The day I walked you home: A letter to my Dad

Writing, to me, is synonymous with healing.

I suppose that’s why I’m here–writing–just a day after you took your last breath, Dad.

People are telling me to go lay down. Or rest. Or watch a movie. But all I want to do is write about what it was like for me. For all of us, really. As my fingers tap the keys my eyes flicker to the bracelet I have on my wrist. It’s the one you wore ever since your diagnosis last November. “No one fights alone” it says. And my spirit can’t help but agree. No one fights alone. Or loves alone. Or struggles alone. Or dies alone.

We’re all walking each other home.

It was Thursday night when I got the call that I should come. “Dad doesn’t have much time,” my teary sister said. And I knew it in my heart, even before the call came in.

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But it took three days of sleeplessness, tears dripping from sore eyes, holding you up as you walked around in confusion, sponging water onto your lips, and prayers by your bedside before you took that last breath. And I realized–as soon as your labored breathing went silent and your Savior greeted you somewhere near the top of the Christmas tree, a spot I looked toward as soon as your blue eyes did, hoping I’d find him there too–that the walk is always worth it. Leaning near your still face and kissing your forehead, that’s what I said too. “It’s worth it”. Even though I want you to know my heart wasn’t feeling it, Dad. My heart screamed “Come back!” instead. Because I didn’t see Jesus near the top of the Christmas tree. My faith just had to rely on the fact he was there.

Now, digesting the memories–memories that haunt me in my dreams and awaken me from sleep with tears and a racing heart–I want you to know why I was honored to walk you home.

The walk home started on November of 1989…when I was born.

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I’d like to think we chose to walk together–that before we even came to earth we knew we’d be walking in unison along with some very special others–taking on the challenge, and the joys, of mortality.

During the walk home you taught me many things. You taught me how to play. And in turn, I think I taught you patience 😉

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The walk home entailed some discomforts–some trials that required me to cry in your arms or vent to you–or get so mad at you that I slammed my bedroom door. I tried to say sorry about that later on–you didn’t let me though.

During the walk home you showed me how to walk on my own at times and forge a new trail when others get to their own trail’s end. You showed me how to change oil. How to respect my body. How to be a good friend. How to listen more than I talk *although I still have problems with that*. How to put family first.

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During the walk, sometimes it rained. You showed me how to play in it.

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During the walk–you showed me to dance always *Even if you’re not very good at it* And to “Sing louder!” as you’d always say when you caught me humming to myself.

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There were a few times on the journey I didn’t feel I was good enough. But you pushed me to bring home the A’s. To aim high. To be everything I want to be simply by living as if I’m already there. Oh–and I love that you always bragged about every single goal we met. You loved when I’d write and you’d read my blog. You hung my first poem on your cubicle wall at work and kept it there ’til you died.

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During the walk you taught me what kind of man I should choose–simply by being that kind of man. And in turn you finally got the son you always wanted to have one day.

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You loved my mom–even when lighting struck and rain hit and rocks in the trail made you two stumble. And that’s the greatest gift to give to a daughter.

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During the walk you encouraged my sister’s restless, wandering heart. You taught her faith and courage–you nourished the light in her eyes into something much greater in her heart. She said it was all because of you, Dad.

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During the walk home you taught me not to fear the trailhead coming up–the part of the walk home that splits the trail in two. The part where we would separate for a time. You told me it would come–and it was okay. Because you knew that if we kept walking, the two trails would join as one again.

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During the end of the walk home I had to carry you. I held you like you held me when the dark scared me and I couldn’t sleep. I rubbed your back the way you’d rub mine when I’d sit on the floor in front on you or lay in your lap. I was strong simply because–well, so were you.

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I’m sad, Dad. I miss you so bad that sometimes I can’t breathe. And when I do, it hurts my lungs. I miss you so bad that sometimes I hear your voice and jump to a start in the middle of the night. I miss you so much that I get angry that we already came to the fork in the road–sometimes I get mad at God. Sometimes I get mad at myself that I didn’t hold you a second longer the last time you hugged me.

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But then I remember, like I remember now. No one walks alone.

No, even though we came to that place in the walk where the trail splits in two–I still feel you guiding my feet. I still feel the same Savior that took you home and held me at the same time. I’m not alone.

I’m honored I was one of the people to share the walk with you, Dad.

You’re my hero.

And you will be until our trails meet up again somewhere on the horizon–and I’ll meet you there at home.

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20 thoughts on “The day I walked you home: A letter to my Dad

  1. Pingback: The day I walked you home: A letter to my Dad – faithhealingblogs

  2. Oh Kayla– thank you so much for sharing this extremely sensitive time in your life with the world. You touch SO MANY, you especially touch me. I am so grateful to share in your journey. I KNOW your father loves you, I know that he is always guiding you, in all that you do– because that’s what father’s do, in Heaven and here on earth.

    I am so sad for your loss. My heart breaks, and tears stream down my face as I read about the walk with your father. You nailed it right on the head… your sweet words are some that I will remember forever. I share so many of these exact same sentiments of my own father– though our journey is not yet done here on earth.

    Thank you Kayla, thank you for sharing such raw emotions to the world, there are so many who I’m certain need these words, need to know that someone else out there knows what they are feeling.

    Keep writing. Write more! You are amazing. Blessings to you and your family. ❤

  3. What a beautiful tribute to your father. I knew Gerald in school from St. Maries. I didn’t know him as an adult, a father, a husband. You really have painted a beautiful picture of him as a loving human being and he’s helped raise a lovely young lady. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  4. I shed more tears reading this than I planned to. This is such a beautiful post. Reading your other posts, I new this day for you would come. And although I don’t know you, I share your pain. And it helps me to know that some day I’ll meet my mom “again somewhere on the horizon” Thank you for sharing. I wish I could offer words of comfort. But even after going through something like this…I still don’t know the right words, or if there is any at all to share. But God bless. And thank you for your words that I can relate to. It also helps me be thankful for the parent I do have left here on this Earth. I’m thankful for my father. He taught me similar things like your dad did.
    Thank you again.

  5. I am sorry for your loss. This is a touching tribute, your dad sounds like he was an amazing man. I am so grateful for our knowledge in the atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ, and that we have the perspective that while our paths may part for a time, they come together.

    How beautiful

  6. A beautiful farewell. I feel your pain so much, as my mother-my best friend and soulmate-passed on the same day as your father from cancer as well. It is the most painful thing, and reading your letter brought some peace to my soul. God bless.

  7. Insomnia wreaks my night again and as I read through facebook posts I came across your blog (posted by my friend, Tiffany). I, too, walked my Dad home in 2009. The end of his life on earth was horrific as one cannot even imagine. He was brave and faced the end with such courage, focused on the home going to be with our Heavenly Father. Your post brought back so many memories, good and nightmarish, and I thank you for sharing. I thank you for the selfless love that led you to walk alongside your Father in his last earthly days. Your Dad and you remind me so much of me and my Dad. Fresh tears fall as I read to the end and that’s not a bad thing at all. In June it will be five years. I think of my Dad everyday, I laugh often and remember his great sense of humor, his steadfast love of Jesus, my Mom, us girls (I’m the oldest of 3) and airplanes. Your Dad will never really leave you. He lives in the beautiful memories locked in your heart. Don’t be afraid, sweet girl, the bad memories of his illness will soften with time and all the good and comforting memories prevail. You are still walking and know that down the path you will find comfort and rest and look back with joy for your journey. I pray for sweet sleep for you and the stressful memories of your a Dad’s end days to burn from your memory. I pray that each new morning brings you joy for your journey and that your path is filled only with love. Blessings to you!!

  8. This is the most precious, spot- on thing I’ve ever read, and is my journey with my sweet daddy and cancer, as well. How comforting it is to hear it in your words. You have blessed me today!

  9. Kayla, I find your comments very inspiring and yet at the same time reassuring. I am a parent that has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and am in my final months of life. I have a family that I wonder and worry about everyday. I wonder how they will accept this tragedy (as well as a blessing) in our lives. Your comments help reassure me that they will find their way and life goes on. Thank you.

  10. Simply beautiful and thank you so very much for sharing your story. I lost my father about 3 months ago to cancer and your words captured every emotion I have experienced lately. I will keep you and your family in my prayers for I know all too well how hard adjusting to this new normal is.

  11. On the day that I mourned the loss of my dad, 10 years before, you said goodbye to your dad. My dad died without any warning. One moment he was alive; the next he was not. I am so grateful that you were blessed with the opportunity to say your goodbyes and relive the memories. They will continue to bring you comfort even after this gut-wrenching loss.

    The Lord gave me a scripture passage not long ago that has been a lifeline to me. I hope it gives you as much comfort as it has for me. “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Is. 46:4 NIV

  12. Pingback: He is not here: A reminder during a rescue mission | All our Lemmony Things

  13. Hi Kayla. I can’t seem to find the words I want to say. I want to share with you the impact your words have had on my life. I read one of your blog posts for the first time (I think) back in January of this year. I was on Facebook, and one of my friends had shared your post. This particular post has stuck with me. And ever since, your words have coursed through my veins and spilled out of my lips. It was about how “God absolutely will give you more than you can handle.” It spoke the only words I was able to hear at the time, and some days, it’s all I can hear, still. You see, I lost my Dad in October of last year. He, too, had cancer and passed with the help of hospice. I felt like I had JUST walked through the door that you were currently facing. So very raw and fresh for me, still to this day, at times. I have shared your thoughts more times than I can count. I tell my kids. I tell my spiritual leaders. I tell anyone who will listen. I tell myself. I tell myself those words when the grief and utter loss is so big and I feel so very small and can’t possibly see an “end” to all of this. Grief, is blindness. Nothing is the same as it was. What was up, is now down. There is “enough,” pain from losing my dad, truly, it is ENOUGH. But as cruel as it is, “life” keeps happening. Maybe, on a “normal” day…you know, one of those days “before” I lost him…I could have handled all that “life” is now throwing at me. But when you add it ALL together, it is just too much. I can’t do it. I’m done trying. That’s what I had been trying so desperately to do, “fix” it all by myself. I was praying to God constantly to show ME what to do. After all, I had LIVED, BREATHED, AND SPREAD THE WORD MY WHOLE LIFE THAT GOD WOULD NOT GIVE ME MORE THAN I COULD HANDLE. I felt like “that saying” was making my grief and confusion so much harder, not better, like I’m sure whomever came up with it must have intended. It created pressure and stress to “find the answers,” because, I felt if I could just understand “why” this was happening to me, I could somehow be “ok” with it. It didn’t work. In fact, it blew up in my face, several times. AND THEN, I READ YOUR POST. Your words could have been mine. My dad had cancer and liver failure. I don’t pretend to know for sure how old you are, but you seem on “the younger side” to be losing a parent. Same with me. I’m 37 and my Dad was only 62. The loss is with me every second of everyday. There are no words, that, even a brilliant writer, such as yourself, could say that could describe “this.” Back in January, I had reached the absolute lowest time in my life. I felt “dead” myself. I was failing miserably with every part of my life, even the parts I could have slept through before because they were such unconscious acts. I had slipped below the surface of the water, SEVERAL days before, and couldn’t find even one hand reaching down to pull me above the surface again. Looking back now, I can see it was at that point, I had already realized that life was more than I could handle. What a hopeless feeling that was. What was the point of living anymore if I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t see the answers. I want you to know, you NEED to know, that your words from that blog post, literally, SAVED MY LIFE. They continue to save my life everyday, just a little differently, now. Starting that very day, I gave myself permission to “lose control.” I stopped trying to fix me and everyone else. I stopped trying to do anything that looked impossible, because I finally realized what God had been trying to tell me all along. “Give me your heavy burdens. I will carry you. TRUST IN ME, I will lay a path before you where now you can see none. Just GIVE THE KEYS AND LET ME DRIVE FOR AWHILE. How else will you see the beauty along the path if you are driving the car (my life) yourself??” WOW! How amazing and perfect and AWESOME is that? Thank you for opening my eyes. The haze of grief is starting to clear a bit from time to time now. But it never would have begun if it weren’t for you. So, now it’s today. Not sure why I haven’t thought to do this before, but, something led me back here. I have begun reading all of your other posts. I hope you can truly believe me when I tell you that your words are mine. So much of the rawness and the tragedy and the beauty that you are sharing has reminded me that I am not alone. So thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my soul for sharing the way that you do. I look forward to reading more. PLEASE KEEP SHARING!

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