Hummingbird: A Letter to my Dad

Dear Dad,

I've started at least ninety letters to you, in the nine years you've been gone; each letter deeper and different than the last. Each letter never complete. I'm ready to finish this time, Dad. This is the one. With my words, I'd like to take you by the hand as we look out over the landscape of my thoughts and the layout of my life. I am speaking to you with an open heart, I hope you can hear me with an open soul, wherever you are...

Dad, when you died, I was certain I'd never forgive you for leaving me. I was certain you were angry with me, that I was bad, that you faked your own death just to get away from me. I was certain I wouldn't remember the way I used to look at you when I was a little girl. I was certain I'd never be able to forget how hard it was to be your Daughter the last 5 years of your life. How your deteriorating health and your broken spirit was too much for me and I didn't know what to do. I didn't recognize you. After you died, I was certain I'd close my eyes and only see your sad, lost, hopeless, lonely brown eyes. I tried not to think about you for a while.

Dad, I now realize none of those certainties could possibly be true, because even and especially in your absence, you take such good care of me. You keep giving me the freedom and the room and the time and the resources and the compassion and the courage and the love to become who I am meant to be. My life has looked like anything but the single, straight, direct line of purpose I thought it ought to be.

Dad, you've given me the most wild opportunity to become a Hummingbird; free to move from tree to tree, flower to flower, field to field, trying this, trying that. I bring an idea from here to over there, where I learn something else, leave it in the night and take to something different. I am an acrobatic flyer, Dad. I can go backwards and upside down and I can change direction. I've created an incredibly rich and complex Hummingbird existence for myself, Dad. You'd be so proud.

Dad, my Hummingbird tattoo reminds me of some things- it reminds me that sometimes dying is the answer; sometimes people have to leave, to make space for something else that otherwise wouldn't be there. Sometimes death brings us back to life, grief paves the way to joy, pain helps us know comfort when we see it, fear helps us know love when we feel it. This hummingbird tattoo, much like my grief, was the most beautiful, uncomfortable, and worrisome open wound I could imagine. Over time, it has healed. Daddy, I have healed. 

Dad, my Hummingbird helps me remember you; your small, soft hands with the scar on your palm from when you were ten and foolish. The hands that used to gently brush and blow dry my hair when I was little. The hands that held the giant, whiny video camera in the front row of every talent show. And the hands that held up a box of tampons in the store and shouted, "Price Check!" and I'd hide my face with my hands and want to die.

My tattoo helps me remember the sound of your voice; the voice that told me wild and made-up stories of far away places, (like Woodstock). The voice that taught me about the laws of buoyancy, the voice that did an amazing "Ursula", when we'd reenact The Little Mermaid in under 30 seconds. Don't pretend you don't remember.

My Hummingbird reminds me of that time you picked my up from school and I was crying and I said I have no friends and you sat next to me on the wooden, splintered bench and you looked at my eyes and you said, I your friend.

 My tattoo makes me remember how wonderful but scary and dangerous it is to be the absolute and the one and only in someone's life, like I was for you.

Dad, this Hummingbird lets me forgive you, for all the times you were frustrated and impatient and unkind and the times you harshly tested my love for you and the times you made me doubt your love for me.

Mostly, Dad, my Hummingbird makes me promise that

where I am selfish, I'm gonna be giving.

And where I am fearful, I'm gonna be brave.

And where I am wrong, I'm gonna be right.

And where I am dark, I'm gonna be light.

When I look at my arm, I can know that

yesterday I was weak, and today I'm gonna be strong. 

Yesterday I was weak, and today I'm gonna be strong. 

Yesterday I was weak, and today I'm gonna be strong.

Lastly, my beautiful, colorful, incredibly permanent, watercolor Hummingbird tattoo urges me to be in relationship with the ages, in honor of my ancestors and in service to my descendants.

Dad. Thank you. Thank you for giving me the most beautiful wings to become the Hummingbird I am meant to be. Thank you for leaving me in physical ways and for staying in soulful ones. I love you and I feel you and I honor you more and more, every day.

All my love, for all my life, with my whole heart, forever and ever and ever...