Two Letters

Alys the Gardener


Dear Reader,

We create a ‘contract’ of sorts when we publish a regular blog. My unwritten contract with you says that when you log on, you can expect to find a post about gardening, crafting, crafty gardening and cats, delivered with a mostly light heart. So, the following letter, written to my dad who died when I was 9 has a more somber tone and I wanted to let you know that upfront. If this is not your thing, please read no further. Stop by next week for the usual garden antics.

With love and gratitude for your readership and support.


Dear Daddy,

This is one of those letters you never actually send, though I would if I could. You left an unimaginable void in our hearts when you died on a day just like today. It was hot, strangely still and ultimately surreal. How could you have been here one minute, then gone the next?  I walked in on mom the day you died and I knew. She was kneeling on the floor tearing up your letters though I never fully understood why. She had her reasons and in the end it doesn’t really matter.

You would be amazed what can happen to a letter these days. When I hit a button on an electronic box called a computer, this letter will travel through something called the internet.  Once sent, you can’t tear it up, burn it, or control it in any way. Lovers and politicians learned this the hard way. It’s what they called a double-edged sword in your day.

I love you so much, and was really, really, really sad when you died.  As you know, I was only 9 so I didn’t have the resources to understand what was going on. Mom did her best, but she struggled too. We all missed you terribly. I’m crying now as I write this, all these years later, as at times I remain stuck in the painful past.

Please know, that you would be proud of your legacy. Your girls grew up and got college degrees, something that was really important to you.  It was your reason for moving the family to California in the first place.  We all love and nurture animals as you did,  and yours-truly is a gardener!  Can you believe it?

I have special memories of our beautiful London garden.  You hauled rocks in a wheelbarrow to build a small ‘creek’ down the middle of the yard. It gathered run-off from rain and melting snow and filled my imagination with happy moments. Your grew snapdragons near the back door, and tomatoes during the hot days of summer. Sometimes people would meet you at the nursery where you worked and ask to come by to see your garden. I was so proud of you.

When we left Canada for what you hoped would be a better life for your girls, the new homeowners weren’t interested in keeping up your garden. You were hugely disappointed.  I certainly would be.  Of course the plan was a new home and a new garden in sunny California.  We arrived in November of 1966 to less than favorable circumstances. The man who hired you to run his nursery had since filed bankruptcy. You supported our family with your savings, then sold your beloved coin collection to make ends meet. It was a difficult time for all of us. I can’t imagine as a parent how hard that must have been for you.

By the end of 1967 things were finally turning around. Our family moved to Millbrae where you landed a job at a local garden nursery.  We lived in a rental, but at last could put down roots. The following Christmas, what we thought was the flu turned out to be lung cancer.  The holidays were never the same.

I turn 54 this October, the same age you were when a cruel and ravishing cancer stripped you of your life. Your physical suffering was finally at an end on that hot, August day, but my struggles had just begun. Life doesn’t come with guarantees.

I want to thank you for your gifts of life and affection.  Each of your daughters carries you in her own way.  I think you would be proud of us, as we are of you.

My wish today as I hit the ‘send button’ would be for you to know that we all grew up, lived productive lives and that we carry you in our hearts, always.  When I reach toward the earth, to tumble a seed or pull out a weed, I think of you.

Your loving daughter,

Alys Ann

Mom and Dad on their wedding day

Mom and Dad on their wedding day

23 thoughts on “Two Letters

  1. What a lovely, loving letter. I know this is the hardest time of year for you, Alys, awash in painful memories. I admire you for channeling your emotions into an elegant reflection on your remarkable dad. I’m sure many of your readers will be inspired, as I am, to examine their own relationships with their parents – living or deceased – and their children. Thank you for sharing with us the intimate details of your family’s experience, especially your own struggles as a child who’s suddenly lost the most important man in her life. I knew some of the story from past posts, and appreciate the additional depth you’ve provided here. It’s very personal and very touching.

    I send you love and wish you peace. You are certainly your father’s daughter, and are entirely right that he’d be proud of you. It’s wonderful that you’re mindful of his everlasting influence, his eternal presence in your heart, as you lovingly tend to your garden in his honor.


    • Dear CC, thanks for reading and for your always-thoughtful comments. It means so much to me. I hope that when I share something this personal that it resonates with others. I know that I’m inspired by other bloggers, and would be honored if my words could help someone else explore a relationship in a positive way. Can’t wait to see you this fall!


  2. O My dear sweat ((( Alys ))), your dad would be so very proud of you. My heart is so heavy when I think of you crying and writing this beautiful letter for him, the tears can’t be held in. Thank you for sharing it with us, I wish I could somehow ease all the pain. Life was not fair at all, yet your kind heart, love of gardening and gentle nature are all tributes to your dads love for you. To love deeply is to know pain. It’s a price I know neither of us would trade. I feel so lucky to have had so much time with my own dad and know how these moments can bring you right back to the day you said good-bye. Sending you loving thoughts and gentle hugs. xo Kelly


  3. All I can say is : thanks for saying what I, myself is feeling, as we approach the dreaded day in August when we lost daddy. He is never far from my thoughts.

    Coincidentally, it’s has double meaning to me. This is the precise day my symptoms surfaced in 1999, that later turned out to be MS. Hugs to you. XXOO


  4. Very touching, Alys. Thank you for sharing. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I know that even all these years later, the pain remains. I’m glad you got the gift of gardening from him and that you get such joy from it.


  5. He left this earth far too young. I’m so sorry that you have had to move through life without your dad, but he infused you with vision, and a love of nature, and a desire to learn….so, I guess he is with you everyday in such important ways.


  6. Any daddy with a sweet spirit and servant heart like your father would cherish such a loving a daughter. I know he feels you. My middle name is “daddy” and I feel you. Thank you for letting us, your readers, bathe in your tears and smiles.


Please join the conversation by leaving a comment, below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.