It is simply one of the greatest expressions of love – father to daughter.
And as a Dad, if you do it right, what you get in return is the experience of one of life’s greatest gifts – to know you will always be the first man she ever loved.
No one can take your place in her heart, nor replace hers in yours.
So when a short time ago a friend and colleague of mine asked if I would edit his letter to his daughter, a letter he carefully and lovingly penned recently during a long plane ride, I welcomed the opportunity.
There’s only one problem – you don’t edit love, you don’t change the words emanating from someone’s heart. I could fix a few words here and there, change a tense or two, but the meaning must stay intact, the message has to flow, love cannot be censured.
And so here now is a truly beautiful letter from my friend Brian Clark to his daughter Kylie, on one of the biggest days of her life. After all it’s just about… life, right?
There is no doubt about it – today is a tough day. A day I’ve known was coming for a long time but I always hoped it might wait just a few more days, maybe a month, maybe a year, maybe longer. We know life brings change, always does, doesn’t mean we are always ready for it.
Today you, our “Ky”, will get on a plane to start Act II of your life’s journey and for the first time ever, you are going without us. As your Dad I am scared, I am nervous and I am an emotional wreck. But despite all of this, I am simply overjoyed.
I am overjoyed because I know you got the first Act of your life right. Specifically, I am talking about the part of the performance where you starred as our little girl. Ky, I am so grateful for the person you have become. You are your mom; a perfect cocktail of grace, class, dignity, elegance, beauty and Italian grit.
That’s where it all starts, with Mom. She has been your rock. Your “go to” person. Your “bestie”. There have been so many late night conversations between the two of you. It began with her singing to you when you were so young. My favorite time at night was when Mom would so perfectly sing the song to you, “Part of Your World”, from the Little Mermaid movie. You would then ask for an encore performance just so you could stay up a little later. Over time, the conversations moved on to more serious subjects like who was gossiping about who and eventually turned to really serious subjects… like boys!!
Sometimes after I put your little brothers to bed, I would lean in and listen on the other side of your bedroom door, wondering if I could help. I always hoped that maybe there was some way to insert myself into the conversation. Surely I could finally give you the perfect Dad answer and be your White Knight. As you got older, I think Dad’s coaching made more sense to you. I am confident there were times that I actually provided a workable solution to the latest dramatic script that was playing out. But your Mom was like a Navy SEAL of advice for you. She always had it. She always got it right.
Your Mom is the reason you glow in this life. There will always be a special relationship between Mom and daughter and it was my privilege to have a front row seat to the greatest show on earth; the one which starred you, our little girl, growing up.
And on this journey there were many others who had influence on your Act One success. You were so fortunate to have people like Grandma, Grandpa, Nana and Pop around and for them to be so influential in your life. They taught your Mom and I everything so you benefited from two generations of goodness. They are the reason we have been so fortunate as to have these kind of opportunities. When you are overseas this fall performing, doing charity work and helping others, think about your grandparents because they are the ones who set you up to have this opportunity. Never forget that. Be grateful. Always be grateful.
There are others who influenced your journey as well. Your aunts, uncles and cousins adore you. How lucky to be the cousin and niece to such amazing people? When I reflect on this life I am so thankful for family. I hope we taught you that. But I already know. And I know you will carry this foundation with you as you continue throughout your own life.
Family is the oxygen that gives you life, allows you to breathe and offers you the opportunity to live your dreams. You have been the best big sister that your brothers could ever ask for. I worry about them when you go. They are so dependent on you. What will they do when they can’t ask “Daddy where is Sissie?” Thank God for Face-Time. You always stepped up big time for your brothers, whether it was babysitting or bottle feeding the little monsters, you were always available. You made raising the boys so much easier and because of you, they will be better men when they get older. And even when we brought in a third brother, albeit from our hockey family, you were dragging him around with your friends within hours. You welcomed everybody. What a gift you have.
You always had a very diverse group of friends; people with good hearts. I never had to worry about who you were hanging out with or whether your friends were breaking into the liquor cabinet (except that one time). Your girlfriends were so sweet, kind and mild-mannered. They were just like you. And then there were the boys you hung out with/dated. Well, I could have been nicer but I have no regrets. I hope they still fear me. They should.
So the first step in your second act is to go help other people. That’s so you. I had never heard of this organization, Up With People. My expectation was that you go to college just like your Mom and I, but you’re the one who found this amazing opportunity on your own.
You did this.
You found an institution where you get to do two things that make your heart full of joy: performing and helping others. What a perfect combination for you. You will learn so much about culture, diversity and people. People are what make the world go and you get to jump into this giant blender with the perfect mix of intent for helping others. What an amazing opportunity. Giving is living and you are taking life to the next level. I have never been so proud of you.
The best compliment a Dad could ever receive is being told how sweet their daughter is by another person. Lucky for me, I get that a lot. I am so grateful for the young woman you have become. Like your mom – all grace, class, dignity, beauty and Italian grit. And don’t ever forget the Italian part. It’s a big deal to Grandpa!
I have no worries that you will be a great success. In fact, I know you will.
So here’s my advice: You already know what to do. Your Mom instilled it in you and hopefully I was helpful along the way. But if you are thinking about doing something that you’re not sure about just remember what I have always told you, “You might want to re-think that”. At the end of the day, I know you will make good decisions. And always know if you need another opinion, or guidance, or just someone to listen I will always be there for you.
Seize this opportunity to go meet people, connect with others, share your stories, make lifetime friendships, help, serve, and create memories. Listen to your friends, reflect on what people say, internalize conversations, and council them, but be humble in all your interactions. Humility, grace and forgiveness will take you anywhere you want to go in this life.
Just like your Mom, you got this.
It is fitting that you are leaving us to perform for others in Act II of your life because your Act I was flawless.
And now, I get to carry that badge of honor and the love from your heart with me until I’m no longer present on this earth. It will in fact, stay with me through all eternity. It is simply one of life’s greatest gifts for a Dad.
Most importantly, I am overjoyed that you will always be our little girl.
I love you Ky,
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Until next time thanks for taking the time,
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