Chapter Thirty-five

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Baby Girl,

I know you've been expecting this. I've selfishly put it off too long. These are thoughts I should have shared with you before I left. But I don't believe you were ready to hear them anymore than I was prepared to say them. I've kept them hidden in the back of my mind. They've been there your whole life, collecting dust since the days after your mother died. Every parent carries these words—the ones they hope will bring comfort and understanding when their children experience life's biggest heartbreaks. It's every father's hope that he'll live out his years without ever having to speak them. Or write them. Or even think them. But in my life, it's not to be. I don't claim them to be the most profound or the most eloquent. I only know they come from an honest place.

How does one define loss? Why do we even use that particular term? When someone loses something, don't they continue to search for it? To seek out its exact location so that they may be reunited with that which is missing? When we lost your mother, I looked everywhere. I searched every part of my soul and every bottle I could get my hands on. I was determined to get her back. I thought that somewhere within me I had the power bring her back. If I just prayed a little harder. Or screamed a little louder. Or cried a little longer. But what I didn't realize at the time was that she was already there. She was there—growing and thriving everyday. She was there—in the body of an innocent young girl. I wasted so many days and nights searching for something that had been right under my nose.

There are no guarantees in this life. And I know you understand this better than most. There are withered souls, roaming this planet for years who neither give or receive an ouch of joy. And then there are others. Those whose light seems to burn brightest. Souls with great gifts to share with those around them. And for reasons unbeknownst to a man of sixty plus years, these are the ones who are taken from us before we're ready. Why? I have no explanation. No rationalization. No justification. And how I've long for those things—those answers—and so much more over the years. I'm still waiting. And I may never know. But there is one thing that time has revealed to me. And for now, it's more than enough. The days I spent with your mother, despite the fact they were mere wisps of time, we're the happiest of my life and worth every tear I've shed.

I don't believe I ever told you, but LP and I are quite close. We spent months engaged in a secret exchange of life's lessons and ideals. And I want you to know that my grandson's light brightened up every room in this quiet old house. It breathed new life back into the walls and the floors and into me. I am enclosing a letter—one of many—that I wrote to LP. Again, you may think it nothing more than the ramblings of an old man, but every word comes from the place that guides my pen now. Every line is filled with love and hope—two things I pray you can still see in your own life. Should you wish to have the remaining letters, they will be here for you. There are all in a stack, tied up neatly with a light blue bow, just as your mother would have saved them. You may decided you want them tomorrow or next week. Or you may never request to see them. It doesn't matter to me. Only one thing truly matters now...that you know how much I dearly love you.

Daddy

She thought she'd be a wreck after reading her father's words, but she wasn't. And now, rereading it a second time, she found she was unusually calm. She could hear his voice in every line. And though the letter was short by Huck's standards, he succeeded in delivering an honest message.

Her eyes traveled around the perimeter of their bedroom, surveying the traces of Mathew. His books on the bedside table. His running shoes beside the chair. His briefcase, unopened, on the escritoire. She wanted to find some sort of comfort in them, knowing that they were extensions of him, but comfort was a feeling she couldn't embrace. There'd been a flash of it just hours before, when Mathew returned home from his first day back at the office. He'd slipped into bed beside her and after a minimal exchange, his hand found her hair. And for that tiny moment in time, everything in her world was exactly as she wanted it to be. But the morning cast a bright light back on reality and the brief taste of solace she'd felt as Mathew's fingers moved softly through her hair during the night melted away. Even as she'd stood in Lucien's room that morning, reading the note he'd left for her, she couldn't separate herself from her pain to reach back out to him.

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