Since this is a time of remembrance and a time of celebrating the honor of being a father, I can think of nothing more appropriate than to share than the prologue from the book I wrote called Out of the Ashes: Healing in the Afterloss, which has so much to do with what we went through and what my children gave me.

Benjamin June 15 Father DanceThe swollen sea tossed the dilapidated fishing boat like a cork in a hurricane. The captain, lathered in grease and the smell of old fish, gripped the wheel as the wooden vessel sputtered forward to the crest of the swell and descended into a wall of water. The rain swirled in all directions. I sat in the cabin waiting, too sick to be sick. The captain shouted, “Do what you need to do here. This is as far as we go.”

Thirteen years of laughter, slumber parties, movies, bedtime stories, hugs and kisses rested in a thick plastic bag. I reached in with my right hand and pulled out a handful of my child. The ash was devoured by the salt-water swell. With my left hand, I repeated the ritual with the ash of my eight-month-old, a life denied laughter, slumber parties, movies… but full of hugs and kisses.

The captain poured all the weight of his boat’s engines toward land. I sat in the cabin, drenched with salt water, cold rain and warm tears. A film of wet ash covered each hand and I stared into the lives of my children. The storm still cried its indignation as I stepped off the boat and walked to the end of the pier. I dipped my hands into the cold, cold sea and watched the ashes drift slowly away. It was my last act as a father.


From the very first act of being a father to my very last act I was blessed. I was given a gift beyond measure to experience the life and love of two children.


I miss being a father. I miss what would have been, but I am grateful for the time we had.


Today, memory is all I have to hold with my love for Matt and Bryan. I wish I could hear their voices, but silence echoes between worlds.


Still, I do not sit in morbid reflection. I am grateful for every moment we shared in this plane of existence. I was a father. These were my children. And they taught me how to dance and how to sing.


Today, I dance in celebration. We danced our dance. We sang our songs. We held each other in the dance that was given us. And when the dance ended, when we couldn’t hold each other any longer, we danced some more.


Today, we continue to dance our dance to a song only we can hear. Every step I take I dance the dance of love they taught me. Sometimes the song is sad, sometimes the melody raises me to pure joy, and there are so many other ways the song of love fills me. For this song we created together was, and is, a symphonic dance of love that will never fade.


Today, and every day, I feel the love my children gave me and left for me. I carry our tune into every moment. And the words of our song harmonizes me to a world beyond this world, into not just any dance, but the dance.


Today, in every child I see, I see them. Every adult the age they would be, I see the Matt and Bryan that could have been. My heart sings the song of longing while at the same time it sings of hope for the ones that are still alive. I look at them and hope they have experienced, or will one day experience, the love I have had. I long for them to know what it is like to sing such a song, to know love’s greatest gift of all – the dance of love itself.


Today, I hope every father whose child is still alive dances with joy. I hope they know what a tremendous gift they truly have.


And for those of us whose children are no longer in arm’s reach, I hope our song of love never fades. For today, I have more than the sweet memory of two beautiful children. I have a dance we created in time. And a song we sing in a timelessness dance.

Today, I will continue to sing our song and dance our dance. I was a father. And my children taught me the most beautiful song in the world. A song I will never forget and will continue to sing in our ever-expanding love. And I will dance our dance till the day I die.

Perhaps, when I submerged my hands covered with their ashes into the ocean it wasn’t my last act as a father. Maybe there is more to this dance than I am unaware of. Maybe this tender, loving song sings me as much as I sing the song. Maybe being a father will always be a part of my song and I wasn’t just a father for 13 brief glorious years. Maybe I will always be a father singing our song, dancing our dance. Maybe, just maybe. Who knows? All I know is today I choose to dance and sing the song of my children, the song of love in the dance of life.

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