Note from 2020: I’m sorry if you got this in your email this morning. I was republishing it on the anniversary of Dad’s death and evidently it emailed out even though I’m certain I turned that off. <insert frustrated sigh here>
I’m a daughter who today lost her Dad. The man who raised her alone in an era without the internet to answer his questions. Her Daddy, as she has always been (and will always be) a Daddy’s Girl. If you’re a Dad to a daughter, I’d like you to do something for me, if you don’t mind.
If your daughter is small, cuddle with her in bed tonight and let her tell you about her day. Be intrigued by her stories and probe for more details like you have heard nothing as amazing as her recounting her day. Or maybe just hold her in your lap while you tell her funny jokes. Tickle her until she giggles so hard she can’t breathe. Let her lay on your chest and listen to your heart while you wrap your arm around her and watch some TV. Do these things and know that someday she’ll pull those memories from the dark recesses of her mind because she probably will never feel as safe and secure as she does in your arms. The memories of that will bring her strength when the days are dark, as she imagines your strong arms protecting her.
If your daughter is a teenager, volunteer to take her shopping for her next big event. Do your best to get into it and let her try several things on to show you. Give her as much positive feedback as you can, even if you have no idea what you’re talking about. In the end she’ll make her own decision regardless of your input, but she’ll appreciate the effort you made. She’ll know how much patience it takes in the attempt to help her buy clothes and she’ll know it’s a gesture of nothing more than love. Someday she’ll remind herself of that when struggling to find common ground with her own teenagers. Remember, you can never tell her too often how pretty she is, and even if her teenage hormones cause her not to believe you. Just trust the sentiment will be one she holds dear for the rest of her life.
If your daughter is an adult, go get coffee with her. Ask her about her job and be sincerely impressed with her accomplishments. Sincerely impressed with her as an adult. If she has kids, be truly amazed by her parenting. You will probably never understand how much she values your approval, but know it is worth more to her than gold.
Do these things for me – a daughter whose Daddy did those things for her. And so, so much more. I could start today writing about the things that made my Dad the best father a girl could ask for, and I would not stop writing for years. And there would still be more to tell, more that I’ve forgotten over the years.
Hug your daughter today, for me. Because my Dad will never be able to hug me again.
I’ll miss you, Dad. Forever.
(Here’s the eulogy I ended up reading at my father’s funeral. It was one of the toughest things I ever did.)