To Dad, With Love

To Dad, With Love

Ever since I started blogging, I knew this day would come. The day I’d have to share heartbreaking news and somehow sum up a life well lived and a heart full of love in mere paragraphs. Now that it’s here, I know that’s impossible.

My lovely, fun, witty, handsome, generous, loving father passed away peacefully last Wednesday. And over the past couple weeks, I’ve been completely overwhelmed. By a lot of things, honestly, but mostly by love and thanks. For the time I spent learning from and laughing with him. For the memories that others have shared with me. For the friendship and support people have shown my brother and my mom. And the list goes on and on…

In honor of my dad, I wanted to share a letter I wrote him on his birthday a few years ago. (If you haven’t seen Father of the Bride—one of our family favorites—a) how are we friends?, and b) you may not get some of the references.)

Dear Dad,

Throughout my life, there have been many occasions for you to write me heartfelt letters. But somehow I’m pretty sure I’ve never returned the favor. Until now. On your birthday, I want you to know how much I respect, admire and love you.

To steal a couple lines from a favorite, “You fathers will understand. You have a little girl. An adorable little girl who looks up to you and adores you in ways you could never have imagined…she said I was her hero.” Well, Steve Martin goes on to talk about how things change. And though it’s true, life’s been filled with twists and turns, one thing hasn’t changed. I still look up to you—my hero—and adore you in ways you can never imagine. You’ve taught me how to love, to laugh and so much more. Here are just a few of life’s lessons I’ve learned thanks to you.

Lesson #1: Find humor in every situation. I don’t think many families spend nearly as much time laughing together as we do. Sure, there’s the obvious fun: vacations (with smoking seat belts, no less!), hootenannies, eating chocolate chip cookie dough, etc. But somehow you taught us to see the humor in the every day—even on not-so-funny days. A simple family dinner ends up being negative calories half the time because of how funny each and every story becomes. Tense moments are quickly diffused with a witty comment or inside joke. When I think of you, I can’t help but smile. And when I talk to you, I can’t help but laugh.

Lesson #2: Enjoy every meal as if it’s the best ever. Your positive attitude has been such a shining example of how to approach life. You always see the good in people and appreciate all that life has to offer.

Lesson #3: End each day with a beer and a chocolate chip cookie. You’re such a hard worker, but you also reward yourself. Whether you went for a 3-mile jog (and pushed my bike all the way up the steepest hills), played tennis for hours or drove half of California during the day, the night was time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. As were our yearly family vacations. That balance and respect for yourself is a very admirable trait.

Lesson #4: Don’t just listen to people, hear them. It’s no surprise friends flock to you. Not only are you charming, you truly care about other people and what they have to say. Because you listen and respond with your witty sense of humor and positive attitude, people can’t help but love you. You are a loyal, compassionate and true friend.

Lesson #5: You gotta believe. From religion to people to politics, you are a true believer in the things that are important to you. You have a pure, unwavering faith that can’t be defined in a word or limited by a church. Your quiet peacefulness in hard times shows that there’s a stronger force guiding you through life. You’ve also always believed in our family—as individuals and a whole. You’ve encouraged us to be our best and cheered us all along the way. You’re also true red, white and blue. A patriot and a believer in all that our country is and can be.

Lesson #6: Generosity is huge. You have a big heart and you’ve always done all you can to give us not only what we need, but what we want. You never ask us to get the ‘chipper chicken’—even when we probably should. You’ve shared all you have with us to show us the finer things in life.

Lesson #7: Family comes first. In the good times and the bad, you’re there to support and love family through it all. You have a wonderful sense of tradition that brings us together over and over. From the holiday tree lighting to monkey bread to grace at dinnertime, there are things I can always count on to feel like a part of something special. I often think about the collages you made for Grandmom to remind her of her blessings of love and family as she was passing. It was a beautiful example of how proud you are of the people you love and that family really is what matters most. I also think of the way you love and cherish Big. You’re as thrilled by every little thing that he does as I am, and you share in my joy. You make him as happy as you make me, and for that I thank you.

So what I’m saying is I pretty much have the greatest father on the planet. I love you and am blessed to call you my dad!



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  1. OpinionsToGo says:

    If I make any typos, it’s because of the tears streaming down my face…a lovely letter…a lovely tribute…to a pretty wonderful guy, your dad.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad. He sounds wonderful and your letter was a lovely way to pay tribute to him.

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss. He sounds like a wonderful person anyone would have been lucky to know. A beautiful tribute.

  4. Very touching and sweet letter. Makes me want to write a letter to my dad now!
    ps. Love Father of the Bride too!

  5. Jonathan Robbins says:

    Thanks – We see John’s good works in every one of your lessons. You offer such valuable insight.

    • Your friendship has meant the world to our family and we all truly appreciate all that you’ve done for my dad through the years. Thank you.

  6. I am so sorry for your loss. Your father must have been such a kind and positive person. Thinking of you.

  7. Beautiful post. Deepest sympathies to you and your family.

  8. Am sorry to hear about your loss Amy. This was such a touching post. Thanks. Wish you strength and courage.

  9. I am crying as I read your blog, Amy. It is impossible to think of your Dad w/out smiling. What an adorable guy!! Hugs to you. Jeanne

  10. Amy, I love the photo you posted along with your writing… Since I only knew you later in life, I’ve only seen those corresponding photos of your pops …. it’s really lovely to see him the way you remember him both through the picture and your letter… – thanks for sharing something so personal… xoxo

    • Yeah, it’s funny. This is totally how I picture him, but I know many people only met or got to really know him while he was sick. I think this picture was taken about 10 years ago, so that explains why I look a bit different too!

  11. What a beautiful tribute to your dad Amy. The love and bond you shared with him shines through every time you share something about him. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  12. No words, just tears. Beautiful letter, Amy. You are so lucky to have told him how you feel… he will keep those thoughts with him forever.

  13. Annie Kelly says:

    Amy, I am in tears but such joyful tears after reading this post. Your Dad was an amazing man and is so lucky to have you as a daughter. What a great letter you wrote to him. Sending you hugs and prayers.

  14. Amy, I’m so sorry for your loss. How wonderful that you gave him this letter. Hugs.

  15. I am so sorry for your loss, Amy. Your letter to your dad was beautiful and I love how you articulated those important messages to your dad. I am inspired to the same for mine. Love you!

  16. Beautiful tribute, Amy. Wonderful and inspiring. So glad you had such an amazing role model and father. Big hugs!

  17. Amy, I knew this post would bring tears to my eyes, both happy and sad. And you did not disappoint! What a beautiful writer you are! You put emotions and feelings into words that others (like me) only dream we could.

    As a daughter whose father is also her hero, and as a mother to a young daughter who is starting to feel the same way about her father, your letter was all the more touching. You and your family are in our thoughts every day, especially during this trying time.

    By the way, I love that photo of you and your dad! :)

  18. Amy Nelson says:

    Amy, this is beautiful.

  19. Amy, just beautiful. What a footprint your father made on you and so many others. I love you xoxo

  20. Amy, what a wonderful letter. I am sure it meant so much to him to see how much you love, appreciate and admire him. I really love this picture of you with your dad.

  21. I’m choked up over here reading your post. I’m very sorry to hear about your dad. I hope to see you soon. Big hug.

  22. i just reread this post – it’s so beautifully written and such a lovely tribute to your dad. i feel the same about my father and at 81, i know i’ll have to deal with this sooner rather than later. you are so lucky to have this kind of special relationship with him – i know the memories will be kept close for the rest of your life. thank you for sharing. xo

  23. Amy, you really amaze me. Your strength and and perspective are truly inspirational. I always remember how beautiful and kind you were in high school and it’s wonderful to know that you’ve grown into the wonderful person that you are. Warm thoughts to you are your family during this difficult time.

  24. They sure rock, those Dad’s, don’t they? What a lovely tribute. I so hope you’re finding grace these days, as much as possible.

  25. I’m sorry for your loss, Amy. I know how hard it is to lose a Dad. Your letter is a lovely tribute to his memory and one that you and your children will cherish forever. Sending hugs your way.

  26. Hi Amy – The tears flowed while reading your post. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I dread the day when we face the same thing.

  27. Harriett Morton says:

    Amy, I got to listen to your father’s laugh, see that smile and hear him comment on another good meal as I read your post. Yes, we will reuse these memories many times to keep him in our thoughts. Additionally, I thought of my own wonderful father and our treasured relationship as well as his traits that were similar or different. It is the “greatest father on the planet” that makes us peers.


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