Someone Saved my Life Tonight
a letter from my Dad to me...
…hypnotized, sweet freedom whispered in my ear, ‘you’re a butterfly’… -Elton John
It reminded me of that episode of Seinfeld, the way the sheets and the quilt were tucked so tightly under the mattress, I wondered if they were painted on. I thought about calling you back to laugh about it, but I wasn’t certain you’d find it funny since we hadn’t laughed much together in a long time. Also, I figured you were already asleep; asleep in the twin-size bed you’d had since you were three. The bed I wanted to keep you in, because in some way, that small mattress promised you’d never be old enough to leave me.
Nevertheless, I was so happy to hear your voice an hour ago.
After using all my strength to loosen the hotel sheets, I slipped into bed, out of breath and feeling…different, gone; as though, I wasn’t going to be coming home from my work trip tomorrow; as though I’d never hug you again.
I’d heard about this, mostly from movies and a Simon & Garfunkel song or two, how your life will flash before your eyes the moment before you die; like everything suddenly makes sense and, miraculously, you don’t feel any regrets.
But no, my life did not suddenly make sense, nor did it flash before my eyes;
Come, my beautiful Erica, let me show you what I saw…
First, I saw those full cheeks, that soft, chubby little arm and those big sparkling brown eyes reaching for my tie, then my face, then my hair. Your tiny fingernails nearly scratched my eyeballs out and I loved every minute of it.
I saw your strawberry blonde curls bouncing in the wind when I took you to that park on top of that hill when you were four, and how much joy it brought me to comb and blow-dry your hair at night; de-tangling every section, brushing every strand, so careful not to hurt you.
I saw how hard you worked to make me happy; your smiles and giggles just glittery pleas for my patience and my unconditional love; please let this moment be enough for you, Daddy. I can be enough for you. I will love you enough for everyone else.
I saw it - the sheer pain and utter heartbreak in your eyes when I did that heartless thing when you were seven and made that huge mistake when you were eleven, and angrily humiliated you when you were thirteen, shamed you at fourteen, said that horrible thing when you were fifteen, and that other, equally as horrible thing to you when you were eighteen.
I saw that the things I didn’t want for you, were the very things I needed from you;
I needed you to feel small and afraid to leave me.
I needed you to depend on me.
I needed you to feel you earned my love when you made decisions in my favor
and feel you lost my love when you didn’t.
You were my whole world, my everything, and it was suffocating you.
I saw all of this in those last seconds and it made me so sad, until light came pouring into the corner of my eyes- I saw your life without me and oh, that life, sweet Erica, I knew you had to have that one…
Yes, I saw how empty you’d feel without me for a time, only to discover that you were now more free than ever.
I saw how eventually this pain would transform and morph into your most prized, generous, over the top gift to the world.
I heard pings bouncing off cell towers, electrifying your phone, voices on the other end that “just called to say I love you. I’m thinking of you. I’m so sorry for your loss. You don’t have to call back, but just know I am here”.
I heard your unstoppable laughter at dinner with your cousins after my funeral. Like all the certainty of who you are, your trapped magic came bursting out for the first time, shaking windows and rattling walls. That laugh was only the beginning.
In my vision, there were friends who’d dance with you, and sit with you, even lay on top of you like a shield in those extraordinarily dark times when you were certain you’d never stop crying.
I saw that in years to come, you’d be willing to hold fast to what you know about my soul, and soften your fist around what you knew about me, not because I needed a second chance, but because you needed a first one; you’d one day understand, this was all for you.
Erica, I saw a life for you that provided deep oceans of support and expansive skies of opportunity.
I saw a life for you, filled with blessings that were not based on merit or what you could give others in exchange for their love.
I saw a life for you that was so much bigger than the favors you could do for someone, bigger than the fear of not doing honorable work, bigger than what keeps you up at night, bigger than any doubt you could have, any insecurity you could ever struggle with, and yes, bigger than your relationship with food.
I could hear chimes of freedom for you, Erica. The kind of freedom I could never grant you because my own enslavement spilled too far out of my own cup. I was in too much pain.
So, yes, your life- your sweet, courageous and most excellent life flashed before my eyes as my heart pedaled and pounded faster, and faster, racing to the finish line and if there was one thing I needed you to know from me, it is this: while I do not own you, you will always belong to me, and to your mother, and to God, and to the benevolence of this world.
And you know something, my most treasured, loved and reverent daughter…
you were worth dying for.
All my love,