Series

Dear Dad — An Open Letter!

I can’t believe its been 11 years since you left us. 

11 years ago today, the world I knew crashed right in front of my eyes and believe it or not I’m still at a loss for words on how I feel about it. I’m sad of course… that part is for certain, but it’s so much more than just being sad. There is a little bit of anger, at who I don’t know… maybe GOD for taking you away from me, perhaps myself for not spending enough time with you on your last visit, or maybe I’m mad at you Dad, mad at you for always caring about everyone else but yourself… I don’t know. I do know that you were an amazing father and a wonderful man. You were too young to die. We were supposed to write books together; we had plans to travel together, you were supposed to watch me graduate, walk me down the aisle at my wedding, see your grandchildren grow up, be proud of all our accomplishments. You had young children that needed you.  NO! You were not supposed to leave us.

My Dad and little siblings (circa: 2005)

Rahwa, Dad and I at Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (circa: 1992)

My high school graduation (circa:2002)

The world knew you as Araya Zerihun, they loved and cherished you. They respected you and held on to your every word. You were a leader, a visionary, a builder, a teacher, a father figure and a man that gave his people hope for a better future. To us though, you were merely Daddy, nothing more, nothing less. We shared you with our country and our people, and that was okay for us because you taught us to love everyone as though they were our family.

His life's work written in a book for all to read and cherish (this is my proud daughter moment)

I never got to say goodbye properly. I didn’t get to hug you and tell you just how much I loved you.  How every accomplishment I’ve ever achieved is in part because of your guidance, your love, and your prayers. My life changed drastically the day I lost you, and nothing has been able to fill the void you left.

I'll always be a Daddy's girl (circa:1984)

He always knew how to make us all laugh (circa:1987)

So much has changed since that day. I know you are in heaven and watching over all of us smiling because I can feel your presence beside me at times. I think of you always and will continue to teach my children about the man you were.

One of our first stops whenever we are in Addis is to visit "grandpa"

I wish the world had more people like you, I hope your grandson will be just like you and I'm praying hard for the day we will all be together again. Until that day though, I’ll keep dreaming about you because in my dreams you’re still here with us. You smell the same; you smile the same, you walk the same and even greet us with the same “ahlan wa sahlan” (greetings in Arabic). You still make me laugh and talk to me about everything in my dreams. You’re still you and always will be! Dad!

My handsome papa (circa: early 1970s) Asmara, Eritrea

Today, I promise only to remember the good, to share with my family what kind of man you were and laugh at all the jokes you used to try and make. Today we all celebrate your life Dad! I love you! I miss you!

One of his favorite saying was " A good name is far better then a million riches". He definitely left us a great legacy to uphold

You guys,

I took my dad for granted when he was here. You see, he lived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and made it a point to come at least twice a year and visit my sister and I. He showed us unconditional love, even when we were too busy for him. On his last visit, I was so consumed with my own life that I barely spent any time with him. I was a senior at VCU, newly engaged and car shopping and it was my 23rd birthday. Spending time with my old man wasn’t on my top list of things to do. I remember him being sad with me and telling me that he wasn’t always going to be here so I should give him my time. Only after he said that did I spend two afternoons with him and we had such a good time.

If you are lucky enough to have both your parents with you now, please spend time with them. Don’t let time pass because that’s the one thing that we cannot get back.

 As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Yours,