Remembering Dad: Sharing Memories of a Deceased Parent With Your Children

I still remember the phone call like it was yesterday. It was a Saturday night and I was spending some time with a good friend only four months before my wedding. I was taking a break from all of the insane planning. It was late in the evening and the caller ID informed me that it was my grandmother. I almost didn’t take it, but figured it was important if she was calling at a weird hour. What she told me made my world fall apart.

My father had passed away at the age of 45.

I then began to live in a world where my father no longer existed. It was difficult to accept and cope with on my wedding day. However, it wasn’t until I had my first son that the entire weight of losing a parent became fully apparent. The magnitude of everything that my father was going to miss, hit me like a ton of bricks.

My father would have loved being a grandparent. In fact, all he could talk about in those last days was how excited he was about the impending birth of my niece. She was born less than 48 hours after he passed.

I like to think that he’s watching all of his grandchildren and that he got to meet each one before they came earthside, but I mourn the things he will never get to experience with them or me. He will never get to strum his guitar and sing silly songs to them. He’ll never to get explain to them why the classic rockers like The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix are far superior to any band today. He’ll never get to read them stories with the ridiculous voices that he loved to do.

My children are getting older now, and eventually I know they will ask questions about the man in pictures that they never met. They will ask about who my daddy was and what kind of person he was. It will be a very bittersweet joy. On one hand, it’s being reminded of everything I remember and miss about him. On the other, it will be as if he’s not really gone since I will be able to share his memory.

I never prepared myself for the idea that my parents would not be around to enjoy my children. I figured that part of the blessing of having young parents meant that it was a given they would be around. It was something I definitely took for granted. Now, I must navigate that murky area of explaining death and the afterlife to my young children. I think it’s even harder to figure out how to try and give them some kind of connection to a person they will never meet.

My mother’s father passed away when she was young. Because of this, I never had much of a connection to the idea of him. I saw a few pictures growing up and heard the occasional story, and that was about it. I really want more than that for the sake of my father’s memory. It is my hope to accomplish this by doing several things with my own kiddos:

  • Pictures: We keep pictures up in our home of my dad. They serve as daily reminders to think about him, and also expose the boys to what he looked like.
  • Tell stories: Whenever something reminds me of my dad, I like to share the story with my boys.
  • Share his favorite things with them (like music and books): I love to expose my boys to my dad’s favorite bands. I actually named my youngest son after his favorite musician.
  • Remember him on holidays: My husband started buying me a cake on my dads birthday, because he knew it was a hard day for me. It’s now become tradition. My oldest loves it because, well, it’s cake. As he gets older I hope it becomes a way to bring up conversations about my dad.

I hope that by exposing my sons to his memory, that they will feel some small connection with their grandfather. Losing a parent at a young age has definitely changed my perspective of my own relationship with my boys. I try not to take a single moment for granted, as I know things can change so quickly. What losing my father has taught me the most is that I need to make sure that my boys will have plenty of their own memories of me to someday pass on.

Did you lose a parent before having children, or before your children were old enough to have memories?

How did you incorporate those memories into your parenting?

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  1. Courtney…What a beautiful tribute to your father,,we all know how much he loved all of you kids and also that he would have been a really awesome grandpa…he was so excited about the prospect..he was so excited waiting for the birth of Leilani…none of us knew then that our family would grow and expand as fast as it did…but I know that somehow he is watching our family and rejoicing at every new baby…I know I do….I look at all of my great-grandbabies and I can see him as well as you kids in them…he would have been very proud of all of you….I am so very proud of each and everyone of you kids and what you are doing for your own children….you have inherited the very best of him…his quirky sense of humor and his sensitivity and love of books and music.. thank you for being you Courtney…I am endlessly proud of you and all of your personal accomplishments…love you sweetheart….grandma

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