When you died, Emilia drew you a picture. It was your ‘death house’ she said; it was where you lived now. It had all your favorite things, as she understood them: cats and friendly sharks and motorcycles and flowers and heart-clouds. It was, she told me, your happy place.
Grandpa should know that we know that he’s happy, she said. We should mail this to him.
– I don’t think that there’s mail in heaven, sweetie.
That’s okay, Mommy. Tanner can take it to him when he goes there.
Ah. Ah, no. Of course, no. But she had a point. I’d written a letter to Grandma when she died. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get it to her, so I gave it to you and asked you to deliver it, somehow. You didn’t, of course; I know this because I found it in your effects after you died. Undelivered mail to the dead. It was okay, of course, that you never did get it to her. I understood. But I also saw an opportunity, informed by Emilia’s insight that the dead really should get their mail.
So I took that letter, and Emilia’s picture, and I got them copied. Then I wrote you a letter. I love you; I miss you, it said. I’ll keep trying to change the world for you. You always wanted me to change the world, and I will.
And then I gave that small packet of letters and artwork to the funeral director, and I asked him to put them in the casket with your remains before they cremated you. And so, I expect, he did, and so I told Emilia that I sent you her picture of your death house. I hope that you got it. I tell myself that you did.
You might not get this one. That’s okay. I wanted to write it anyway.
It was good to write it anyway. Just as it was good for me to write those other letters, and for Emilia to write (draw) hers. They kept us connected. And that, really, is everything.
Love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.
(You can read the letter here. It’s okay to read it; it’s pretty personal, but look, someone should read it. You could also write your own – and if you don’t need to mail it to heaven, that will be all the easier. Mine’s kind of about how my dad taught me to lean in. It’s also about faith and bravery, and gratitude. These things are not unrelated.)