Today, five years ago, I lost my dad to cancer. I wrote this letter to him in October last year. I haven’t had the heart to publish it, but I think today is the right day.
Been thinking about you a lot lately. Been meaning to try and talk to you, to write to you, to communicate with you for the past four and a bit years. But it’s just been too difficult. It just feels like it’s too tough to say goodbye. That’s why I didn’t speak at your funeral; I just didn’t have it in me to say goodbye that day. I don’t even know now if I do.
I’m sitting here at Port St Johns, a place I know what one of your absolute favourites. It’s not the same without you, dad. The corner where you set up your band equipment and played music into the night just feels empty. I couldn’t help thinking of all the times we had here, from the awful weather the day we drove and saw our cottage for the first time, to the times we went fishing on the banks of the river. It’s so sore knowing that those things will never happen again. It’s painful thinking about how I took all those times for granted. Maybe that’s why I haven’t wanted to say goodbye.
Dad, so much cool stuff is happening at the moment. I’ve met the most amazing girl. You would love her to bits. We’re getting married! April 27. Freedom Day. I’m sure you’d like the irony of that. Megan is just so wonderful. She also lost her dad, and absolutely amazing man who I’m sure you would have become great friends with. Mom and Meg’s mom, Ingrid, are so, so close and such good friends. I just wish you’d met them, dad, and I wish they’d met you. That will always be one of my life’s biggest regrets; that you said goodbye before you could say hello to them. It just doesn’t seem right to say goodbye to you where there was so much good stuff you missed – stuff that you would have made thousands of times better, funnier and even more enjoyable, because that’s just the type of man you were.
Last weekend I was sitting in the funeral of Zwelakhe Sisulu in Joburg. His family spoke of what an amazing man he was, how he stood up for his beliefs, how he was always passionate. I couldn’t help thinking of you. I cried that day, as much for the heartache of his family, as out of sadness from missing you. It’s not the first time I cried thinking about you. I visited Justin Kao last year (yes, Justin, the Taiwanese neighbour from next door!) and as I flew home, I thought about how Justin, you and I used to play cricket, soccer, whatever, as soon as you got home from work. I don’t even think we gave you time to put your bag down or even step in the house! But you did it anyway, no matter how bad you day was. I thought about that one time when you told me it was the last ball of the Cricket World Cup final and I needed a four to win – but you were going to take a run up and bowl as fast as you could. I was terrified. You bowled and I smashed a perfect square cut. You ran clapped, high-5’ed me and gave me a hug. I will never forget that, dad.
Dad, you would be so proud of all of us. Mom especially. She’s been incredible. She has her own place now – a penthouse, nogal! It’s amazing. She’s working for the municipality, running their Afcon office. And she’s kicking butt at it. But I know you’d be saying right now that you’re not surprised. Never did you ever doubt her. Never did you speak down on her, question her abilities or belittle her. Dad, if I can be even half the husband to Megan as you were to mom, I know I would be a good husband and a good man. You taught me everything I need to know about how to be a good person, a good husband and a good father. And I just hope that I can life up to that. That’s why I wish you were here, dad, because I need your advice, your counsel, your hand guiding me on the way, and your stern voice telling me when I’ve done something stupid. I didn’t want to say goodbye to you because I knew I needed you more. I still do, dad. I miss you so much, dad.
Pops, I have no idea how to end this letter. I don’t know what more to tell you, what more to say to you, what to ask you. I don’t want this letter to end, because then it feels like goodbye.
But I think I’m ready to say goodbye. It’s taken me more than four years, but I think the time is right. And there’s no better place to say it than somewhere you loved with all your heart.
Goodbye, dad, and thank you for everything. You were – and still are – quite simply my inspiration, my rolemodel and my best friend. I love you.