Because of You, I Know I Can: A Letter to My Father 5 Years Later

Five years ago today, I lost one of the most important people in my life: my father. I’ve written before about how much of a Daddy’s girl I was and how much he meant to me. The grieving process has been difficult; yet, I take comfort in knowing that I had one of the best fathers a child could ever ask for.

In a world where 70% of Black children are born or raised within a single-parent home, I count myself tremendously blessed to have had the positive influences of both my mother and father growing up. There are so many reasons why I admire this man and still thrive from the fruits of his hard work and dedication,

If I could write a letter to a my father today, here’s how it would read:

A lot has happened within these last five years, and I know that even more will occur in the future. And even though you’re not here to physically witness these things, I can now say I know a few things for sure:

Though you couldn’t share my college graduations with me, I know for a fact that I couldn’t have finished my last year of undergrad (which was also the most difficult year of my life) without knowing that before you left this earth, I never questioned the fact you were proud of me. I remember you being so excited for my college graduation and telling everyone who would listen that your first-born daughter was going to follow in your footsteps to be a college grad, too. You showed me all the funny dance moves you were going to try to embarrass me with during that time of celebration and you encouraged me to keep going when difficult times arose. 

College Graduation
My College Graduation – Denison University, 2009
Dad - College Graduation - Oakland University, 1981
Dad’s College Graduation – Oakland University, 1981

After you left, I just knew I’d have to take at least a semester off and I questioned whether I would graduate on time because of your sudden departure. But, with my family’s encouragement and support, I came back to college ready to finish my last semester so that I could continue to make you proud. You even got a chance to wear my other alma mater’s t-shirt and cap I got for you before we even knew I was going…You were a Nittany Lion before I was!

My brother and Dad rocking Penn State gear before I was even a student!
Me, Mom, and Jonathan (my brother) at my Master’s graduation ceremony – Penn State, 2011

Though you’ll never meet the person who I will marry or walk me down the aisle, it’s your involvement, nurturing, and love that provided me the necessary tools to seek out healthy relationships. I say all the time that you were the first man I ever loved, and It’s because of you I can go forward and confidently choose a life partner who knows, understands, and cherishes me. Because you helped me identify my worth, first. My entire life, I witnessed you love, provide for, and respect my mother and your wife with all your might. I never doubted your devotion to her or to us as your children because you displayed it everyday. I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for what a healthy marriage should look like, all because you modeled it before me every day of my young life.

Daddy and I right before high school homecoming, 2002

Though you’ll never meet your future grandchildren, I know that when they do arrive on this earth, they’ll be my top priorities because that’s what we were in your life. Because of your influence, I understand how serious parenting is and how much of a joy it will be. We were your pride and joy and it’s because of you that my future children will know unconditional love, support and grow up in a healthy, nurturing environment.

Me as a baby :)

Though you’ll never see me reach great success, I know I will get there because you told me that that the sky was the limit. When I do get “there,” I know I would have gotten there because of the many lessons you taught me about hard work. You taught me that there’s no substitute for it and that any success will require a lot of it. I witnessed you work day in and day out, set goals for yourself, and accomplish those goals. And because I saw you realize your dreams, I know I can and will, too.

The family celebrating your promotion to lieutenant on the police force

Five years seems like a lifetime without you and this time without your physical presence has made me appreciate the meaningful memories we created for the first 21 years of my life.  Now as a young woman navigating a world of uncertainty, I realize just how much your presence and active involvement in my life set the stage for who and where I am today. I look forward to honoring your memory every day and in everything that I do.

I love you and miss you.

Love Always,

Your “Tootsie”

Charles E. Herring, Jr.
Sunrise: July 25, 1959 – Sunset: January 22, 2009

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