My Father is My #EverydayHero

The NAGC sent out a call for letters from those who experienced childhood bereavement and had a hero story they would like to share.

The following letter came to us from Carmel Breathnach.

My father is my everyday hero. He would not approve of this title but he is, most certainly, the reason I am a compassionate, capable, independent person today. Sure, I have my down days. Although my mother is dead over thirty years now, I still miss her. She passed when I was only eleven years old after a prolonged illness. I still experience anger at my being ripped off at such a young age. I’m lonely for her and for the person she would be today and crave the companionship of my mother especially when I have questions only she could answer. But I have to say that I feel truly, unimaginably blessed to have the father I have. Who would I have become without his love and guidance down through the years? I don’t wish to know.

Shortly after I started writing about mother loss, I received a thoughtful, courteous message from a man who had read my piece “3 Things I’ve Learned Since Losing My Mother” in the Huffington Post. He told me that he was raising two young children alone following his wife’s death. He appreciated my article and wondered if I could tell him some of the most important ways my father supported his children following my mother’s death. He said he wanted to be that kind of father for his own children.

When I hear from fathers looking for guidance on how to raise their motherless little ones my heart aches for that bereaved family. But these messages also give me hope. These men want to do what’s best for their children. They are not afraid to reach out for support and to ask for help.

My father, my everyday hero, took such good care of my mother in the years leading up to her death. He was there for her, my brother and me in every way that he could. Following her death my dad held on to keepsakes & other specific physical objects belonging to my mother thereby keeping my mother’s memory alive in our home. Nothing of hers was removed prematurely. Many of her things remain in our lives to this day. We spoke openly of my mother after her death, recalling funny family memories or pulling out old photo albums to browse. Dad offered guidance when necessary and listened to our stories, our hopes and our worries without judgment. He allowed us to grow into ourselves without criticism or fuss. Because he didn’t ask too many questions I always felt able to tell him anything. I dyed my hair pink, green and bright red while I was in college, before it was a thing, and Dad just smiled his acceptance of me and the young woman I was becoming. He welcomed my friends into our home and never complained about the loud music blasting from my room. My father embraced me for who I was. While my mother was ill my father learned several recipes from my mother. After she died Dad was able to recreate several of these dishes such as her famous cod with Taytos dish, her shepherd’s pie and her pancakes. For years my father cooked her delicious meals in our kitchen where once four of us sat together. Eating these same dishes, meals my mother served us, allowed for a smoother transition after her death. Not everything was different. Not everything had changed. The food we put into our bodies on a daily basis stayed mostly the same and my mother was remembered at meal times.

To this day, my father remains one of my closest confidants. Although he lives in Ireland and I live in the USA we talk to each other regularly on the phone and write frequent letters. My father supports me in writing my memoir about early mother loss titled “Briefly I knew My Mother” and he has offered memories and other insights whenever I ask. Dad devoted his life to the care and support of his family. I love him beyond measure.

Submitted by: Carmel Breathnach