“You have a big, beautiful heart. Through life you need to keep it open and follow it.”
One of the many things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving is my propensity to feel deeply. Women are often unfairly demeaned for being “too emotional.” Although it may have its drawbacks, I find “being emotional” to be one of the things that grounds me and gives me purpose. Having the capacity to feel deeply and genuinely gives me insight that mere intellect cannot. It reminds me that I’m alive. My emotions add a certain vitality to my actions. Good or bad, I’d like to hope that feeling deeply lends some conviction to my decisions in addition to reason.
I’m thinking about all of this because it appears as if the universe is conspiring to make me cry, and I mean cry hard. Last night, I watched a film that made me cry in a good way: To Kill A Mockingbird. As usual, Atticus Finch reminded me that goodness is always within our reach, with every difficult choice we make. By the time Scout said, “Hey, Boo,” I’m reduced to a woman-shaped mold of sentimental jelly.
It is at that point that my mother talks to me about her aunt suffering a stroke. This time I don’t cry but it doesn’t make our conversation any less intense. Since my mother is my polar opposite and rarely slips into meaningful conversation, we talked plainly about the medical decision that the family must make. This is the first time I heard about her living will, and it is only because I asked. Considering how few of these talks we have, I assured her that I always knew that. My mother has always been far too stoic and unsentimental; the last thing she would want is for machines to sustain her life unnecessarily. I came to this conclusion a long time ago without having to use reason. Deep down, I felt what would be right for my mother.
You know what they say about the rule of threes, right? This morning, I stumbled on a website that was guaranteed to break open the waterworks. I usually do not fall prey to internet glurg or schmaltzy rom-coms. Letters of Note, well-played.
A soldier’s widow received the following farewell letter. It seemed fitting to share this man’s final words to his wife and children today. He told his son to stick to the path he chooses and to keep his heart open, things fathers do not often say to boys.
In our modern cynical world filled with online snark and anonymous trolling at every turn, there is still a place for sincerity. This man thought so and I’m sure his children are better people for it.
His children are nicknamed “Toad” and “Bean.” Try reading the letter below without sobbing, I dare you.
Please only read if I don’t come home. Please put it away and hopefully you will never have to read it.
I never thought I would be writing a letter like this, I really don’t know where to start. I’ve been getting bad feelings though and well if you are reading this….
I am forever in debt to you, Dakota, and the Bean. I searched all my life for a dream and I found it in you. I would like to think that I made a positive difference in your lives. I will never be able to make up for the bad. I am so sorry. The happiest moments in my life all deal with my little family. I will always have with me the small moments we all shared. The moments when you quit taking life so serious and smiled. The sounds of a beautiful boy’s laughter or the simple nudge of a baby unborn. You will never know how complete you have made me. Each one of you. You saved me from loneliness and taught me how to think beyond myself. You taught me how to live and to love. You opened my eyes to a world I never dreamed existed. I am proud of you. Stay on the path you chose. Never lose sight of what is important again, you and our babies.
Dakota, you are more son than I could ever ask for. I can only hope I was half the dad. I used to be your “danny” but no matter what, it makes me proud that you chose me. You taught me how to care until it hurts, you taught me how to smile again. You taught me that life isn’t so serious and sometimes you have to play. You have a big, beautiful heart. Through life you need to keep it open and follow it. Never be afraid to be yourself. I will always be there in our park when you dream so we can still play. I hope someday you will have a son like mine. Make them smile and shine just like you. I love you Toad. I hope someday you will understand why I didn’t come home. Please be proud of me. Please don’t stop loving life. Take in every breath like it’s your first. I love you Toad. I will always be there with you. I’ll be in the sun, shadows, dreams, and joys of your life.
Bean, I never got to see you but I know in my heart you are beautiful. I know you will be strong and big-hearted just like your mom and brother. I will always have with me the feel of the soft nudges on your mom’s belly, and the joy I felt when we found out you were on your way. I dream of you every night, I will always. Don’t ever think that since I wasn’t around that I didn’t love you. You were conceived of love and I came to this terrible place for love. I love you as I do your mom and brother with all my heart and soul. Please understand that I had to be gone so that I could take care of my family. I love you Bean.
I have never been so blessed as the day I met Melissa Dawn Benfield. You are my angel, soulmate, wife, lover, and best friend. I am so sorry. I did not want to have to write this letter. There is so much more I need to say, so much more I need to share. A lifetime’s worth. I married you for a million lifetimes. That’s how long I will be with you. Please keep our babies safe. Please find it in your heart to forgive me for leaving you alone. Take care of yourself, believe in yourself, you are a strong, big hearted woman. Teach our babies to live life to its fullest, tell yourself to do the same. Don’t forget to take Toad to Disney World. I will be there with you. Melissa, I will always want you need you and love you in my heart, mind, and soul. Do me one favor, after you tuck Toad and Bean in, give them hugs and kisses from me. Go outside, look at the stars and count them. Don’t forget to smile.