An open letter to Steph, who sent a sky lantern to her father, which landed in my driveway

Dear Steph,

Saturday morning I noticed what I thought was a gigantic plastic bag plastered to the end of my driveway. I didn’t think much of it at first, other than to say to myself, well, there’s another piece of trash that has found its way to my yard, I guess I’ll be the one who has to pick it up.

Which I did not do. Not at first.

So it sat there in the rain for a while.

In the afternoon the rain slacked off, and during one of my treks from the front door to the car, headed off to shuttle my daughters to their various activities, I saw it again. I thought again about how it had become one more chore on my to-do list.

Then I noticed it had writing on it.

When I came closer I saw that it wasn’t plastic at all, it was thin, wax-coated paper, tangled with a bit of twisted wire. You had written on it, which is how I know your name and why you sent that lantern off in the first place.

sky lantern steph dad

You wrote “Love you Dad Miss you so much” and then a heart, almost but not quite careless, and then your name.

I thought about this a lot during the day. I thought about you, and your dad, and how something happened, and you’re not together now. I assumed that your father has passed away. I thought about this as I picked up my middle daughter from ballet. As I took my eldest to youth group. As I tucked my youngest into bed for the night.

I debated whether you’d want to know where your sky lantern ended up. I wondered if you had sent the lantern up, sending a message to your dad and hoping for one back, and if you would prefer to believe that it went up, up and never came back down. I wondered if you preferred to think it had found a place in a constellation rather than torn and flattened on my driveway.

Then I wondered if maybe, somehow, your lantern landing in my front yard was a sort of answer from your dad, because I’m a dad, too. And your message stuck in my heart. I know a day is coming when my three girls won’t have an easy way to get ahold of me. They won’t be able to crawl in my lap while I’m reading, or send me a text, or shout for me from upstairs. They won’t be able to call or send me an email. I can imagine they, too, might send a sky lantern. Or leave me some flowers and talk to a shiny square stone with my name on it.

I thought about my kids, writing a note to me on a sky lantern and sending it off. I knew immediately that if it was my kids, and their sky lantern, I would want the father who found that lantern to tell my kids a few things.

So, here it goes, Steph. If I were your dad, here’s what I would want to say to you. Here’s what I’d want to say to my own daughters:

I have always loved you.

From the first moment I held you I knew there wouldn’t be a deeper love in my life. There’s this fierce protectiveness that settled in, and I knew I would give anything to keep you safe, to provide you a good life. We had our moments. We fought sometimes. I did stupid things. I made mistakes, and so did you. But no matter what happened, I loved you with a deep, unalterable, unending love that surprised me, because I had never felt anything like this, ever. I know I told you I loved you… more than once. But in retrospect it wasn’t often enough, could never be often enough to express the depth of my love. There were these moments, sometimes, when I watched you and you didn’t know. You’d be sitting on the couch, or doing the dishes, or working on homework, or singing some ridiculous song with your friends, and I’d have this sudden rush of affection for you. But I let you keep going. I didn’t want to interrupt you. I wish I had taken one more moment to say it one more time. I know you know this, but I will say it again: I love you. So much. Don’t ever doubt it. Past, present, future. Always.

I am immensely proud of you.

Kids wonder if their parents are proud of them. I know, that’s natural. Maybe it’s because I love you so much, but I’ve always been proud of you. I was so pleased when you said your first word. When you stood up. When you walked. Now look at you. Writing sentences on sky lanterns! Okay, I know writing a sentence is not terribly impressive, but you have to understand that you’ve grown from this tiny bundle who couldn’t speak or move or do much of anything other than cry and sleep and now you’re this fully formed human being who makes decisions and works and speaks and alters the world as you move through it. That’s an incredible thing. You’ve made mistakes and kept going. You’ve shown love to people around you, sometimes complete strangers. You make the world a better place. You do! Believe me, I’ve bragged about you to plenty of people whether you saw it or not. You’re one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. Better than any painting by any famous artist. More important than anything any politician has done. You’re unique, you’re amazing, and you’re my daughter. Of course I’m proud!

 

Live a good life.

If you can make yourself a better person, do it. If you can change the world for the better, or your family, or your neighborhood, or your state or country then go take care of it. The good life doesn’t always mean the easy life, so don’t be afraid to sacrifice and work hard to build a life that brings you joy. Remember that selfishness rarely pays off the way you think it should. Don’t let work consume you. Make space for family and friends. Laugh. I hope you laugh a lot. I know that’s hard sometimes, and I know life is hard. I know you miss people. I know you miss me. I’m not saying those relationships can be replaced, but find new ones. Find kindred spirits to run through life with you. Eat meals with them. Go see crappy movies and make fun of them. Go watch your friend’s kindergartner play soccer in the rain. Pick adventure over entertainment. Do something meaningful and amazing. Be happy. Build a habit of thankfulness, and a life full of things to be thankful for.

Be loved.

There are these relationships we find ourselves in that drain us constantly. You know the ones I mean. The people who always have a reason why you should do things their way. The ones who imply you’re a bad person because you have your own opinion. The manipulators. The guilt-makers. Don’t waste your life on them. Find people who understand how precious you are, and who aren’t afraid to tell you so. Find people who will say hard things to you because they want you to grow and have a better life, not because they’re trying to control you. Be brave. There are people out there who will love you. You deserve that. Go find them. Don’t let them go. Fill your life with them.

I know your dad would want someone to say those things to you, Steph. “I have always loved you. I am immensely proud of you. Live a good life and be loved. You’re an incredible woman.” I know he would want to tell you that he wishes he could be with you, that he’s sorry you miss him, and that if he could change things to be with you that he would. He would want you to live a full, beloved, beautiful life. I hope you are.

And, Steph, one more thing.

The fact that you love your dad so much is a sure sign of how much he loved you. He’s not here now, but accept the love that comes from the people around you. Let them be his sky lantern back to you. Let them share their love, and let that be a reminder of his. No one will ever love you quite the way your father did, but many people will see in you some of the same qualities and beautiful bits that he did.

Love is as strong as death. As inevitable, as powerful, as eternal. It can’t be escaped. It can’t be avoided. It won’t be forgotten.

And when death is gone, love will remain.

Sincerely,

Matt

 

(ETA 11/2015: It has been a full year since Steph’s sky lantern and this letter went out into the world. So much has happened, including thousands of beautiful letters from the readers. Thank you! There’s now a book about Steph, the sky lantern, my family and all that has happened in the last year. I hope you read and enjoy it. You can get the book here.

sky lanterns getty

Nanut Bovorn | Moment | Getty Images

 

 

featured/header image is by Takeaway and is CC by-SA 3.0

 

Author: Matt Mikalatos

Matt Mikalatos is a writer not a fighter.

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  • Jessica Wallace

    Thank you for writing this, Matt. I have never sent a sky lantern, but I could be Steph. Your daughters are blessed to have you as their dad.

    • mattmikalatos

      Jessica, it was my pleasure. And I hope you know that if you ever need something you can call.

  • This might be my favorite thing you’ve ever written. This is really excellent on every level.

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks, JR.

  • Wonderfully written, Matt. Nothing like a random object in a driveway to remind us how connected we all are, and how beautiful that connection can be.

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks, Clay!

  • Andy Garber

    Matt, next time I see you I’m gonna punch you for making me cry. I was in public too!

    But in all honesty, this is great! Thank you. Now, let’s #findsteph

    • mattmikalatos

      If you punch me, I will probably cry and then we’ll be even.

  • Matt, this was amazing. Thanks for sharing. I was even more amazed when I realized I knew you and had learned from you during my days in CRU at MSU, going to conferences and retreats. No wonder the love of the Father speaks so clearly here in your writing. Thanks for being a light, and thanks for taking the time to write this. It’s going to impact a lot of people and remind all of us to take a little time to do what’s on our hearts, and to love other people.

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks so much. Thanks for taking the time to leave such a kind note.

  • I love who you are, Matt.

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks, Michelle. I appreciate your kind words.

  • Ryan Elizabeth Perry

    Matt,

    While I am not 100% positive this was sent up by my sister, who indeed is a “Steph”– I wonder if it was!!
    See, this past weekend was the 6 month mark of my father’s passing. He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in the spring, and 42 days later he left this world. Of the 3 of us girls (he also had 3 daughters, like you! ), she is taking the loss the hardest. The ♡ and “Steph” look identical to her writing as well!!!
    Obviously I’m not Steph, but your words touched my heart deeply. And I am going to make sure Steph (and my other sister, Karen!) Read this as well. Even if it wasn’t my steph, I believe my dad made sure this crossed my path- I’m positive those would be his words to us. Thank you so much!!!
    By the way, where did this end up? Just curious…

    • mattmikalatos

      Hi Ryan… wow. I am so sorry to hear about your father. Cancer is the worst, and it’s brutal that your father passed so quickly. Ugh.

      I live in the Portland, Oregon, area. My house is in Vancouver, WA, which is where I found the lantern.

      I’m glad my few words made you feel connected to your dad for a few minutes. I’m sure he loved you and your sisters very much.

    • Anon

      You’re wrong it was my aunt she didn’t write the full name

  • Jennifer Hussaini

    Thank you for this. My dad died one year ago of Pancreatic Cancer Nov 9th and today would have been his 54th birthday. I am planning a balloon release for him with my children tonight complete with “I love you Grandpa!” Balloons and his favorite German Chocolate Cake. I truly feel that I was supposed to stumble upon this letter today, a gift from my dad!

    • mattmikalatos

      Jennifer, I’m sorry for your loss. Your event tonight sounds beautiful and I hope it’s a good reminder to you and the kids of your dad and his love for all of you.

  • This is so very beautiful. It reminds me of my responsibilities as a dad, and that I need to Hey back on task with my Letters From Dad writing.

    • mattmikalatos

      Letters from Dad is a great idea. How many have you written?

      • Matt, it is a great movement. A guy in Texas started it in his garage because he didn’t have anything from his dad. Thus far, I’ve written three, and have delivered two.

  • Hannah Rindfleisch

    Matt.
    Thank you for this. In my life, it is my mom that I lost as a 1st grader. And so often I wish for one more moment, one more conversation with her…7 years with her does not seem enough. But I know that she would be proud of me. And I know that God has shaped my life through this so I may help others. So many of the things you wrote to Steph, spoke to my heart, too. Thank you. God Bless.

    • mattmikalatos

      Hannah, thanks for sharing this. I’m so sorry about the loss of your mom, and I’m glad this brought reminders of your mom’s love for you.

  • Merry Lou Masonry

    Matt, thank you for sharing this with the FB world. It’s a good reminder of just how precious our time here on earth may be. Spend those extra few minutes with your love ones and tell them how important they are to you. Leave no doubts behind of just how much you love them.

    • mattmikalatos

      That’s great advice, Merry Lou. Thank you for taking the time to share those kind words with me!

  • Stephanie

    Matt,

    My husband showed me this post and I sat here and cried for quite some time.
    I too am a “Steph”and my father passed away just under 2 months ago. He died of cancer. I’m from Florida so I know this lantern wasn’t mine but it brought back some great memories. My husband and I have been married just over a year and at our wedding, we released lanterns for our exit. We moved from Florida to Texas not long after the wedding and the wedding was the last time the whole family was together, until his funeral. Of course I thought Christmas would be it but we didn’t get that far. Amazing how you think life will go and then it surprises you. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this.

    • mattmikalatos

      Steph,

      Thank you for sharing this note. I’m so sorry to hear about your father (and your mom, too). I can’t imagine. I hope this holiday season brings you many good memories. And if you and your husband need some new friends in Texas, I know a lot of people down there. I’d be glad to make introductions. Just let me know.

    • gieno

      Me and my family sent off a lantern for my dad who had been with us when we purchased it on the 4th of July. Exactly two months later he was killed in a automobile accident, which I still cry often because I miss him. I know he is in a much better place but thank you for writing this article it really touched my heart. God bless and love each other!!!

      • mattmikalatos

        Aw. Sorry to hear about your dad gieno. Hang in there. I hope you find love and joy this holiday season.

  • Rosalie Kubik Ferris

    Absolutely beautiful. Anyone who has lost their dad will get a little misty reading this. god bless you, sir, for finding the words that many of us needed to hear.

    • mattmikalatos

      Thank you, Rosalie.

  • Krislyn A Turner

    Matt,
    This touched me more than you can even imagine. reading this made me think of my own Dad, whom passed before my 21st birthday.
    Thank you so much for this. There are times i second guess if he would be proud of me, because i doubted myself. But reading this i will never doubt it again.
    Again Thank you so much.

    • mattmikalatos

      Krislyn, thank you for sharing. I’m sorry to hear about your dad, and so happy that this post brought assurance that he would be proud of you.

  • Elise Michelle Wood

    Matt,
    This was a wonderful letter and it brought tears to my eyes. Granted I have never lost a parent, I have lost a cousin, but I am a mom and granted I am in good condition it just made think of my son. Granted he’s still really young, and I pray to God that our parting will still be a long time from now but who knows. I just hope that when my time does come to leave him that he will know how much I love him. He’s my best friend and he means the world to me. Since the day he was born I knew there wouldn’t be anyone that would mean more to more then my little guy. This was a really touching piece and I hope Steph finds some peace.

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks, Elise. I haven’t lost a parent, either, but I think there is a common bond for us human beings that grief and loss is part of our lives. Anything we can do to provide a little more love, hope and compassion in life is a good thing. I’m glad your son has such a loving mother!

  • Tamlyn Guillory

    Some dads feel everything you’ve just written but never have the courage to say them. My dad passed away January 2014, having said he loved me many times, but never having expressed the depth of a father’s love for a daughter. I am now 50 and what you’ve written has me crying like a little girl. Thank you for the reminder that I have a dad, and always will, who will forever love me.

    • mattmikalatos

      That’s really true, Tamlyn. Some dads don’t know how to say these things, or think that they have said it clearly when they haven’t. I’m sure the words “I love you” were meant to convey all this and more. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Stephanie Wong

    Matt,

    This is exactly what I needed. I’m also a “Steph”. I was 19 when my dad unexpectedly passed away, we were on a family vacation. My 24th birthday is approaching in a few days and I have been wondering if my dad would be proud of the life that I’m living and the choices that I’ve made. This piece brought me to a waterfall of tears but it has definitely healed my heart just a bit more and provided some peace and comfort. I’m thankful for your words. Your girls have an amazing and loving father.

    • mattmikalatos

      Steph, thank you for your kind words and for sharing your experience. I’m so sorry to hear about your father and I certainly hope you know that he would, indeed, be proud of you.

    • Camille Denise Giampa Mustachi

      Hi Stephanie,
      Like you, I was 19 when my dad died unexpectedly. While I still miss him and cry when a memory or beautiful piece of writing like Matt’s touches my heart, I now look at my time with my dad with gratitude and happiness. I hope you enjoy the holidays and your birthday knowing that your dad is proud of you for being independent, kind and sincere– these traits are evident in your post.
      NeCe

    • Hi Stephanie and Camille,
      I was 19 too when my dad swiftly left this planet. that is more than 25 yrs ago now and this year my mom died too. having to accept his passing seemed so ‘normal’. now i see I really was half orphaned then. it really does take a long while for the hurt to loose its sharp edges. and in meantime you learn to live with death, the idea of it and it happening in life as a common thing. every passing is different though. with my mom i notice i still have that bond. only it is purely spiritual now. probably because she lived longer i had the chance to bond better with her, i don’t know. and sometimes i can feel my dad’s desire to leave as quickly as he did.

      also, all this happened both times around christmas and new year and this year will be the first one i really will be here on my own.
      it’s probably not much of a consolation to you, but it all will find a place, and the people you love will never leave your heart. and like in the movie Ghost, i believe that the soul will not leave that love either. probably the most cherised words i ever heard in a movei: Sam (Patrick Swayze), who as a ghost/spirit is finally leaving this earthly plane to head for Heaven, is saying to Molly (Demi Moore) while he is slowly making his way: ‘Molly… the love… you tkae it with you…’
      i hope everybody here can manage to feel and cherish the love in his/her life. love is timeless and even locationless. spirit is what we are and there is nothing really that can tears us apart.
      Love, Michael

  • Ryan Thomas

    Matt,

    I am a Chinese living in Nanjing, China.

    I want to tell you that my father died when I was a baby, and your writing gives me messages that he loves me so much. I believe I am loved , and I believe it’s arranged. You are arranged to pick up that lantern, to write this article. Steph is arranged to hear the love from her dad through you. I am arranged to find this and share with my friends.

    • mattmikalatos

      Ryan, thank you for sharing. I also believe it is arranged. 上帝爱你。我说一点普通话。上帝保佑你。

  • Asaf Nagar

    I’d like to believe that Steph’s dad moved down the the street and she misses him. As my son would say: “I just kidding you, daddy.” This letter is well written. I usually don’t read articles to the end but was compelled to do so this time.

    • mattmikalatos

      Ha ha. That’s a nice thought!

  • Noel Young

    Matt, thanks for writing this. It is a beautiful reminder that we all need to hear. I pray that your words will be a blessing to Steph and others like her.

    • mattmikalatos

      My pleasure, Noel. Thank you for your kind words and prayers.

  • Stephanie S

    Wow! This is just what I needed today. You see, I am a Steph, who lost her Dad, and sent a lantern up to heaven for him. I am in Washington state, close to where you found this lantern. This particular lantern was not mine, but it could have been! So much about this hits so close to home, literally! My dad was the most selfless man I have ever met. He passed away in 2003, after a 9 month battle with lung cancer. My mom, the most selfless woman I have ever met, passed away in October of 2012 from lung and heart disease. I have been struggling lately, as the holidays draw near, not having my parents here to celebrate with. I am a 34 year old mother of 2, who is too young to be planning my holidays without my parents. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this. I needed this today, more than you will ever know!

    • mattmikalatos

      Steph, thank you so much for sharing your story here. I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, and I hope your holidays are full of happy memories and new ones with your kids.

    • Stephanie Nelson

      I am so sorry for the loss of your parents. You are right. You are too young to have to have lost them both. It is like being a member of the worst club ever to lose someone before their time feels finished. I pray you had a wonderful Christmas and I will be praying for you in the days to come.
      Blessings,
      Stephanie N.

  • Jane Steranko

    On my second tissue. When people die they live on in memories. It hurts for a long long time. And then you get to point where you just smile because something reminds you of them. You remember the good things.

    • mattmikalatos

      Those are beautiful words, Jane. Thank you for sharing.

  • Anna Mills

    Matt,
    I too am also a “Steph” My dad passed away 14 years ago from cancer and I miss him like it was yesterday. I still can not talk about him without tearing up.I did not get to say my last goodbye to my father and so many times I have asked the questions that you answered. I felt like he made me find this page just to speak to me through you. I find it especially hard on the holidays and Thanksgiving was his favorite so how funny that I found your letter today? Thank you so very much for writing this letter, I think you have touched the hearts of so many women who grieve for their fathers. I can tell you as a daughter there is no man that you will love like your father and he always holds a special place in my heart no matter how many years pass. Your daughters are truly blessed and I thank you so very much. Happy holidays to you and your family. Anna

    • mattmikalatos

      Anna, I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t get a final goodbye with your dad. Sounds like he was an amazing person. Thank you for your kind words and happy holidays to you and yours.

  • Serina Roberts

    Matt,

    I am so thankful this was shared and wound up in my fb feed. Like many of your readers, I too will have some empty seats this holiday season. In the last 5 months I’ve lost both parents and my uncle. All from cancer.

    My grade-schoolers and I are slowly learning how to exist in this new life without them. It took me three tries to get through your words completely, and am so glad I did. Many parents feel and think those words, but don’t speak them. I’ll make sure my children can’t say the same about their mom.

    I’m in Washington also, but did not send a lantern. I hope Steph finds out what she has started!

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks, Serina. Wow. That’s a lot of loss in a short amount of time. i’m so sorry to hear that. I hope you have the space and loving friends to help you find healing in the midst of everything else going on in life. Hang in there.

  • Patti

    Matt, Thank you for this ….I’m a little different in that I don’t miss my dad. This sounds terrifible, but I really don’t. It was actually a relief. Some may think this makes me a bad person, but I don’t believe that. . Abuse will do this to you, but its nice to see how it should be with a dad and his daughters. The only thing I regret is that my kids don’t have the grandfather they should have had (and I’m not sure they would even if he was alive). Again, thank you for loving your daughters and being a great dad, who not only thinks of his own children but other dad’s children also. A safe and happy holiday season!

    • mattmikalatos

      Hi Patti. I’ve been thinking a lot about this possibility the last couple of days. I have lots of friends who have had truly terrible parents, and I’m sorry to hear that was your experience, too. Sadly, the physical ability to have children doesn’t come with a corresponding emotional ability. I don’t think it sounds terrible at all not to miss him… nor should you. I think it’s terrible that he abused you, though, and that’s something that makes me angry. I hope someone was there to help you during that time and helped you get out. I think much of the advice here still stands… you are a person worthy of love, you have a life of value, and I hope you have people in your life who say those things to you. And I know you can and will break the cycle with your kids and give them life, hope and love!

      Thank you for sharing your story here, and for being honest and brave about your own family background.

      • Patti

        Hi Matt, hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I agree, not everyone has the “right” emotional and mental makeup to be a good parent. I have broken the abuse cycle with my two boys, who are 20 and 24 and who are healthy, happy guys. I’ve learned to rely on myself for clarity and being happy with myself as a whole. Its difficult to have anyone there when you are in an incest situation as a child. As an adult, I’m come to terms with it but most people are understandbly very uncomfortable (VERY) with the subject. I don’t hide it, but I don’t bring it up often at all. Forgiveness to my parent(s) is another matter…but I’m working on it! Thankfully, I don’t let it define me. Thank you for the lovely words and the thoughts behind them. Thank god there are fathers/men/people like you and I know there are many men out there who are good dads and many women who are good moms. I’m glad you brought so many people words of love when they were missing their loved one. That in itself it a gift.

        • mattmikalatos

          Ugh. That’s so terrible, Patti. I’m really sorry about your experience. I’m sure you know this already, but there are lots of people out there with similar experiences and there are lots of support groups where people can come together and grieve and process their stories together. I’m glad you’re doing well and your sons, too!

  • BL

    You have no idea how many lives you’ve touched. I lost my dad to lung cancer almost 30 years ago when I was 26. I cried as I read your words thinking my Dad could have written them. Thank you, Matt.

    • mattmikalatos

      You’re welcome, BL. Thanks for sharing about your Dad… I’m sorry for your loss.

  • Brittani

    My Dad passed away 2 years ago in Oct. I miss him every day and I don’t think I realized just how much I loved him until he was gone… I’m not Steph but on her behalf and other daughters who don’t have there fathers anymore thank you for this letter I needed to hear all those things! So thank you <3

    • mattmikalatos

      I’m sorry for your loss, Brittani. That’s really hard. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a kind note. I hope you feel your father near this holiday season.

  • Christy

    Matt,

    My brother passed away 2 days ago at age 53, leaving three children who already lost their mother to brain cancer 5 years ago. I remember speaking with him by phone after the birth of each of his kids, his love for them, and that he was terrifically proud of them. Two are now in college and one is still in high school. It is unbelievably painful that they have lost so much at such a young age. I love this letter because I believe it says what my brother would have wanted to say to them, had he written such a letter. In any case, it’s what he would have wanted them to know. So thank you for writing it.

    • mattmikalatos

      Oh, Christy, that’s terrible. I’m sorry to hear about your brother’s passing. I hope your nieces and/or nephews will be able to hear the words of love you share with them, and vice versa. Have a happy holidays. I wish you joy this season.

  • Kells Bells

    I lost my father to lung cancer when I was 12. He passed away the day after Christmas. I’m going to be 33 in December this year and holidays are still always hard. And holiday season is upon us already, isn’t it? Thank you for your kind words. You’re an incredible father. I know daughters (and sons) everywhere reading this appreciate your words.

    • mattmikalatos

      Ugh. That’s terrible, Kells. So sorry to hear about that. I hope your holidays are full of joy and good memories and good friends. Hang in there.

  • Stephanie Silva

    Matt, I am a steff in tacoma, were I may not lost a dad but have suffered losses that letter touches my heart thank u 4 writing it for all the steffs in this world

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks, Steff. My parents are both still living, and I couldn’t be more thankful. Grief and loss is something universal to the human experience, though… I’m sorry for your losses and wish you much joy in the days to come.

  • Jenn Papo-Bennett

    Matt,

    Your words are very loving and heartfelt. I am one of three girls that lost their dad 6 years ago and this article made me feel close to him again for a few minutes. My dad always told me how proud he was of me. Now that I have a little boy of my own I can relate to you on how proud you feel to be your child’s parent and I understand how much my dad really loved me. If your actions are as strong as your words your daughters are extremely blessed and should be proud to call you Dad!!! There are many “Stephs” out there that miss their fathers. Thank you for taking the time to write this and remind us that we will always and forever be our “daddy’s girl”!!!!

    • mattmikalatos

      Jenn, my pleasure. Thank you for sharing about your dad, and for your kind words.

  • Laura

    Thank you. I’m crying now. Not my lantern; not my name. But my parents told me they loved me and were proud of me, and I think you’ve said a lot they would.

    Holidays aren’t as hard for me now – they both died in December 2006 (Mom from cancer, Dad in a car accident not long after) – but they’re still hard. I have two boys of my own now, that my parents never met, and they make it brighter again – but I wish my parents could have seen them. I know they’d have loved each other.

    • mattmikalatos

      Laura, thank you for sharing about your parents and your boys. I’m certain you’re right that they would have loved each other, deeply. Have a happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you make many enjoyable new memories today!

  • Christina

    Hi Matt,
    Thank you for this my name is Christina and my dad passed away April 16, 2008. I am the youngest of six and was the closest to him. He was a very stern man but he taught me a lot and he loved us very much. As an adult he was always still there for me, when I needed a break from my own kids he would watch them for a little bit, or if I needed gas money or any help he would help me. He taught me to work hard for what I want and what was important in life. He kept us kids together by always celebrating Christmas, thanksgiving and any other important events at his house where we all came together. He taught me to enjoy my family and to always tell them that I loved them. He was at each of my first three children’s births but was unable to be at the fourth one. He was supposed to go to Maine to be with his brother but postponed because I was due to have my son in a few months. He had a massive heart attack and I never got to say goodbye. I still miss him dearly every day and I often wonder if I’ve made him proud and it’s funny of all days to come across this it was Thanksgiving, I feel as if he was trying to tell me he still watches over me.

    • mattmikalatos

      Christina, thank you for sharing. it sounds like your father was an amazing man. Thank you for sharing a little bit about him here. Have a great Thanksgiving and God bless you and yours.

  • Catie

    I was missing my dad today a great deal, especially with it being a holiday. He died in February 2013. I came home and saw that a FB friend posted this. I cried reading it. Thank you so much for sharing this. I hope Steph gets a chance to read it as well.

    Catie

    • mattmikalatos

      Hi Catie… I’m sorry to hear about your father’s passing. I hope Steph gets to read it, too, but even if she never does I’m so thankful that it has been meaningful for so many other people! Thank you for taking the time to share your story here, and I hope the holiday season goes well for you this year.

  • Cecilia Carolina Castro

    Matt, I am from Argentina… I lost my dad three months ago. When he passed, I was visiting friends in United States. It was so painful to be far in such a moment. He was sick, and I asked so many times to God to take him to His presence, but I wanted to be there! I couldn’t. Maybe you won’t believe this, but a friend of mine tag me on this article. She lost her father too almost at the same time. Each word you wrote brought tears to my eyes. I deeply thank you! I needed to read them! I think God allowed me to read it, because he knew how much I needed them 🙂 Thank you for your empathy, for taking the time! GOD BLESSED YOU!

    • mattmikalatos

      Cecilia, I am sorry to hear about your father’s passing. Three months ago?! That must be very hard on you and your family. I’m truly sorry for your loss, and I hope you will find peace and love in the weeks and months to come.

      • Cecilia Carolina Castro

        amen! thank you!

  • Teri Rolley

    My daughter lost her dad just before turning 8 years old. She was spending time with him during summer vacation when he collapsed in his home with a massive heart attack. A neighbor responded to her calls for help immediately and although he was a doctor, he was unable to do anything to save him. I shared your letter with her today because it contains the things I think her dad would have said to her. She is now 28 years old and the mom of a 1 year old. I’m proud of her for the way she has dealt with this loss and the soft heart she has for others who have suffered similar losses. Thank you so much for that letter!

    • mattmikalatos

      Teri, your daughter sounds like an amazing person. I’m glad she has you, still, to share your love and pride with her and your grandchild. I hope this holiday season will be one of joy and hope for the three of you.

  • Peggy Cue Herbert

    Hi Matt – This was a terrific piece. Although my dad is gone, it spoke to me more as something I want my 16 year old daughter to know as she approaches college soon and will go out into the world. The words were perfect. Enjoyed every tear when reading it. Thank you.

    • mattmikalatos

      My pleasure, Peggy. I’m glad it’s something you feel will be helpful for your daughter… I hope the same for my daughters! I’m sorry your dad is gone. Thank you for sharing.

  • Stephanie Croft

    Matt,
    I want to thank you for writing this beautiful article. My name is Stephanie as well, and like many other “Steph’s”, I’ve lost my dad also. Today it’s been 8 years since I lost my dad to cancer, and like every year it’s hard to deal with, it never gets easier, you just find better ways to cope. My dad and I never had a close relationship when I was growing up, he lived two states away, but in the last few years of his life we grew closer. I speak to him often in my mind and prayers, and I like to think sometimes he responds to me in small ways. There are times I talk to him and his favorite song comes on the radio, or I can smell his cologne, so I know he’s around. I was having a hard time yesterday coping, with thanksgiving and the anniversary of his passing just a day apart. I just have to say, this letter made me feel as if he was speaking to me and after the initial hysterical crying, it has given me great peace, thinking he certainly is with me and listening and protecting me. Some of things you said in here are things he told me the last time I ever spoke with him on the phone. So thank you, it may seem like a small thing to some, but you have touched many people and at least for me have given me a sense of inner peace that he is with me.
    God bless you and your family sir.

    Stephanie Croft

    • mattmikalatos

      Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing this. I’m glad you’re feeling peace this season. Thank you, too, for your kind words and the blessing on my family. That means a lot to me. I’m sorry for your loss and I hope you’ll continue to find peace and joy in the weeks to come.

  • Tara Ims

    Hi Matt, can you email me? I’m wondering if I can have permission to share this on dailymom.com. This is a very touching read, I loved it. tara@dailymom.com. Thanks a bunch!

    • mattmikalatos

      I dropped you a note, Tara. Thanks!

  • Kathrin Honesta

    Matt,

    I stumbled upon this letter just at the time when I needed it the most.
    Thank you Matt, God bless you :’)

    • mattmikalatos

      Aw, I’m glad, Kathrin! Thank you for your kind words, and God bless you, too!

  • Tie Dye’s Momma

    Big fat sad tears here too, though I haven’t lost my dad yet. Cancer sucks. You rock. Thanks for that.

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Does your dad have cancer? I hope not… cancer really does suck. I’ll pray for you and your dad.

      • Tie Dye’s Momma

        Yep, prostate. Looks good, he says. He doesn’t “feel sick.” But he’s refusing radiation, so who knows. He’s already had a stroke that took his eyesight. I never know if I’ll wake up to a phone call, “Come home. Daddy’s sick.” The not knowing is hard. The loss will be worse when it comes, I’m sure. But that’s why the little reminders that Dads always love you and are proud of you are so important to so many of us. 🙂

  • Delilah K. Stephans

    Matt,

    I lost my father to dementia years before he finally left us physically. I can tell you your letter brought tears to this 51 year old Stef. Because it was exactly what he would have said to me. And for just a moment while reading I knew he was with me again and saying “If I could have I would have said that.” Don’t let the name fool you – my real name is Stephanie – Delilah is my pen name.

    • mattmikalatos

      Hi Stephanie — Wow. That’s really hard. Just this Thanksgiving I was with a family member who is losing her memory of people around her. It’s a strange and disorienting thing for everyone. I’m glad you felt near your dad as you read the letter. I’m sure you’re right that these are all things he would have said to you.

      • Lesli J. Whitaker

        Stephanie, I am 19 and I was reading these comments silently until I got to yours and it struck a heartstring. My grandfather was my father figure growing up, the sweetest man I have ever known, and while we still have him, he has alzheimers and cannot get out of bed. He is 90. When I read your comment, it reminded me of the time, quite recently, when he was in the hospital and they thought he was going to die, and I held out hope that he would make it. Then one day, we were talking and he forgot my name, the man who had been my father figure for 19 years, danced with me every night from the day I was born until he could no longer walk, took naps with me in my playpen, and helped me with my homework, did not know who I was, and I ran out of the hospital into the parking lot, sat under a bridge and sobbed. I called my mom and told her, “I think he’s going to die, mom. He doesn’t know who I am,” and cried until security found me and sent me back inside. I stayed with him from early morning until the night every day, and they miraculously sent him home, where he still is, but I guess what I am trying to say is that I understand that feeling of losing somebody before they are really gone. I wish you the best, and am truly sorry for your loss. Lesli J.

  • David Cook

    Matt, thank you for taking the time to write this article! It has blessed many people.

    • mattmikalatos

      My pleasure, David. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  • Renee

    Someone earlier posted that they didn’t miss their dad at all. This is me. To be completely honest, mine isn’t even “gone” yet. But he is gone from my life anyway. So the results are similar.

    It was through my own children’s eyes that I read this… knowing that THEY have a dad who would write this to them.

    It was an interesting dichotomy of thoughts that went through my head while I read this. My tears were both sweet and bittersweet at the same time. I’m proud of the amazing relationship that my children and their dad have… and his immense love for them fills a lot of missing pieces for me.

    Matt, your children are lucky to have such a loving and aware dad. Thank you for this. You’ve expressed it perfectly.

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks for sharing this, Renee. I’m glad that your children have a loving father in their lives, and sorry that you don’t. Thank you for your kind words, and I’m glad that you have such and amazing co-parent for your kids!

  • Heather Schnabel

    Matt, thank you for writing this. I still have my dad, but he is losing his battle with lung cancer, with just months left to be here with us. I have never doubted his love for me, but your words are just what I needed to read. I am trying to be as emotionally prepared as I can for when he passes away, though know one can never be prepared for that. I will miss him so much, and hope to revisit your letter to Steph when I need some comforting words. Thank you

    • mattmikalatos

      Heather, I am so sorry to hear this. I’ll pray for strength for you and your family during this time. Hang in there.

      • Heather Schnabel

        Thank you Matt

  • Karen Boudreau

    Matt,
    Even 8 years after losing my dad, your letter made me cry like a baby. I’m an only daughter, with 2 brothers, who misses her dad very much. He passed after a 7 mo battle with lymphoma… 6 weeks before my wedding. I wish he was here to see his grandson and spoil him. I miss talking to him. Thank you for writing this to Steph and other daughters. We need to be reminded that we were loved as much as we loved.

    Karen

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks for sharing this story, Karen. I’m sorry your father wasn’t able to be here at your wedding or to know his grandson. I’m sure he would have enjoyed them both as much as he enjoyed you. Thank you for taking the time to write such a kind note in response to my letter.

  • Jasper

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for this awesome piece of writing. It made me cry so hard and let out all the pain and grief I have held in for close to 7 years. I lost my grandad to cancer and he was the closest thing to a father I had. Despite of all my shortcomings, he loved me like no one else would.

    Thank you so so much. Reading this piece of work relieved me of the pain I’ve been holding in.

    Love,
    J

    • mattmikalatos

      Jasper, I’m glad this letter gave you some movement toward healing. I hope you continue to experience healing, hope and joy in the year to come!

  • Barbara Wojtowicz

    For you take the time and write to “Steph” was so sweet & generous. Your words were so touching…your girls are lucky to have such a wonderful dad. Thanks for sharing.

    • mattmikalatos

      Thank you for your kind words, Barbara. I’ll be sure to tell my daughters what you said. 😉

      • Barbara Wojtowicz

        😉

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  • Kristine

    I keep reading this article and keep crying. I still have my Daddy, for now, and am grateful beyond measure. I will keep this letter for when I don’t and be reminded of his love when I reread it. You’re daughters are blessed to have you.

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks, Kristine. I hope you have many, many years before that. And thank you for your kind words.

  • lindsaylou

    Hi Matt,
    I just wanted to say thank you for this post.

    I lost my grandma earlier this year quite suddenly. She is the first person I have lost and I have been struggling with it recently especially with the upcoming holidays. I feel embarrassed to say that I took what little time I had with her for granted and I didn’t tell her how much she meant to me while she was here. She was cremated so I don’t have anywhere I can go and speak to her and I often find that’s the hardest part for me. I just wish I could have said goodbye…

    This post really hit my heart strings because she was the light that brought our family together. Ever since she has been gone my dad (who was my best friend) and I have drifted apart. We haven’t talked about my grandma since her passing, in fact, we barely talk at all. My mom and dad divorced last fall (they were married for 23 years-my whole life) and he has since been dating someone new. I truly miss him and how close we used to be but I don’t know what to say to him to bring our connection back… and I won’t just wait here and do nothing because I don’t want to take time with him for granted like I did with grandma.

    I know to other people on this forum who have true connections to this post may not understand where I’m coming from. He IS alive and I know I am lucky to have him here but as much as I know he loves me he has never said the words that you wrote in this letter. So thank you, Matt, because it is just what I needed to hear.

    I think I am going to call my dad right now.
    xx

    • mattmikalatos

      Lindsay… Thank you for this note. I hope you and your dad reconnect and it goes well. I think if you say just what you said here that all will be headed the right direction. Let me know how it goes!

  • Thanks. I really needed this.

    • mattmikalatos

      You’re welcome. 🙂

  • Elon Eisenbraun

    Matt, I just wanted to say Thank You! See just like Steph I too recently lost my father unexpectedly. And I do talk to him, bring flowers to him, and send “letters” via balloons to him. What you said that you believe her father would have said sounded just like my father and brought tears to my eyes but made me smile cause it felt like his response to the conversations I’ve had “with” him. So once again Thank You. Not just from me but from every girl who lost her daddy and would do anything to hear from him again.

    • mattmikalatos

      Elon you are very welcome. Thank you for sharing and I hope you’ll find peace and joy this holiday season.

  • Bobbie Carlson

    Oh how beautiful this letter is.. I lost my father at 7 to lung cancer. Ive sent lanterns and letters, left notes on his grave and sat and talked for hours to him. But never had a response, until now because I know somehow my father made it that this beautiful letter had crossed my path. As hard as I am crying right now, I am forever thankful and greatful to have read this letter. You warmed my heart, thanks to you the holidays may just go by a little bit less emotional. Thanks again, I cant say it enough. You are an amazing father, your daughters are so lucky!!

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks Bobbie! I’m sorry to hear about your father. Thank you for sharing your story. Joy and peace to you!

  • kristinemontes

    Hi Matt. This is so beautiful. You see, I lost my father 16 years ago unexpectedly because of a heart attack. There isn’t any day that I don’t miss him. Thank you so much for what you shared. I’m from the Philippines, by the way.

    • mattmikalatos

      Hi Kristine. I’m sorry to hear about your father, I know that must be difficult. I’ve always wanted to visit the Philippines! Thank you for leaving such a kind comment.

  • Cindie Crites Cortinas

    Matt,

    What a beautifully written piece. You see, almost 5 months ago now, i lost my 47 year old husband to a heart attack. He was driving home from work and it was completely unexpected! He leaves behind two children: an 11 year old son and yes a “Steph”, she is almost 13. I cried and cried reading this article as it hit so close to home. He had such a beautiful connection with both children; special yet unique with each. Not too long ago my daughter ( who plays soccer) crawled into bed with me and asked, “do you think dad thought i was a good soccer player”? I guess perhaps her way of looking for reassurance that her dad was proud of her. I wanted to show her this so badly, but instead I will hang onto it until she is older and ready to read it. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am one of many who were touched by this I’m sure!

    Cindie

    • mattmikalatos

      Cindie — wow. I’m so sorry to hear this. My own daughters are 13, 12 and 5. It’s hard to even think about what it would be like to be in your situation. I hope you find peace, joy and hope this holiday season. Hang in there. I’ll pray for you and your kids.

  • Aria

    Dear Matt,
    My father died suddenly a few weeks ago, after decades of him living overseas and limited contact over the years. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye or share any piece of my heart or mind with him.
    Once upon a time I had been Daddy’s little girl and his delight and love was apparent, and the memories of the love he had for me as a little girl sustained me through many years of not being able to see him (because of my abusive stepmother).
    It wasn’t until I had my own 3 wondrous girls that my heart finally began to heal and overflowed with the most incredible connection one can ever experience. It did, however, make me even more incredulous that any parent could ever allow themselves to be separated from their children. My mother abandoned us when I was 10 and my father was completely checked out after that. I would fight to the end of space and time for my children and it is crushing to think that no one ever felt that way about me.

    Even though I had already resigned myself to life without my father, his death has shaken me in a way I was unprepared for. The past few weeks have stirred up so much emotion from my fractured childhood and I have been mourning not only him, but all the years and memories that we didn’t have together through his unfortunate choices.
    I found some letters that he had written to me many years ago filled with love for me and wishing we could be closer, but it wasn’t until I read your letter that I knew in my heart that if he had been as eloquent and emotionally aware as you are, that he would have expressed these sentiments to me.

    Thankfully, I understand that every moment with my girls is a gift and although I never get to have the parent I needed, I get to BE the parent I wish I had. My girls live a life of love, support, laughter and connection. We choose adventure and joy and beauty every day.
    I feel as though your letter was sent as a balm to help mend my broken heart. I sobbed as I imagined it my father’s voice saying those words to me.
    Thank you immensely, for writing it and for sharing it.
    Your daughters are so fortunate to have you!

    • mattmikalatos

      Aria, I’m sure you’re right that your father felt all these things but didn’t have the right way to say them. I’m sorry to hear about the distance between you and your parents and the loss of your dad. It sounds like you’re an amazing mom and a great blessing to your children. I’m thankful this letter brought you some measure of peace, and I hope in the months to come you’ll have many reminders of your father’s love and that you will have many times of peace, hope and joy. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  • Cecile Aguirre

    Dear Matt,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write my daughter Steph. At first I could not believe it, but the picture proved that it was indeed hers. That is her handwriting. We lost my husband last 8/08/2013- he wasn’t much of a writer. But I know his heart and how he loved us. Your words in that letter expressed everything that he would have wanted to say. Thank you for writing it on his behalf. Your children are so lucky to have you as their father. God bless you and your family!

    From Steph’s Mom
    -Cecile Aguirre

    • mattmikalatos

      Hi Cecile — I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for your kind message here. I sent you a note on Facebook as well, but it will be in your “other” folder… look in your messages and there will be a tab marked “other” you can click and my note will be in there.

  • Jeremy

    Would be honored if you would allow mW toshare this story on my site with a link to yours. What a wonderful piece….makes me think heavily of the message I would want to relay to my children. God Bless you and thank you for sharing!

    • mattmikalatos

      Of course, Jeremy.

      • Jeremy

        Thank you Matt!

  • Lisa Zimmerman

    Matt …

    How incredibly beautiful and powerful this is. Thank you for writing it … for all the Dads and all the “Stephs”. Your daughters are blessed to have such a Dad. The world is blessed to have people like you in it. ♥

    • mattmikalatos

      Thank you for your kind words, Lisa. I appreciate it.

  • Amanda

    Dearest Matt,
    Thank you for writing this! One of my good friends sent me this link with a note that said “thought of you”.
    Right now I am planning the biggest day of my life. My birth mom has never been in the picture so my dad played the part of both mom & dad (which I am sure was no easy task). My dad passed away last year at the age of 46 (I am now 28) and it was MUCH too soon!
    I always envisioned that my dad would be able to take my wedding dress shopping, offer me advice, walk me down the isle and be able to dance with me on my wedding day. Unfortunately I do not have that luxury BUT I am incorporating him into my day! (His shirt will be a part of my dress & I will have a slide show of him & I playing during the daddy/daughter dance) I still ask myself the questions that you mentioned in the article ALL THE TIME! So thank you for answering them! Thank you for brining me tears of joy instead of tears of sorrow. Your daughters are so lucky to have a dad like you! Again, I can’t say thank you enough for writing this. You are amazing.

    • mattmikalatos

      Amanda, thank you so much for sharing about your amazing dad. I am sorry for your loss, but wish you every joy and happiness as you plan your wedding! I hope you and your spouse have a life filled with joy, wonder and love. Thank you for your kind words.

  • Anuradha Chandran Menon

    Blessed Matt,

    I am writing from Malaysia. Saw this post on my nieces Facebook wall and somehow I knew I needed to read what you wrote. This is so weird but not unusual. Was suddenly very down today with thoughts of my father flooding in. Usually when this happens, my dad will find some means to console me…this time its what you wrote to Steph.
    I am a “Steph” too. Lost my beloved father on Jan 11th 2011, exactly 1 month after I got remarried. He had what was his 6th heart attack, but unlike all the other times that he managed to pull through for us, this time it was a “switch off”. Devastating was hardly the word to describe what I felt at that moment. Then 251 days later on Aug 13th 2011, my darling mummy followed him too. She battled stage 4 Ovarian cancer for 7 years. The 3rd relapse took her.

    All of this haunts my brother and me until today. But we have accepted this. With faith that they are closer than ever now. Just a heartbeat away I would say. And the best part, one fine beautiful day, they will be there with arms wide open saying “Welcome Home”.
    I haven’t set free a sky lantern yet…must do that one day. But I write my feelings down…be it pen and paper. Or paint to set my pain free.
    So much I would love to say to you. But as for now, bless you Matt for crossing my path and sharing this message. It sounded so much like what my “Acha” (what I call my dad) would say. Thank you these good tears. Thank you for restoring Faith. Thank you.

    Attached is a painting, a mandala I did back in 2011 in honour of my father. Found some sort of closure after that.

    • mattmikalatos

      Anuradha, this is stunningly beautiful. You have greatly honored your father with this. Thank you for sharing this, and your story as well. I will pray for you and your brother tonight.

      • Anuradha Chandran Menon

        Received your prayers with much Love and Light Matt

        • mattmikalatos

          Anuradha… would you please send me an email? I have a question to ask you. Matt.mikalatos@gmail.com. Thank you!

    • mattmikalatos

      I am still looking at your mandala. It really is amazing. How long did it take to make it?

      • Anuradha Chandran Menon

        The Reflections of my Acha (Father) took me exactly 7 days. Each day held a different aspect of my feelings towards him. And this created each layer of that Mandala. Believe me Matt til today I myself cant come to terms as to how I created that. I always stand in disbelief whenever I stand in front of it. And so Ive come to accept that it wasn’t my work…but his hand holding mine…his heart consoling mine.

        I have a folder showing the different stages of the mandala. You can view it on my art page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anumas-Light-on-Art/210212492335002

        Have got a portrait of them too which I managed to complete and gift my beloved mummy on what was her last birthday on earth. And one specific mandala I did for my mummy too. Do visit my page sometime.
        Would love to connect with you on Facebook.

        Love & Light..Anu

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  • Kerry Ann

    Matt,

    I lost my father almost a year ago from a heart attack. As the holiday time is here, and the mark of him being gone for a year is so near, I cannot help but talk to him every day. Most days I just shout to him hoping he can hear all the words I wished I said to him more. Being 24 years old when he passed, I still sought out many life lessons and encouragement from him. In reading your article, I could hear my father say all the same things. You writing that letter and it crossing my path, as I see it, is a way my dad is telling me all the same you told Steph. It was beautiful, compassionate, and only the loving father of daughters would know exactly what to write to make a sadness a little less heavy. I cannot express enough gratitude to you for sharing that publicly. I cried for a while, but the most smoothing tears I’ve cried all this year.

    • mattmikalatos

      Kerry Ann — I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. May you find peace, hope and love this holiday season. I’m thankful that this letter brought you some small measure of healing. Hang in there.

  • Chris Earnshaw

    Absolutely beautiful writing Matt. I’m blessed to still have my mother and father around but I found your words extremely touching and valuable. Everyone can take positives from this letter. I’ve printed the ‘Be Loved’ section and stuck it on my desk as there were a lot of home truths in there. Be proud of yourself mate, you’ve touched a lot of people with love and positivity through your writing. Thank you, Chris

    • mattmikalatos

      Thanks for your kind words, Chris. I’m glad you still have your parents (me, too!), but that you still found something of worth in the letter.

  • Patrice Knutson

    Hi Matt,
    I could be Steff as well. I lost my Dad four weeks ago today and my heart is broken. He was such a wonderful man in so many ways and I just can’t believe I will never see him again, talk to him or have him hug me and tell me “I love you so much honey” he passed away from lung and heart disease, so it was terrible, he couldn’t breath….I basically moved home and cared for him for the last four months of his life. My dad had been ill for many years with heart and lung disease but he got pneumonia on July 4th and I retired on July 7th do you think that was a God thing…..I sure do. It is a time I will cherish for the rest of my life, we talked, we cried, we grieved, we laughed and we did the best we could in such difficult times. I have had signs from my dad and he has visited me in my dreams twice, but like I said I just can’t imagine my life with out him. Your letter meant so much to me and it could of been written by my dad, I know his love for me was so strong, I know he admired me and I just want to say thank you for your words, that could of been sent from my special Dad, I carry your letter with me in my purse and when I get sad, I have it close by to remind me of your kind words, that I pretend are from Dad.
    Thank you for taking the time to write this letter to all of us.
    Patrice

    • mattmikalatos

      Patrice… I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. He sounds like an amazing guy and I’m sure he’d be glad to know you’re thinking of him. I’m glad this letter has given you some small bit of comfort. Hang in there, and I hope your holiday is full of love, joy and peace.

  • Meghann Nielsen

    Thank you so much for writing this. While I am not Steph, I feel like I could be. Today marks 6 years since my dad passed away, and I know he’d want all of these things for me. We had a complicated relationship, but I loved him very much and reading your words, Matt, made me feel like he was with me even after all these years. I’m crying silent tears, but in the best way because I know my dad is here. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • mattmikalatos

      Meghann, I’m so sorry for the loss of your dad. Thank you for sharing about him here. I’m glad the letter was an encouragement, and you are very, very welcome. Hang in there, Meghann!

  • Kathy Lee

    This is just crazy amazing. Thats my daughter Stephs handwriting, but I don’t think she sent that up. Heres the thing, your post made it to her on a day she really needed it. She was thinking of her Dad all day and how much she missed him, (he died two years ago when she was just 16). Something big happened to her this week and for this blog to show up in her messages last night blew us away. we both cried so much. What a blessing that you took this as an opportunity to bless people. Thank you. Keep listening when God leads you to do theses things. They really do touch people. Thanks for reminding us that we always have someone out there looking out for us. God Bless!!!!

    • mattmikalatos

      Kathy Lee,

      Thanks so much for writing. I’m sorry for your loss (and Steph’s, too). I’m glad you found the letter at the right time for it to be an encouragement, and thank you so much for writing me such an encouraging note. I’ll pray for you and Steph tonight, that you have a joyful and peaceful holiday season.

  • Jessica D.

    My dad just died two weeks ago. You’re beautiful letter moved me to tears. I know I’m not steph, but I feel like I found this for a reason. It’s so hard with christmas coming. Our last words togther were on the phone, me telling him to go to the hospital and him being stubborn. He said he d call me when he got there, but he never made it. They were going to drive him, but he got bad so quick, the ambulance took forever and he never made it to the hospital. Everyday is a struggle. Everyday I wake up and I realize he’s not here anymore. Every morning is like someone takes the oxygen out of the room and every night is like someone is pumping it back in and I can’t sleep. I just want to say Thank you. My little sister was his best friend and they did everything togther. When she’s ready I’ll share this with her. She’s not ready yet though.

    • mattmikalatos

      Jessica, thanks for sharing this. I’m sorry for your loss, and for your sister, too. There’s a long road ahead, but hang in there. You’re going to be okay. I hope you find moments of peace and joy this holiday season.

    • fanny

      I feel the same. I don’t even want to accept that my daddy is no more

  • Skitch

    so…. all sentimentality aside… when these things land on my roof and catch my house on fire, or perhaps an entire forest, can i come and kick your ass?

  • Garricyn Richert

    Matt, I see you have so many comments from other Stephs so I won’t reiterate what has already been said except to add another thank you. My 4 little ones and I will now start reading your books! Thank you for taking time to be a blessing. Garricyn Richert

    • mattmikalatos

      Garricyn, thank you! Sorry I was so slow to respond, I’ve been traveling.

  • jean

    Thank you Matt for the precious letter. I am living in Africa and my daughters are living in the USA. It is if I would send them some of your thoughts. With your permission, I am going to forward your letter to them. Happy New year 2015

    • mattmikalatos

      Of course, Jean! Please do! Happy New Year.

  • fanny

    I lost my daddy when I was a baby. My friend posted this link on a letter I wrote to my daddy. Thank you so much for this. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t miss him. Thank you. I’m sure your a wonderful father.

    • mattmikalatos

      Fanny, thank so much for your kind words. I’m sorry for your loss, and I hope this new year brings some peace and comfort.

  • Maitri Varma

    Hi Matt ,

    I loved your write up,and I read it again and again. I just want it to put it in simple words ” The lantern fell in yard to give answers for many dads ”
    I lost my dad to P.F , 3 years ago and I know this is exactly what he would have said or wanted if he ever recieved the lantern.

    Thanks 🙂

    • Thanks, Maitri. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad, and I’m glad you enjoyed the letter. I hope this new year brings you peace and joy. Thanks for taking the time to send me a note!

    • mattmikalatos

      Maitri, thank you for your kind words. I’m sorry for your loss and hope this new year will bring you lots of joy, peace and happiness.

  • Stephanie Grace

    My friend posted this on my wall, as I am a Steph and also have lost my father. Reading this, I was amazed that there could be another out there that would do this, and as I scroll through the comments, it just makes me sad to realize how many other “Stephs” this could have been about. You live much too far for this to have been a sky lantern of mine, but this warms my heart all the same. I know that my dad would definitely have those things to say to me, if he could still reach me. Thanks for sharing such beautiful words….

    • mattmikalatos

      Steph, thanks for taking the time to leave a note. I’m sorry to hear about your dad… I can’t imagine how hard that must be. Hang in there, and I hope you find hope and peace this new year!

  • Tess Thompson

    Matt,
    Thank you for this piece. I haven’t lost my father, but he is not someone who would be able to say these thoughts with words (ironic, as I’m a writer) but I know he feels them. It took maturity on my part to understand that some men cannot express their feelings with words but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I see him so much more clearly now that he is the grandfather to my precious girls – how proud, how much he loves them – is easily witnessed from my mother lens. You are a wonderful and brave man to share something so beautiful and vulnerable with the world. It reminded me why writing matters. Blessings, Tess

    • mattmikalatos

      Tess, thanks for sharing this (and for being patient with your dad!). Keep writing, and thank you so much for your extremely kind words!

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  • Guest

    Good morning, Matt:

    I know I’m another voice in the wind, adding my song to the chorus of people who have written you regarding your “Open Letter to Steph” article. I am hoping, though, that you will see this note, and know that you have helped to salve yet another wounded heart with your words.

    You see, I, too, lost my father to a very brief and intense battle with Cancer just over a year ago. And not a day goes by that I don’t send him a thought or two up to say “Hi”, and “Miss you.” and “Love you so much”. And I, like Steph, send him letters to the skies, lighting them, and hoping the smoke will carry the words to wherever he is now.

    Your article was the answer to those letters I’ve been sending to Dad. Your talent gave my Dad one more chance of expressing himself, long after he lost the ability to do so. And your empathy for Steph’s pain is so far reaching, that you were able to help so many, many more people than just one.

    The other touching thought about your article is this: My father had intended to write me a letter during the last year of his life. The circumstances surrounding his need to write this letter are not relevant, but all his phone calls to me prior to his diagnosis contained “I’m going to write you a letter. I even have the stationary for it… I just need to write it. And I’m going to, I just have a hard time putting my thoughts into words.” But then the cancer struck, and we thought we had time, but we didn’t. So, the famous letter, and whatever sentiments it would have contained, was never written, although we did find his stationary soon after his passing.

    Matt, I’m going to print out this article on my Dad’s stationary, and place it with the other small tokens of my father that I have, and I’m going to think that my Dad used you to reach me. Because, apart from not having the personal anecdotes that exist between my Dad and I, your article is probably the heart of the message that my father wanted to convey to me.

    Please know that I am sending you so much heartfelt gratitude that words cannot even contain the emotion adequately. Thank you for giving a voice back to my Dad, and to all the other people who saw their fathers in your words, even if for just a brief moment in time.
    Sending you all the very best for you, and your family’s, continued success…

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  • mattmikalatos

    Friends, I am so overwhelmed by all the gracious and warm comments, as well as the heartfelt and generous responses from around the world.

    I am pleased to say, too, that I have been privileged to write a book about the sky lantern, Steph, and my relationship to my kids, which comes out in November! This is because of your kindness and generosity in sharing this post. THANK YOU!

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00V3L8YTY/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00V3L8YTY&linkCode=as2&tag=theburninghea-20&linkId=C2MQYP5ZD4LU26SM

  • Thank-you, Matt. I almost did not comment, because it’s all been said. Then I thought, for all of those who have lost their fathers too young, who have read your words and cried tears of loss and of joy, but who would not for any number of reasons leave a reply, I would simply say thank-you. You have, with the simple gesture of baring your soul, brought peace to many. I appreciate your call to duty as well, and I accept it. My father, while he was with us, made the world a better place, and I endeavour to follow him on that path. I will look at others differently because of you. I will see in them the love of my father (and mother who also passed too young). I see their love in my own child, and I hope that I can teach him to feel the love of his ancestors in those that offer their love to him. Bless you and happy Father’s Day to you, Matt.

    • mattmikalatos

      I’m so glad you took the time to post this moving reply. Thank you so much. I hope your Father’s Day is full of joy and love. I know your dad would be proud of you. Thank you.

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  • Caroline whalen

    Omg this is my cousins her dad died when she was very young and we released lanterns at her wedding and she showed me what she wrote and that was it??????

  • Anon

    Mr Matt I’m a nine year old kid 100% proof that my aunt sent this. Search in Facebook for Stephanie Kay Suyo
    Dad: https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000997353776&tsid=0.868602366419509&source=typeahead

    My grandma says they flew a lantern in a church to send a message to grandpop unfortunately I didn’t get to see it. PLS BELIEVE ME do not. TELL HER my aunt didn’t write it fully but please the others are wrong!!!! It was from a faraway nation, but it was a lantern so problem solved
    he died by smoking and tobacco I hope my parents stop smoking, so please believe she was far!!

  • Anon

    YOURE ALL WRONG! IT WAS MY AUNT!!!! SHE WROTE THIS ITS FAR BECAUSE ITS A LANTERNCIM SORRY TO WRITE THIS LATE BUT PLS BELIEVE MY GRANDMAS ALWAYS RIGHT IM PANICKING!!!!!!?!?!?!

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  • Merideth Godfrey Eades

    I can barely write this for the big sloppy tears flowing. Having just lost my father to complications from Parkinson’s your words have been exactly what I needed. Thank you.

    • mattmikalatos

      Merideth, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss, and I’m glad you found some healing in this letter. Hang in there.

  • Thea Henderson

    Matt,

    Thank you SO much for your fatherly advice. I lost my Dad Frank last year on October 24th. He had been pretty healthy, working and going about his life as normal, when he went into the hospital for a routine surgery. They decided afterwards on a whim, and with some prompting from my mom, to do a CT scan to see if they could tell why he’d been having stomach pain lately. What they found was that my Dad had Cancer EVERYWHERE and an oncologist told us he only had a few weeks to a month left here with us.

    HOW COULD THAT BE POSSIBLE? I thought. I was in the room when the oncologist told us, and I still didn’t believe it. I sobbed on my daddy’s shoulder and yet he remained a pillar of strength and just held me. Saying if he only had a little time left than he wanted to get out of this office and go home! Hahaha he always had a sense of humor about it, even when we saw it as being kind of dark.

    He was truly the most wonderful man. I am the only girl out of 5 kids and was always daddy’s little girl. He and I shared a really wonderful bond, and would dance together often whenever we heard music. It didn’t matter if we were in public and embarrassing those around us.

    I’ve been filled with a lot of regret lately on how I handled those last week’s with him because I think I was in a bit of denial. I didn’t want to ask Dad how he felt about leaving, or if he could have done something different in his life what would it be. I didn’t ask him what his greatest accomplishment was, or if he was proud of me. I didn’t ask what he wanted me to do with my life, or how he felt about me, because I didn’t want to admit to myself that he wouldn’t be here to tell me later. I wish I had though, because it hurts so badly inside to think I don’t have those answers. I know he loved me more than anything, and that I was his pride and joy (just like our favorite Stevie Ray Vaughan song), and he always told me how proud he was of me. But in those last few weeks I just dint want to focus on it, I wanted to put death out of mind even though it was looming around the corner.

    With Dad gone it feels like a hole has been punched through my chest and sometimes I just scream hoping he can hear me because I miss him so much. Then I read your blog post…

    A friend who helped me through my dad’s passing sent it to me and I was stunned when I was reading it because although you wrote it to Steph, your letter could be to all of us that miss our daddy’s and want ao badly to hear for them. I needed to read this. Thank you for being my Daddys voice, and for being so many other girls’ Daddys voice. You have done something remarkable with this, and it means the world.

    I love and miss you so much Daddy ♡♡♡ Thank you, and all the other father’s up there for speaking through Matt to all of us daughters who want so badly to talk to you.

    Love,
    Thea Henderson

    • mattmikalatos

      Thea, thank you so much for sharing this. Sorry I didn’t catch it when you first posted.

      I wanted to say that you can set those regrets about those last days aside. There are so many crazy emotions in a situation like that, and although your dad was no doubt going through an emotional crisis of his own, he knew that you loved him and that it was hard for you, too.

      I’m sorry for your loss and I hope your holiday season is full of love, light, hope and good things.

  • Teresa

    Hi Matt, I just read your letter. Wow. I’m uncontrollably crying. Today is a few days before Christmas. And my dad passed away July 29, 2015. I miss him desperately. I am a 41-year-old woman and Daddy’s little girl. I am releasing lanterns on Christmas in memory of my dad. I hope my lantern comes to life as you have done for Steph. Thank you for sharing. Sending love from Sacramento, California

    • mattmikalatos

      Hi Teresa —

      I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and that you find much peace and joy this season.

  • justadracutnative

    I just had to say thank you for the words I really needed them today. You see even though I’m not steph, I lost my dad 2 yrs ago on my birthday. He was the strongest, most generous man I know. He was an actions speak louder than words kind of guy, so reading this was like hearing him talking to me. My condolences and heartfelt love to all of you who also morn their dad’s. Thank you again, it helped more ways than you can imagine.

    • mattmikalatos

      I’m sorry to hear about your dad. Sounds like he was an amazing guy. Hang in there and I hope your holiday is full of hope and light.

  • Michael Loftus

    this world needs more Stephs and Matts….

    • mattmikalatos

      Ha ha. You’re very kind. Thank you. 🙂

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