Dear Dad, Letter on a Friday Morning

a letter about the liberating power of unconditional love

A note: This post frankly talks about death.

This autumn my dad asked me to start a project with him. I suggested we write letters to each other based on how he used to write me cards as a kid. We’ve sent a few back and forth. It’s been beautifully healing.

We’ve both agreed to share them publicly. We feel it may bring some insight for others.

This is letter was written before 6am PST on December 11, 2020.

More? Who knows?


Dear Dad: 

I woke up crying today. I want as many days with you as possible, and I know that simply isn't possible. I am going to miss you terribly. But I cannot get lost in fears of future moments or guilt over not being by your side. There is still life being lived, even if it's not the one we imagined. (It rarely ever is.) There are still moments of beauty and love and grace and comfort.  

We may not share the same practice or rituals, but we still share the same faith. I still turn to something "greater" or something "beyond" when I feel untethered to this earth and adrift within the cosmos. This morning I am adrift. Everything feels so far away. You feel so far away. 

I want you to know how much I love and cherish you. You have taught me so much about love and what it means to love unconditionally. I can love freely because I know I am loved by you. And I will always be loved by you. This is the kind of love that liberates. This is the kind of love I desire everyone to feel / experience / be. 

I made an altar to help connect me to bone and metal and earth and fire and wind and water. These elements remind me of the material within the cosmos and help me be more centered within my physical body. I, too, have my well worn copy of the Tao Te Ching, the sacred text I turn to when untethered and adrift, and a few oracles I consult if questions that may need additional insight emerge. A moment ago, I stood outside staring at Sirius knowing that it was shining brightly on you too. I am listening to music because music is the thing that keeps my emotions closest to the surface and I need them close to heal. And John is here by my side keeping me company in these dark pre-dawn hours. 

Here's a few photos that show my view right now.

Image description: A photo of my altar as described above.

Image description: A photo of me holding open the Tao Te Ching, translation by Stephen Mitchell.

Passage 32
The Tao can't be perceived.
Smaller than electron,
it contains uncountable galaxies.

If powerful men and women
could remain centered in the Tao,
all things would be in harmony.
The world would become a paradise.
All people would be at peace,
and the law would be written in their hearts.

When you have names and forms,
know they are provisional.
Where you have institutions,
know where their functions should end.
Knowing when to stop,
you can avoid any danger.

All things end in the Tao
as the river flows into the sea.

Passage 33
Knowing others is intelligence:
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength:
mastering yourself is true power.

If you realize you have enough,
you are rich.
If you stay in the center
and embrace death with all your whole heart,
you will endure forever.

Image description: A photo of Sirius.

Image description: A photo of John and me.

This morning I remembered how you shared Shawn Phillips with me as a kid. You had one or two of his records, I believe, and you told me how you liked his voice and lyrics. I don't have any Shawn Phillips in my music catalog, so I went to YouTube to find some of his music in hopes to be closer to you. One of the first songs I listened to was "For the Lost and Lonely" from his album Infinity released in 2014. I don't know if you've kept up with his music or not, but this song seems incredibly prescient.

Here are the lyrics:

In the night for the lost and lonely
They will find that love’s the only way for the light
To shine so bright for them
They will find it comes along
And it's always strong
You don't have to look, or read a book
It comes to you when you are through
With the fight
It never fails to amaze me so
How the courage comes when the hard times grow
We find a way to always say, we'll make it now
We keep on truckin'
Now you find, it was in your mind
The doubt you feel 'bout what is real
You know at once, you have to trust yourself
Now the love's in a hard cocoon
Blows away with the wind, and it bursts in bloom
The open heart, will do it's part, untold
It senses others
Long or brief, it's like a thief
It steals the soul, and makes it whole
And leaves in its place, a filled up space
In the night
In the night for the lost and lonely
They will find that love’s the only way for the light
To shine so bright for them
They will find it comes along
And it's always strong
You don't have to look, or read a book
It comes to you when you are through
With the fight

You've had an incredibly long fight with cancer, and this fight is coming to a close. So in this night for the lost and lonely, I want you to know just how much you are loved. Not just by me. Not just by our family. Not just by your extended community. But how much you are loved in this whole wide world.

Our letter writing project is a testament to your love. It stands beyond time and space and will forever live as your love will forever live, freely and unconditionally.

I love you, dad. I will always love you.

Your proud son,
Jason