“I Did it Dad”: An Open Letter to My Dead Father About Accomplishing My Promise of Graduating

It devastates me to know you won’t be here to see me receive my degree after all the work you did to help me reach this point.

When my father passed away halfway through my sophomore year of college, I truly wasn’t sure I would ever be able to continue on to get my degree, not to mention even finish the semester that had just started. I am someone who barely graduated high school and entered college with a plethora of life questions and debilitating insecurities that made me question whether beginning college was something that someone of my anxious nature could even hope to accomplish. Throw watching a parent die into the mix and I wasn’t so sure I would ever be able to amount to much of anything.

We are brought up to think that our parents are the smartest people we know, but with my father I am so sure he was. Not necessarily in the way that he could solve organic chemistry equations or do trigonometry in his sleep, but in his philosophy on life and the spirit he embodied as a human being. He smiled to the grumpy cashier. He stopped and talked to the cab driver he met that one time. He radiated kindness and without so much as a second thought, always offered a helping hand. On the tour we took together of my university, he made jokes to the guys my age in the elevator, while at the time I stood there rolling my eyes at the fact that he would even speak to them. He asked whatever questions came to mind, without a care of what the others in our tour group may think of him. He loved unconditionally and every time he laughed you would laugh right along with him. He was a genuine person. Now, I may not have learned how to solve organic chemistry equations or do trigonometry during my time in college, but I like to think that I have learned how to smile at the grumpy cashier, to have the confidence and compassion to stop and talk to others, and to offer that helping hand without so much as a second thought just as my dad did.

I continued school that semester, always referring back to one of those last conversations we had. He was laying in his hospital bed, “Don’t let this be an excuse to not do well in school, okay?” “Okay Dad.” I finished that semester despite the couple of weeks I missed and my french professor requiring me to make up every single assignment. I finished that year despite losing half of the world as I knew it. I finished the next year despite the growing pain of his absence and the weight that came along with it. And I am finishing now as an entirely new person, that I am proud to be. I’m not graduating college with any more math skills than I had before, but I am graduating as a more confident, resilient, and kinder being. And that is what I know you would be proud of Dad.

To everyone graduating, congratulations, you did it. And to myself in the words that I think my father would tell me, “You did it Kiddo.”

“Just as promised Dad.”

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