To My Babies… The Hardest Letter I will ever write to you

For My Babies, Love

Out of all the things I’ve wanted to say to you during your little lives, this was a letter I never thought I would write to you, nor would I ever, ever want to. Our family is going through such a hard time now. Your father, who we all loved so deeply, died in a motorcycle accident at the young age of 45. I never, ever wanted you (or anyone, for that matter) to experience such tragedy. Most days I still can’t comprehend the idea that he is no longer living with us. How such a beautiful light could just go out so quickly is beyond my comprehension. And his poor, sweet children. Rowan is 3 (going on 16), Dylan is 6, Sebastian is 12, Sarah is 15, and Justin is 26. He loved you all so much. The love that I shared with your father was passionate, deep, strong, and sometimes crazy. But we were most beautiful when we were all together as a family. We truly made such a beautiful family.

I love him and miss him so much. I cry so many times just at the thought of not ever being able to hold him, talk to him, laugh with him, kiss him, and go through with all the crazy plans we had for life with him. But it is really all of his kids that my heart breaks for most. There are so many things that make the situation so tragic. From the idea of my love being injured and hurt so bad that his life was lost in the blink of an eye, to the fact of someone so charismatic, funny, talented, charming, and hard-working no longer living amongst us. To how many people loved him and are truly devastated by this loss. But the worst is for his beautiful children who lost their beautiful father. My heart breaks the most for all of you.

Dylan and Rowan, I know you both hurt so bad over this, and yet, you are so young that I can’t imagine that you really understand what’s going on. I hate the fact that you only had him in your life for such a short time. Dylan, you have always been a happy child. You are just as playfully mischievous as your father. But I know you are hurting right now. You don’t talk about it much. You talk about Daddy in good ways. You’ll talk about random stories about him, but you don’t talk about your pain or even how much you miss him. I’m pretty sure your strong little heart is just trying to be brave and keep going. Rowan, I know you don’t really understand at 3 years old what has happened. You just know that Daddy’s not here and you miss him. You tell me so many times a day how you want Daddy. It breaks my heart that I can’t give him to you. I found one of his t-shirts the other day that he wore frequently. It hadn’t been washed, and it still smelt like him. I rubbed my face in it and clung to it. A while later that day, you were upset about something, and I remembered the t-shirt. I gave it to you and told you to smell it. You stuck your face in it, and all the sudden you lit up. “Daddy’s shirt!” you exclaimed. It made you feel so good, just to smell his scent and hold that old cotton t-shirt. You carried the shirt around for days. I finally put it up, in the hopes it might hold on to his scent a little while longer so that I could give it to you when you start to get sad and missing him.

We were in the car today; Dylan, Rowan, and I. Rowan, you had just gotten an Elsa doll that sings “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. As you were sitting in the backseat singing along, I had a sudden memory of your dad singing that song with you. He was really the one that got you singing it in the first place, when you were only like 2 years old. You would start to sing it, and then your dad would start singing along with you, loud and proud. You loved it. He used to sing it with you all the time. We all did. But your dad was the one that really started it. As the memory hit me while we were driving in the car, I started to get a little emotional. I turned and asked you, Dylan, if you remembered Daddy always singing that song with Rowan. You smiled sheepishly and sweetly and said yes, and I could tell you really did remember, too. I asked you how you were doing. “I’m good”, you replied, as is a pretty normal response for you. I asked you if you miss Daddy. You said yes. I was thinking how I don’t ever really see you get visibly upset about losing daddy. I see you get upset, much more frequently than normal. I know you miss daddy, but you just don’t normally say that you miss daddy and it hurts. As I was asking you if you missed him and starting to tear up myself, I think you must have known my thoughts because  you simply said “My heart is crying.” It was the most honest, poetic, adult thing I’ve ever heard you say. I know your heart is crying, baby. And I am so sorry that all of you are having to go through this.

I love you. I love you all so much. And your Daddy does, too. He is watching over us, with a soul that is at peace, loving us, wanting us to be happy. But it still hurts so much. I pray for strength to be a good mama to you throughout all of your lives. I want you to know how many people have loved and supported us through this awful time. I want you to know that there is still so much beauty in the world and that we can still have beautiful lives, no matter the pain we feel from not being able to physically live it and share it with him. I want you to know that his beauty and everything about him still lives on in all of you and in every life that he touched, which was so many. And I pray that I may let him live on through me, all of his quirkiness and love of life, so that you can still grow up with that piece of him in your life.

I love you all so much. Out of all the amazing and beautiful things your dad did in life, the most precious are the beautiful children that he gave us. I am grateful for you that are mine by birth, and for my stepkids (who already have beautiful mamas that love them). You are all wonderful gifts to us from your father.

I love you always and forever.

To the moon and back. That’s what your dad always said.

Sincerely,

Your Mama

 

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Happy Birthday to The Best Dad Ever

Love
Today is my father’s 70th birthday. It will be six years in March since he passed away. Anyone who knows me well at all, probably already knows this. Just as his living had the most grand effect on my life, his death has changed both me and my life as well. I know that it’s easy to make a person you love a saint in your mind after their death, to only remember the good things and make their effect on your life greater than it actually was. This is not the case with my father. My life would have been much different without him in it, and I can’t imagine that it would have been in a good way. He was a man of such quiet and deep kindness, generosity, and honesty. He was the most dependable person I have ever known. If my dad said it, he meant it, and you could count on it. He was also not a person to make grandiose promises or say things he didn’t mean just to make you feel better. While at times, this characteristic may have made him seem unemotional, it was this silent, unending honesty that was one the most beautiful things about him. And he loved his children with that same deep, honest love. Like a mountain, he was strong and unmoving, and yet dynamic and nurturing. And he was a breathtakingly beautiful constant in my life for 28 years.
For anyone who has lost someone you love dearly, I am so sorry for your loss. If love is what makes life worth living, then losing those you love must be what can make you fall apart. I’m sure that I emotionally and mentally fell apart after losing dad, but looking back, I’m really kind of proud of my strength. I didn’t see it then, but now I do. I endured, maybe unhappily and maybe in tears. But I’m still living. I’m happy today. I have two beautiful children to whom I try my best to be a kind, patient, loving, guiding, responsible parent. But even on the days when I feel I’ve failed at this, I remember my dad’s kind words when referring to the difficulty of being a parent. “You do the best you can with what you have.” I had no children at the time. These weren’t comforting words of advice that he was giving me. It was merely him trying to explain to me that no one is perfect, and that the best we have is all that we can give. And he was right. We all have our own problems and background. Having a child doesn’t take all that away. It gives you a new, beautiful love with a whole lot of responsibilities that go along with it.
Those words from years ago have helped me through many a day of feeling like a lesser parent than I would like to be, and given me the hope and strength to continue to do my best. In a lot of ways, I believe it’s my stepchildren who get the best of my dad’s kindness when it comes to being a parent. He was always so good to all my brothers and sisters, but two of them weren’t even his children. Still, he was there for them in life as much as he could be. He would have given either one of them anything they needed, well after the time that he and my mother were divorced. I believe he did this because he cared for them, and he knew it was the right thing to do. But I also believe he did it because he knew that they were my brother and sister, and he wanted to treat them as so. This is how I feel about my stepkids. I love them for who they are, and I take care of them as a parent should because it is my responsibility to do so when they are with me. But I also know that they are my own children’s siblings, and as that I shall forever treat them as my own children when given the chance.
Not only does my father continue to effect my outlook on life and my attitude as a parent everyday, he also had a great part to play in my career. He is the main reason I made it through college. I became a nurse mostly because of him. He didn’t pick my career for me, but his want for me to find a path and stick to it encouraged me to do just that. I already loved science, biology, psychology. I also wanted a job that helped people and filled a need in the world. Nursing and the medical field in general seemed a logical way to fill both my needs in a job and his wants for me to have a dependable career.  Being a nurse is not necessarily an easy job, though, and nursing school is even harder. There were many times during college that I probably would have given up had it not been for his support and my want to make him proud. And he was proud of me when I graduated. And I was proud of myself. It may not be a major feat to some, but that accomplishment made me believe in myself and know that with hard work and perseverance I can accomplish anything. That feeling has never left me.
It has been said that everything happens for a reason. I think I kind of look at it in reverse. I don’t know that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. To me that would imply that every bad thing in the world had to happen for some good purpose. I find that a little hard to swallow. I do believe that we can choose to make the best of, find the good in, and learn from every experience, so that the bad things that do happen in life do not have to occur without purpose. That may be simply learning to be compassionate towards others because you know the pain you experienced in your own life.
The good things that have happened in my life because of losing Dad have been hard to find. He was such a wonderful person to have in the world, I find it hard to see any good that can come from him no longer being here for me to call when I need a few words of loving encouragement. Still, there have been some positives. Mainly the fact that because I don’t have him around to give me strength when I need it, I’ve had to look elsewhere for that. I’ve realized that most of the time, I can find it inside myself. I’m stronger than I thought I was. The world didn’t end when he died. There is still much beauty and love in it. And even though my father was not a real “religious” man, the physical loss of him has helped me spiritually. I still see him everywhere. Not literally, of course. But I see him in my oldest brother, with his kindness, ease of grace, and his pride in his son. I see him in my sister with her love for her children and passion for the outdoors. I see him in myself when I am patient and kind with my own babies and stepchildren. I see him so much that sometimes it feels as if I am looking at the world through his eyes. And maybe I am. Maybe that’s the best gift he ever gave to us. The ability to see the world with patience and understanding. I’m not perfect. Neither was my father. But he was a damn good dad. And I am grateful.
For anyone who is hurting over losing someone or hurting over some hard time in your life, I want you to know this: It does get better. Life is hard. There are times when your heart will break. Let it. Let it break, and then let it mend. Let it heal. Let others continue to love you and help you. And when you have regained your strength, reflect on your pain with compassion. Soften your hardened heart. Find what good remains in your life. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, if we will only be patient and look for it.
My dad’s birthday used to be the hardest day for me. Harder than Christmas or any other major holiday. I guess because it was the one day when I would always be sure to talk to him or do something for him. From the time when I was 8 and baked him an awful cake and wrapped up an old landscape portrait of a wooded lane for a gift, to taking him out for Mexican food (even though he probably wouldn’t let me pay), to coming over to the house and cooking a four course meal for him after he had spent the day at the golf course. It’s the one day of the year I atleast always talked to him, if not did something kind for him.
The first few years after he died, his birthday was unexpectedly hard. I’d find myself at work just suddenly crying and depressed. The past couple of years have gotten better, though. I still think about him and celebrate him, but I do it with love and fond memories. There may still be tears occasionally, but they are normally tears of gratitude and tenderness. I’ve decided to treat the day as it should be: a holiday. A day to celebrate the birth of a kind, beautiful, strong person and all he did and represented in my world.
So, Happy “Jim Highfill Day” to everyone! Hug your children. Call your parents. Go out and eat Mexican food and then lay on the couch watching old Star Trek movies with your family. Play a game of golf. Be kind, generous, and honest. Do a crossword puzzle at your own leisurely pace. Be patient with yourself and with others. Enjoy this beautiful day. And do the best you can with what you have been given.

To Dylan and Rowan

For My Babies, writing

Someday, maybe you will both read this.  If and when you do, I hope this letter finds you both happy and healthy.  There are no words that can completely explain what it is that I feel for the two of you, everything you mean to me, and all the ways you have changed my life and me as a person.  But I shall try.

When I first found out I was pregnant with Dylan, I was in shock. I literally took four, maybe five, pregnancy tests.  They all came up positive, and I was still in disbelief.  At one point, your dad and I went to the drug store and I took one test (the third, I believe) in the bathroom at the store.  Back in the car, I read the results to your dad.  It was positive, of course.  I tossed the stick in the backseat and told your dad to go get me another one.  My shock remained through most of my pregnancy.  I remember at one point my mother telling me I was the most in denial pregnant girl she’d ever met.  I was about 6 months prego at the time.  It’s really not crazy, though, that I was so surprised. Your dad had already had a vasectomy… that apparently didn’t take.  I was 29 years old, had been previously married for a short time, had not been on birth control in years, and had still never gotten pregnant.  With all the “Fertile Myrtles” in our family, I was beginning to think I couldn’t have kids.  But, no, I was just destined to have you beautiful babies with your beautiful father.

The time when which Dylan was conceived and born was also the hardest time of my life to date.  My father had died of a sudden heart attack less than six months prior to me finding out I was pregnant.  Your grandpa was a kind, dependable, strong, trustworthy, honest, hard working man who loved his children and grandchildren very much.  Probably the biggest heart ache of my life thus far is knowing that my sweet babies were deprived of having such a wonderful person in your lives.

Someday, you will hopefully know the joy and sacrifice of having children.  It’s not easy.  It  is constant work to take care of someone else to the best of your ability, worried always that you’re doing something wrong and are somehow going to decrease the chances of the ones you love growing up to lead healthy, happy, and functioning lives.  These are the things I worry about, at least.

You both changed me in so many ways. Because of you, I want to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.  I want to be a role model and example for you, and I want to take better care of myself so that I can take better care of you.  I mean this in every aspect: physically, spiritually, financially, and so on.  I want to make sure you know that you can follow your dreams and make your life whatever you want.  And I want to be the living example of this that you can look to and be proud of.  In all these ways, your sweet, innocent beauty inspires me to be the best that I can be.  You have given me a worthy reason to love and live life to the fullest: my love for you and my want for YOUR LIVES to be full of love and fulfillment.

This is my endeavor, but I am far from perfect, as you know better than anyone.  I apologize now for any way that I have or will fail you. I can promise you to do my best, and that is really all that I am capable of. I will try to be creative in the ways that I show you that you can live this life and find much joy and happiness.  I will do my best to exemplify for you healthy habits and healthy living so that it may be an integral part of who you are. But I am not perfect. And I do not expect you to be, either.  What I do hope for is that you take responsibility for yourself someday, both for your achievements and your mistakes. No one is perfect.  It does not matter how many mistakes you make in life, I promise you that I will always love you.  So will God, so will the Universe, so will many others around you.  Everyone makes bad decisions. Everyone messes up. Know that I believe in you, no matter what.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 3:23

The key to making mistakes is to admit it, learn from it, make it right as best you can, ask for forgiveness if this is appropriate, FORGIVE YOURSELF, and then move on.  If you can do these things, no mistake is in vain for it was, if nothing else, a learning experience. I hope to raise you well enough to make you strong in character so that you will know to avoid making those kinds of  bad choices that are hard to come back from.  But, even if you do make some awful mistake or if the world seems to fall apart, keep trying, believing in yourself, do not give up on yourself or the world around you, and you will succeed.  I promise. You can be happy. You are loved.

  “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”― Paulo CoelhoAlchemist

I love you. I want you to know how much love there is in the world. Even if you ever get to a point when it feels like you have nothing, you have lost everything, or the ones you love have all forsaken you, I want you to know that this is not true. There is always someone who is willing to show you kindness and love. There are always people who are worthy of your trust. There is beauty all around you, though there may be times in your life when you have to look hard to find it. But do look for it. For this is what will help save your soul and bring you happiness: believing in and having the ability to see the love and beauty around you

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

                                      ~Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata

 

 

I get to see your beautiful smiles everyday.  They are infectious and bring joy to many.  I see the beauty in your hearts.  I see the brightness of your souls.  Even as children, you are smart, sweet, kind, and strong. I am so grateful for you.

I write you this letter for many reasons.  One being because tomorrow is never guaranteed and God forbid it happen that I am not around to tell you all this someday when you are old enough to understand it. I will do my best to take care of myself to help ensure that I am here for you for a long, long time. The main reason I write you this, though, is merely because I love you so much. You make my heart want to sing. You inspire poetry in my soul.  And I want you to have these words to read whenever you may need them.  They are true.  I want you to know how beautiful you are, how beautiful the world around you can be, and that you can be happy. That is what I want for you more than anything; for you to be happy, and I hope that you will try to spread that love and joy to those around you.  I will love you forever. I will be with you always.

There is so much more that I have to say to you, but I will save it for another letter. Hugs and kisses to you, my luvs.

Your Mama and Biggest Fan,

Sandra Lea Highfill