When I was a senior in high school, my dad prepared for my departure to college. You see, I had two older brothers who had moved out of the house a couple years before me, and I would be the last one to leave the nest. I was undoubtedly the most unruly of the three and probably caused my parents the most heartbreak of us all. But I was Dad’s baby girl, and that fact alone guaranteed me unlimited forgiveness, protection and love. I laugh when I think about the times when I would break a rule and my Dad would take me to the side to discipline me and whisper, “Now pretend like you’re upset so your brothers think that you’re in trouble.”
We were a team. So when it came time for me to leave for college six hours away from home, my dad spent weeks composing a letter for me. He typed it into the computer I would take with me to college and saved it under a password that I didn’t know.
After all the boxes were unpacked in my dorm room, everything was set up and there was nothing left to do, my parents decided it was time to begin the trip back home. That’s when my Dad finally told me the password to unlock the letter he wrote, “Love.” After sharing many tears and hugs, my parents drove away. I was 18 years old, alone in my dorm room, scared to death about what lay ahead, and I opened this letter…
Dear Casey, Freedom is an amazing thing. When the boundaries are not apparent, one can feel overwhelmed by the vastness. The very thing that you have dreamed of for these many years turns out to be somewhat frightening. Don’t worry. You have proven skills handling the unknown. Unfamiliar schedules, people, responsibilities make anyone nervous. These will become your world before long. Own it.
What you have before you is a canvas. The choices you make and the effort you bring to the task will take their place on your own piece of art. In many ways your life is just beginning. The little decisions you make now will turn out to be very important. Do you take this major? Which church should you attend? Do I go out with this guy? Should I work? Every one of these choices can be like an intersection. You can only travel down the road you’ve chosen. Choose wisely.
Mistakes will be made. Count on it. Don’t fret over them. You can make corrections and God is gracious.
Finally, you do not go out alone. It only seems like it. We are still in your life, just not in your face. If you need me to get in your face, I will be happy to oblige. I would prefer to take my place in the stands and cheer you on. You can do anything you want and put your mind to. In the course of eighteen (short) years you have had a lifetime of experiences. Some of these have been positive, some not so much. Every one of them has become a part of your life. You will decide how to process each experience into your view of life. Even the not so good experiences can become a part of you that teaches you and others. I hope you will make the most of your life. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is only a dream. Today is what you have. Carpe Diem. I love you.
It’s been seven years since I first read that letter and the message has remained relevant every day. The older I get, the more I appreciate the words my Dad wrote and the time he took to write them. As Father’s Day approaches, I’m thankful for my Dad who has taken his place “in the stands” cheering on the home team. And to all the men out there who protect and provide for their families and insure that their children don’t go one day without knowing they are loved, from this daughter to you, happy Father’s Day.