Even without you here: A letter to the first love of my life

Dear Dad,

I write this from underneath my Christmas tree.

You read that right. Under it. Well, you remember. When I was a kid I’d lay on my back and look up through the Christmas tree, mesmerized by the lights and the way it looked even more beautiful from that upward perspective. I used to fall asleep doing it and you’d carry me to bed. I haven’t done this in a while.

But I am this year.

I thought you might want to know too that Jingle Bell Rock came on the radio a few days ago in the car and instead of crying as I relived the memory of dancing to it in your arms as a kid, I turned it up. I smiled. I even started to laugh. It didn’t really hurt as much.

The food has tasted better this year. The conversations have been easier. The Christmas movies, one after another as I cozy up with hot drinks and soft blankets, have brought Christmas magic instead of Christmas mourning. We decorated the tree and strung the lights and watched a Christmas parade, complete with fake snow and dancing nutcrackers. And my heart was warm.

Each Christmastime, Dad, I find myself writing a blog about how it is without you and how the years are going by since you left us beside a tree and a dozen Christmas globes. I’ve written out my grief, my desire to have you back, my love for you and all you instilled in me at Christmastime. Each time this season I recognize where I’m at in my journey, and it helps. But this year I felt the need to write to YOU, a message scrawled out and hopefully a message that can make it’s way to Heaven. It will be the only and last one I write to you because, frankly, I think it’ll be enough. My heart just needed it. A message to share with you, the first love of my life. Not really a blog meant to be groundbreaking or different or even wise, but a letter to Heaven all the same.

Life has changed since you’ve been gone, Dad.

I find myself clinging to a whole different kind of faith. Praying in a different way. Seeing the world through a new type of lens. Accepting people and beliefs and lifestyles and opinions the way you always did. I find myself more open to truth.

I find myself a little bit more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Because who knows what they might be going through.

I find myself a little braver, a little sturdier, a little wilder at times and willing to just let life happen and to have fun in the process.

I find myself with the second love of my life.

The one you always talked about–the one that comes eventually in life for a girl, right after her Daddy of course.

The one that sticks.

His name is Jeff.

I think that a world without you in it hurt far worse when it was because the greatest love I’d ever had in my life died that December 9th in a bed of a dimly lit room. It hurt far worse before I met my best friend, the love of my life who repaired some of the damage and filled some of the holes and made the choice to love me so much that it stands in direct comparison to the love I got from you.

And I know that makes you smile–when you decide to peek in from time to time. Before you left me you told me your fears that you’d be ruining Christmas. That I’d feel alone. That I wouldn’t have someone there to watch over me the way you could. Don’t worry, Daddy. Not now.

The thing is, Christmas has indeed changed. Of course it has. I miss you still so much that it will hit me ever so often, enough to take my breath away. I miss you because you’re the first man I ever loved with all my heart. From the moment I opened my eyes you were the one to dance with me, to teach me, to guide me through growing up–even during the tough moments. You held the back of my bike and swam with me in the ocean and laughed at all the parts in the movies that I did. You were the one to watch me get ready for prom, to cry in my hair when you said goodbye outside my college dorm, to read all my stories and hang all my artwork and love me through all my mistakes. I miss you because you taught me how I deserve to be loved.

And this Christmas, as I look up through our tree limbs and watch the sparkle of white on silver, and as I hear the faint melody of Bing Crosby from my computer swooning about a white Christmas, I have everything I could possibly need, even without you here.

Even without you here with me physically, Dad, I think I’ve arrived at a Christmas where I found what you’ve always wanted for me. I think I’ve seen the face of God through the real friends who have stuck around through some of the hardest trials I’ve endured this year and through the laughter of the little girl I already love as my own. I think I’ve heard the voice of God through the carols I used to turn off and the sound of the door opening as the second love of my life comes in from a day of work. I think I’ve held God in my arms at least a dozen times and I’ve felt him in my prayers much more than that even. I think I’ve seen life come to fruition in vibrant color in so many different ways, bringing with it new warmth, new adventures, new reasons to be grateful.

Even without you here.

The thing is, Dad, I survived. I lived through three years without you. I went from existing to living to thriving to having my arms so full of blessings that I wanted to throw it up in the air and have you sift through every single one so I could hear you laugh again and tell me how happy you are for me.

I’m beyond blessed to be three years down the road now with a heart strengthened and conditioned and repaired with everything I think you were scared I might never earn back.

I’m beyond blessed to have loved you first, Dad. And I wish you could meet my second. I know you’d love him and even be super proud of his mad light-hanging skills and dedication to your Seahawks and the way he seems to laugh at my dorkiness the way you did. Yes, that man actually does exist outside of you. Go figure.

Someday I know we all will be together when the fates allow. But for now I find complete peace right here under my Christmas tree, loving the present moment I’m in and not wanting to be anywhere else other than right here.

Because right here is a good place to be, even if it means being without you for a while.

It really is a wonderful life, Dad. 

Merry Christmas.


One of the loves of your life.


7 thoughts on “Even without you here: A letter to the first love of my life

  1. I lost my dad 2 years ago also. Sometimes I have so much I want to tell him and then I realize he probably already knows, looking down. Thanks for sharing

  2. Thanks for sharing, “a letter to your dad”, Kayla! Gerald was a very nice man who was blessed to have Kim, Kayla and Ashley as his family. Your dad is not forgotten by myself either, and will not be forgotten. I enjoyed having conversations with him. Your letter to your dad is touching and I know your dad appreciates hearing from you.

    I am happy that you and Jeff found each other and his daughter is a cute little girl. I know that ‘life’ is a learning process and we try to make good choices and sometimes we might even make a choice that isn’t best, but God forgives us and we continue on. Kayla, I wish you and Jeff and Ashley (and her man that is in the picture) along with your mom (Kim) a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year for 2017!

    I love you Kayla! uncle Larry and Allan Colvin in Benton City, WA.

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