Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Letter To My Father

I lost my Dad suddenly on June 11, 2011 due to complications from an infection.  As we approach the one year anniversary of his death, I find myself wishing, desperately, that I could talk to him.  I keep thinking:  a year ago today, he was alive and we were doing such-and-such.  I can't talk to him, but he is constantly on my mind. So I decided to write him a letter.  (And just so this post makes sense, my maiden name is Strong).


Hi, Dad.

I don't know that you can read blogs from heaven.  If I had my way, you could.

I miss you.  I took a walk yesterday - it was a stunning, clear blue-sky day -  and I passed through the cemetery in our town.  It made me think of another clear blue-sky day almost a year ago, when we walked through this same cemetery together, after the Memorial Day parade, pensive, reading gravestones.

Who would have thought that less than two weeks later you'd be gone?

We've had quite a year.

I'd like to believe that you know, somehow, what is going on in our lives.  Did you know I had cancer?  I think maybe you did, because I felt your presence. A lot.

Remember our family motto?  I think we stole it from the Kennedys, but that's no matter:   When the going gets tough, the tough get going? 

Well, Dad, we got going.  We did it. Together, we made it through. You would be so proud of Mom.  She was a graceful, gentle warrior, constantly by my side.  She was so strong.   We all were.  We got that from you.

I would think of you a lot when I had chemotherapy.  Hours just sitting, looking out the window at the view of Boston. I thought about how you beat cancer.  It gave me strength.

We're Strongs.  Damn straight.

Now we're on the other side of cancer, and life feels bright, shiny - almost surreal.   The other day Greta was talking to me earnestly about something, but I couldn't hear a word she said.  I couldn't take my eyes off the realness of her, how present she was, how beautiful.  I felt such a strong tug in my heart I almost cried.

That happens a lot these days.

Did you feel this way? When they gave you the "all clear"?   I wish I had asked you.  I wish I had asked you so much more about your own cancer journey.  I had no way of knowing I would be facing my own trial, in the not-so-distant future.

Sometimes, I find it hard to trust the diagnosis. Are they SURE?   Did that happen to you?

Mostly, though, I feel a gratitude so profound it almost hurts. It almost hurts to look at my life, at how blessed I am with my strong, healthy family, a roof over our heads and unbelievable friends.  How did we get so lucky?

I want to wrap my arms around everyone, pull them close, keep them safe and warm.

Finn crawled in my lap the other day, for no particular reason, and murmured:  I love you, Momma, you're so warm. 

I squeezed him tight, inhaled his salty boy-scent and told him I loved him, too.  Those words seem way too small for the love I feel, though.

I guess that's the gift surviving cancer gives you, if you let it.  The gift of lucky. The gift of blessed.  The gift of gratitude.  The gift of present.

I don't think too much about the future these days.  Partly, because I'm still a little scared.  I'm reeling from the one-two punch of losing you, then getting cancer.  It's hard to trust the quiet, but I'm trying.   I feel moments, now.  Individual moments that pass in the blink of an eye, but feel like they last so much longer to me.  Because I can taste them.  I can feel them.

It's so much easier this way.  Moment to moment. The bigger picture is just too much, you know?  And we have so little control over it.  For me, fear lives there, in the bigger picture.  So I'm staying here, in the moment, where it feels safe.

I love you.


P.S. - I keep listening to this song, because it sums up how I'm feeling better than I can.  Check it out, you'll like it: 


  1. tears. this was beautiful Ellie!

    and I'm pretty sure they can read blogs in heaven.

  2. What a powerful, powerful post, Ellie. Reading this sitting by my husband's bed as his first (what we are faithful will be curative!) dose of IL-2 drips into him, I can COMPLETELY understand the "moment-to-moment" feeling. It is bliss....and there is NO reason to look beyond...bask and dwell and appreciate and love fully, Smell in those salty smells. I promise to do the same.

    Mr. Strong raised a strong daughter. Peace to you, Sister.

  3. How wonderful to have had a father that you feel this close to even in his absence. You are truly a blessed and wonderful woman.

    Namaste Ellie - truly, Namaste.


  4. An emotional letter to your father, and I'm sure he appreciated every word. You have me tearing up! One thing seems apparent, he must be so proud of his girl who stayed strong. You are the Strongs - Love that.

  5. Not only can he read it, he was right there watching you WRITE it, and moreover, he felt you feeling every feeling when you were going through everything you write about. He helped you spread your wings, and flew under you until you found your own updrafts to float on. He cheers you on, Every Single Day. He laughs with you as you rediscover such joys in just the everyday realness of who you are, of who your loved ones are. That sense of his presence - is real. He's still making you and your loved ones Strong. Thank you for reminding me of that - my own dad still does similar things for me and mine, and it's been over 17 years since he passed. I have no doubt that yours will as well.

  6. I lost my dad to Alzheimers on September 7, 2011. He had this horrible disease for about 10 years. Even thought he didn't know any of us in the last few years, I still miss him. Stay Strong!

  7. I'm so relieved to see the past tense of your cancer that it's easy to forget the present tense of your grief and layers of losses.

    Love you Ellie Strong.

    He is so proud of you--of all of you. We all are.

  8. Is there a more perfect last name for you than Strong?! Your letter was beautiful, but I have to say that your maiden name struck me the most.

  9. That was beautiful. It made me cry in a good way, thinking about my own family and hoping they know I appreciate them as much as you do yours.

  10. "...I'm staying here, in the moment, where it feels safe."

    ---May it always be so!---

    Such a beautiful letter!

  11. Your beautiful spirit-shared with us- those that llove and care about each other-care about you Ellie.
    Oh, and yes!!! Kenny Chesney has brought tears to my eyes....... Life is good, and scary, and somewhere I found a card- "we do not remember days, we remember moments.." .....

  12. Gillian in WalesMay 11, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    I don't know what to say, but didn't want to leave such a poignant post unanswered. You were blessed to have such a Strong father, and so much of him is now in you. It must hurt so, so much that he is not around; but the only blessing is that he *was* there, and you had so many moments together. {{Hugs}}

  13. I write letters like this to a dear one who is not longer with me either. I find it to be helpful. It dulls the ache just a little bit.

  14. So moving. I'm so sorry for your loss.