Dearest Dad,

Where do I even start with this? There are so many words to say and so much emotion to capture that a starting point is simply out of reach. Yet here I am.

My life is nothing like I had imagined it would be. It’s different in so many ways, mostly of which I’m thankful for, but some ways that are absolutely terrifying. Through everything that’s happened in just the past year, you’ve been a safe place, a stronghold, a safety net, a supporter, a reprieve, a mighty, mighty force to be reckoned with. You’ve been on my team my entire life, but you took center stage for me this past year, and I couldn’t be more…gracious? Thankful? Indebted? Grateful? There’s honestly not even a word to describe my feelings for it. I’m all of those things and more. Much, much more.

Through everything, though, you’ve taught me a very important lesson, and it’s one I probably took for granted most of my life. It’s one that I didn’t think twice about most of the time but am now absolutely aware of in every way possible. You’ve taught me what it’s like to love. To love through the hard times, to love through the ups and down in life and in marriage, to love beyond your will some days, to love triumphantly and subtly, to love without bounds or limits. You’ve taught me that I deserve to be loved the way you love my mom. You’ve taught me that it’s out there, that it’s not something too far out of my reach. You’ve taught me to have hope for my future, which is something I never thought I’d have again.

You love through the hurt, through the pain, and through the tears. You love through the unknown and over the mountains that stand before you. Every single day, you make the choice to love. Although not easy some days, you do it anyway. You stand firm in your love and I am stronger for it. Maybe knowing it, maybe not, you teach me day in and day out what love looks like, what it feels like, what it goes through. The expectations, the unimaginable, it’s part of it all. Sometimes your love is shown through the lessons – those things that you want so badly for me to learn through your mistakes instead of making them again myself because you want better for me, for my brother and sister, for our futures. And sometimes, your love is shown through your hard work. Because work hard is what you do – always. You do it for yourself, for your wife, and for your family. None of us would be where we are today if it wasn’t for your hard work. You do it because you love. And I thank you. From the depths of my soul, thank you.

You lead by example, and I’m absolutely, 100% proud to call you my dad. You’re a lover and a fighter. You love your wife and your family unconditionally. And you fight for us. When my life was turned upside down and broken into a million tiny pieces, you fought for me. When I had no fight left in me, you fought for me. Even when I’ve made probably a million mistakes since that dreadful day, you continued to fight for me. You didn’t think any less of me and just loved me for me, mistakes and flaws and all. That’s a difficult task, but I’m so glad you do it. Day in and day out, I’m so glad to have such an amazing father and role model in my life.That’s not a normal in most people’s lives, and I know that. I also don’t take it for granted even for a single day. You better believe I am absolutely aware of how blessed I am and I’m thankful. Eternally, immensely, tremendously thankful!

Thank you for loving me and for showing me what love even is. Because, dad, I love you.