top of page

A letter to my Dad, on what would be his 65th birthday


Happy Birthday! It is hard to believe that if you were still alive, today you would be sixty-five. It's official, you would be an old man! Dad, there are days that is seems like you have been gone for a hundred years, while other times it seems like I was with you yesterday. Nothing would make me happier than to celebrate with you today, eating some of Granny Dyer’s chocolate cake (Mom makes a pretty close replica, but as you liked to remind her, “There’s just a little something missing”). You will be happy to know that we still make that cake for each birthday that is celebrated in our little family. The girls love that fudgy part in the center.

I can’t tell you how much I wish you were here to see my girls. Oh, dad you would love them so much. They are full of life and energy and joy. They are confident and they speak their minds, which would make you happy. But they would certainly tell you about your Santa Claus belly, which would definitely NOT make you happy. Either way, you would love them. It breaks my heart that you aren’t here for them to know you.

Sixteen birthdays have come and gone, and each one of them I think about the ways you have shaped me into the man that I have become. So, I wanted to take a moment on this day to say “Thank You”.

Every time you left the house, you told me, “I love you.” I never thought much about it when you were alive, but now I realize how special those words are to a person. We run at such a rapid pace and far too often we don’t take the time to tell others that we care about them, that we see them, that we love them. You taught me the importance of letting people know about love. We need those three words in our world, now more than ever. Thank you.

Shakespeare famously wrote, “To thine own self be true.” (Yes, dad, I just quoted Shakespeare. If you were here, you would definitely give me grief about it). Well, for better or for worse, you embodied those words. No matter the circumstance and no matter the company, I could always trust that you were going to be genuinely and authentically “you”. No matter who was around, I could be fairly certain that conversations would consist of multiple profanities and more than one off color joke. Some of them made me laugh, but really, more of them make me cringe. I didn’t appropriately appreciate your authenticity when I was a kid, but I sure do try and live that way now. Sara would say, probably to a fault. We live in a world where far too many people aren’t comfortable in their own skin. There are too many conversations when I walk away wondering why people try so hard to put on a show. It has to be exhausting. You taught me that being me was always enough. Thank you.

Dad, you always tried to see the best in people. You certainly weren’t perfect in this regard, but I think you tried your hardest. You certainly tried to teach me to do the same. Dad, I am struggling with this one right now. There is a lot going on in our country that makes it difficult to believe in the good that lives inside of us. The news is heart wrenching. This month alone, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor were brutally murdered just because they were black. For God’s sake dad, Christian Cooper couldn’t even go bird watching in Central Park without having the police called, all because he was black. It makes it hard to see the best in people when black brothers and sisters are killed just because of the color of their skin.

I live in a context where senseless acts of violence are met with the response, “Let’s pray for them”. But I know you, dad, and I know that would make your skin crawl. Well, it makes mine crawl as well. You taught me that talk is cheap. If you had been the praying sort, I think you would have added that prayer is cheap, especially when you don’t intend to follow it up with some sort of action. I am struggling with this one dad. I wish you were here to talk about it. I know there are millions, billions, of good people in the world. What you taught me is true, but there are definitely days where I struggle.

You taught me to be firm in my convictions and to believe in the truth. If I heard you say it once, I heard you say it a thousand times, “The truth will stand when the world is on fire!” I am pretty sure you got that one from Papa Dyer. Dad, I am afraid you would be a little disappointed on this one. I worry that we are living in a world of “post-truth”. Our national leaders habitually speak half-truths and too many people don’t seem to care.... You know what, let’s not talk about politics. I have the strange feeling that you and I might just have to agree to disagree on that one. Either way, you taught me to believe that there is truth in this world. The truth needs to be told, because it’s there and it is real. I do my best to follow your advice on that one. Thank you.

You died when I was twenty-one. I never really got to know you as anything other than a Dad. I wish I could have known you as an adult, as a friend. I have tried to embody the best of what you taught me, because there was quite a lot. But I also have left behind some of the heavy baggage you carried for all your life. That’s a really good thing, dad. Sometimes, I wonder what you think about the fact that I am preacher. I know it would surprise you. It still surprises me, too. I hope that you would be proud of the man that I have become.

I could go on and on about all the things you taught me (I am sure you would enjoy every second of it). But really, I just wanted to say “Thank You” and Happy Birthday. I love you. I miss you.

Your son,


bottom of page