Dear A.J. and Ben,
Today is Father’s Day, 2013. A day set aside to celebrate dads of all ages. A day to sing “Faith of Our Fathers” at church. A day where kids scribble handmade cards to dads with lots of x’s and o’s. A day where hugs are a prerequisite. A day where a daddy might get to choose where he wants to eat. A day where dad is feted with gifts. A day that we no longer get to celebrate like we once did.
It sucks to be without your dad. I miss my dad, and I was lucky enough to have him for almost 41 years. Your daddy was taken away WAY too soon, leaving you at the tender ages of 9 and 8. I know how much I still miss my dad each and every day, and I cannot fathom the intensity of your feelings, without Mark Howell beside you, leading and guiding you in a way that only he could.
I loved your daddy with every fiber of my being, from the tip top of my head to the soles of my feet. He was pretty terrific. And while he loved me and the life we made together, just the two of us, I have never seen him happier than he was the days that you two made your appearances here on this earth.
A.J., whenever you were struggling to make an appearance (it was all I could do to get you out, even with a lot of help from the doctor!), your daddy was leaned up against the wall of the labor room, watching my progression. He was merely 5 feet or so away from me. I can see him just like it was yesterday–laughing and crying at the same time. He was experiencing a little bit of heaven, right here in Wichita Falls, watching his firstborn son make his entrance. And what an entrance you made! I think you screamed for two hours straight, wanting to make sure that you were heard. I think you were ready to get out of that dark cramped space inside of me, ready to shower us with your zest for life and your compassion.
Ben, your birth was so very totally different from your brother’s. We scheduled your birth, leisurely making our way to the hospital. Your big brother, 1 1/2 years old at the time, was still fast asleep in his crib at home, with the Kentucky grandparents keeping watch. A.J. had no idea that his world was going to be turned upside down from that day forward. The labor room was calm, serene, and you made your appearance “sunny side up”, eyes wide open as you slipped into our family. Whereas your brother arrived screaming (he was a bit under duress), you arrived calm, quiet, with those big brown eyes checking out everything in the room. The doctor laid you on my chest, and your daddy cut your cord. He smiled that big old Kansas smile, and welcomed you into the family. It seemed like we were there, just the three of us, for an eternity.
I long for your daddy to still be with us, but we all know that he can’t be. I’m doing the best I can to take up the slack, to be everything you need in both a dad and a mom. I know I can never replace him, but I was closer to him than anyone else in the world. I spent 25 years being his love, his best friend, his partner, and his wife. Thinking about what Dad would say to you today, if he could be here, I have composed this list, just for the two of you:
1. You are great boys, and I am so very proud to be your daddy.
Okay, that’s enough for today. I have some balloons to order and pick up. For today, you want to send messages to your sweet daddy up in heaven, carried on purple (is there any other color??) helium wings.
We know where your daddy is. We know that we will see him again someday. We also feel him close by on a regular basis.
Together, we can get through anything–as long as we have God and Daddy on our sides.
I love you, A.J. and Ben, more than anything in this world. So does your daddy.
all my love,