Several years ago Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, wrote a book called The Last Lecture. And in that book he describes what life was like dying. He wrote the book for his family and his young children to have long after he was gone. He describes videos and notes made for his children’s milestones: birthdays, proms, graduations, weddings, all the events in their lives that he would miss. He wanted to leave them a piece of himself; he wanted his influence to outlive his life.
Last week, after the birth of my niece, I have been on the same thought path. I’m not dying that I know of, but life isn’t guaranteed. My next breath could be my last.
So with that in mind I would like to say something to you, my baby girl.
From the moment you came into our lives you have continued to rock mine. I remember you being born, the little squawk you made and how you were incredibly alert and curious as you laid in your bassinette. You didn’t make a sound as the doctors and nurses did their thing. You just looked around and watched.
I know it was just reflex but the instant you wrapped your little hand around my finger I have been yours: completely and utterly yours.
And because of my overwhelming love for you I have to say that I may not always be here for you. There may come a time, God forbid, that I won’t be here to tell you “I love you weenie” or to give you advice as you grow up. But if that day should ever come, I want you to know a few things…
You are Amazing
Despite all the times I have failed you in your short life, whether I didn’t pay enough attention to you or pay too much attention, you have turned into the single most amazing young woman I have ever met. Your soft heart and kind words melt me.
How you take the time to help friends and strangers alike often floor me. Your generosity inspires me to do better in my own life. You are the best parts of me.
I remember that time we picked up that homeless woman. I remember how she hadn’t been able to shower for some time and how bad she smelled. You didn’t bat an eye. You reached out your hand to take hers and you said, “Hi, my name is Jenna. I’m pleased to meet you.” The look on that woman’s face was worth more than anything we did for her that day.
I watched you hold her hand through the grocery store as you helped her buy food supplies and how you carried those bags into her motel room. How you asked if we could stay and talk with her for a while before we left and the heartfelt hug you gave her when we did leave.
For me, it was one of the single proudest moments of my life. You are the most amazing young woman I have ever had the pleasure to know.
You are Beautiful
And I do not mean in a Disney princess way. You are beautiful. Your integrity and character speak of a beauty that our culture knows very little about. It does not put much stock into it but you must continue to cultivate that beauty.
Do not give into the temptation to follow in the footsteps of the Kardashians or Jersey Shore. Your beauty is far too valuable to allow it to wallow in that dumbed down filth.
Nurture it, grow it, protect it! Stretch yourself in ways most don’t. Continue to serve and love those that others will overlook. Give that beauty to others and let their lives blossom under it. Be that beauty for those that can no longer see or feel theirs.
The more you do that, the more beautiful you become.
Sweetie, with that beauty people (i.e. boys) will try and take advantage of you. Unfortunately, some in our world see this beauty as a weakness and look to exploit that.
You have a loving and trusting heart. Never lose that. You must be wise. You must learn that you can serve and love others without handing over the keys to your heart. Don’t allow others to selfishly use that trusting nature.
I have seen far too many young women hand over those keys only to be broken. Those that hold the keys used them to get what they wanted and then leave. I have seen those girls reduced to nothing as they invested all of themselves into a boy. They invested in love and got nothing back but lust.
Don’t fall for the slick words of some grubby handed boy. Not all boys are like this but speaking to you as an ex-boy most of us are.
You are worth far more than the cheap words of some bed sheet charlatan. You are made in the image of your Creator and you have been endowed with those characteristics. You are good and patient. You are full of joy and peace. You are gentle and faithful. You have self-control and do not think too highly of yourself.
You are worth more than any price that some boy can offer.
I have watched in awe as your artistic talents have grown. Your ability to capture our hearts with song and paint is something that I have never been able to do.
I watch, with a little jealousy, as you sketch a face or sing a melody and capture the essence of that thing. I look at you and can’t believe that you carry my DNA. I am far too clumsy to do any of those things and yet here you are.
So be you. Don’t let anyone or anything take those away from you.
Sing with such fervor that you can’t help but be heard, paint with such passion that people can’t help but be moved. Live your life with such beauty that others will be inspired.
God created you to be you. You are the only one that will live in such a way as you. You were placed in this place and time for reason and purpose. Discover that purpose and live it with your “youness”.
Please forgive me for those times in the past when I have mistaken your “youness” for something else, for those moments I tried to make you into someone else. You are part of me but you are not me and it’s wrong to try and make you in my image. For those times, I am truly sorry.
You are you and I wouldn’t want you to be anyone else.
I Love you
I am proud to be your dad. When your friends introduce me to their parents as “Jenna’s dad” I wear that with honor.
I have loved you all the days of my life. There was a time I didn’t know of that love but as soon as you entered my life I realized that my heart had been singing your song, I just didn’t know it.
I know that sometimes that love caused me to spoil you, but it also helped me correct those mistakes I made early on. And it is that love that would drive me to the very depths of hell for you.
You are my baby girl. That will never change.
No matter who wins your heart, I had it first.
I am the first boy you ever said “I love you” to. I am the one that held you in the long hours of sleepless nights and the one that held you hair when you were sick. I’m the one that tucked you in at night and with whom you said bedtime prayers.
I will be the one to give you away one day and I will watch my amazing daughter pledge her love to another man. I will celebrate with everyone, but deep inside my heart will break.
You are my baby girl. And I love you.
And know this as well, your mother and I could not have asked God for anyone better. You have made our lives a joy. We will love you with a love you won’t understand until you have your own children. And when that day comes you will understand the bigness of that love.
As I end this letter to you, know that there are not enough pages to fill with the things I would say to you. Just know that I love you.
Endlessly and hopelessly yours,