First of all, I have struggled with writing this letter. I have put it off and mulled it over and over in my mind. It is not that I don’t have things to say, quite the opposite actually. I have so many things to say, so many thoughts swirling. But nothing is coming out coherently and I don’t know where to start.

I guess I could start by saying Happy Father’s Day. And I love you.

I love you.

I love you.

One thing you and mom taught us growing up is unconditional love. You taught us to love the soul of a person, to love them in spite of their actions and to stick by them through everything. I have often taken the unconditional love of our family  for-granted. This is not to say I don’t appreciate it or that I don’t heavily rely on it. I just kind of figured that is how every family is. But I know now that is not the case. I know what you and mom modeled for us girls growing up, and what you still model today in your marriage and as parents, is something special. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for teaching me how to love unconditionally. It is in large part because of you that I am even able to tell you that I love you.

I love you for who you are and also in spite of who you are. There are many things I love about you, but that is not why I love you. I don’t love you for what you have accomplished. I don’t love you for what you have taught me. I don’t love you for your intelligence or your humor or our great conversations. I never loved you for how much money you made. I don’t love you for what you can do for me. I love the soul of you, the part of you that will never change, the truest essence of you. That is what I mean when I say “I love you” .So believe me when I say I love you now and I will love you in all of your forms. In all of your forms you are still my Dad.

Father’s Day this year marks 5 months since we found out your diagnosis. I feel like I couldn’t not acknowledge that. Alzheimer’s is a big part of our life now, but it does not define us. It does not define you. Sure, it will affect us. It will shape us and in many ways direct the course of our lives, especially yours. But it won’t beat us. It won’t beat you. Because Alzheimer’s can take away a lot of things- a lot of things that often come to define a person, a lot of things that we really treasure about a person. But Alzheimer’s can never touch your soul. Jesus has that one under wraps.

I know it is hard, harder than I can fully understand. And I am sorry that I don’t always know what to say. I am sorry that sometimes I pull away and say nothing. I just don’t know what to do with all this yet. It is really hard to not live in grief, mourning what is happening and what is coming. But I am trying really hard not to let that consume the time we have left. I am so sorry you have to face this. We can all make it about us a little bit too much sometimes. And sure, that is because our family has always been good at rallying and pulling together. We have always been very enmeshed in each other’s lives, successes and hurts. But I don’t want to forget that no matter how much we try to understand, no matter how much we walk along side you, there are parts of this you must feel like you are facing alone. That breaks my heart. My heart breaks for you.

Yes, there are many good things that have and will certainly continue to come out of this diagnosis. It is incredible to look back and see God’s hand orchestrating the things of life that seemed insignificant years ago, but are huge today.  I consider it a blessing to be able to tackle our bucket list and relish every moment together. And I consider this an amazing opportunity for our family to share the grace of God and bring Him glory. But all that being said, when you boil all those things away, I still hate that this is happening. I still hate that you have to go through this. And I am sorry. I am sorry that this is part of your story. I beg you to remember though, that this is only part of your story. It is not your whole story. You may be tempted to say that this is the end of your story. But it isn’t. The amazing thing in all of this-in all of this ugly, horrible, painful, heart-breaking mess-is that Jesus can redeem anything. He can take this and turn it for good.

This is not the end of your story. It is not the end because even after the last chapter is written here on earth there are an eternity of blissful, worshipful chapters to be written next to the throne of God. Alzheimer’s is not your story. It is not the final chapter of your story either, Dad. Heaven is the end of your story, actually the never-ending part of your story. Alzheimer’s is not the end of your story for another reason: your legacy. You are carved into the memory and person of each of us, Dad. Mom, Rylie, Jayna and I all carry you with us. We have all along. And the kids do too. And Peter. And countless other people you have touched and will continue to touch. You can still be fruitful. You can still make your mark, or rather, you can still allow God to make His mark through you. God redeemed what Joseph’s brothers meant for harm. God redeemed Daniel from the mouths of lions. God redeemed the Israelites when Haman plotted against them. The Bible is full of times where God brought what was intended for bad and made it beautiful. In His greatest redemptive work God redeemed the sins of generations. I think He’s got this too.

So dad, I know I shouldn’t be asking you to give me a gift for Father’s Day, but I kind of am. This Father’s Day-know that I love you. I want you to always remember deep in your heart that I love you; I love your soul. Nothing can change that. Know that I will walk with you. This Father’s Day-preach the Gospel to yourself. Tell yourself the truth. The same way you did to us all those years. It is true for you too, even in this. God is our redeemer. Your story is still being written. There are so many more words left to say, lessons to be learned and taught, and people to be touched. And this Father’s Day- know you leave a legacy, far beyond what you may even realize. Your legacy is already living, right in front of you. Memories are a strange thing. Even after they leave our minds they are etched into our being. They shape who we are. You have given me countless memories, ones that stay with me even if I can’t recall them to my mind. And while no one looks forward to the day where their loved one is a lifetime of memories to them, those are parts of you I always hold onto and cherish. They are the parts of you that have become parts of me, and I carry them with me. I excited to add more parts of you to me, because there is still so much life to live. Let’s make memories together, Dad.

I love you.

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