at age 55) and always did feel loved. But you are so right about letters.

    I do have all the handwritten letters from my grandmother, and my great grandmother, and Mama. They mean so much.

    One of my three words for 2013 is appreciate – so I need to make handwritten letters a huge part of that appreciation of people. Thanks for a great post. And yes, I’m in tears.

    • I hope tears of joy Carol.

      I’m not sure yet what kind mine were as I wrote this.

  • Matt – thanks for sharing this. It must be awful to not have those letters! I kept a note my dad sent to me when I was in elementary school telling me how proud he was of me, and recently sent a copy of it back him with a thank-you for always making sure I knew he loved me. I need to find some opportunities to do this for my son also!

    • That is a really cool way of expressing thanks back to your dad. “Hey, remember what you said to me twenty years ago? I do.” Well done Tom!

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