on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

Dear Dad

This post is the twenty-first in a series, “Lessons from my Father, Lewis Marler,” who lived from 1921-1998.  He died 12 years ago today.

Dear Dad,

I’ve been thinking about you tonight on the twelfth anniversary of your death.  I am on a 16 hour night shift responding to a variety of crises at the hospital where I am a chaplain.

One family just lost their mother and grandmother.  As I walked up the stairs to be with them, I remembered again that your shoes touched these same steps twenty or thirty years ago when you visited your church members here.  I stopped in the stairwell and thanked God for the thousands of hospital visits you made in your fifty-year ministry in Alabama.  Another young woman’s father was dying and I tried to be comforting to her.  I know what it’s like to lose a father.

I wish you were here to visit these families with me.  We would have fun together.  I would love to hear your soothing voice and watch you make eye contact with the family members as you gently entered the room.  In fact, I thought I heard your voice in my own a few minutes ago when I gathered the extended family of twenty persons around the bedside of their beloved who had died as we all held hands, and I prayed while they whispered their own prayers to God to help them through this difficult time of grief.

I also wish you were here so that you could know Mary, Brendan, and Kiki.  You would love them so much, and I have no doubt they would love you.  They came into my life about four years after your death.  Brendan and Kiki are both in college  and doing well.  It is so much fun to watch them grow into responsible, loving adults.  They are a gift from God.

I want you to know that all those prayers you prayed for me when I was going through difficult times in my first marriage were answered.  Not only did I get through that time, but now I have a happy, healthy marriage with my soulmate, Mary Sullivan.  I have never been happier in my entire life. You would be so proud of her in the way that she guides people to connect with God in her vocation as an author, facilitator and spiritual companion.

Thank you for modeling for me what it means to be a good husband and father.  I’m trying to do the same.

Finally, I want to say thank you for loving me the way you did. You helped me to believe in myself and to believe in a loving God.  Your legacy of love lives on.  I am proud to be your son.

I love you,


P.S.  I’ve enclosed a picture of the four of us in Brendan’s dorm room at Auburn.


  1. Jan Painter

    Malcolm, You have no idea how much your rememberances about you dad comfort me.

    Soon after my mom suffered a devastating stroke and suffered 9 horrible days until she finally passed away,I was told by good and well-meaning folks that I should be happy for her, since she’d no longer suffer from her problems resulting from childhood polio and other illnesses that she so stoically battled throughout her life. I WASN’T happy! I wanted my best friend and Mom with ME! It has been almost 4 years now since we lost her but I miss her every day.

    I grieve that she never met her great -grandson and I SO miss our daily phone conversations. I get the feeling that everyone else has forgotten her and “moved on”, and have been chided by some people to do the same. I have learned that dealing with the death of a loved one is a long process.

    Now,when I remember her,I don’t feel quite as sad and guilty about the decisions which had to be made concerning her immediate care,but I still have an empty spot in my heart and I’m guessing that I alway will. It helps me to read your insights about your beloved father and know that I am not alone in my grief and that others who have lost loved ones are,like me, trying to remember the good times and are striving to live in a way that honors them.

    You have the unique God-given talent of putting into words what many of us would love to be able to express. Thank you for the gift of your messages. I find comfort in them that I don’t get fom any other source.

    Very sincerely,

  2. Malcolm

    Dear Jan,

    Thank you so much for your encouragement concerning my writing about my Dad. I also loved hearing about your mother. All of us have a different “pace” in our grief and we should not let others dictate what is acceptable or not for us.

    Sometimes people mean well, but they try to resolve or take away the grief for us by telling us we should be happy or whatever. They are trying to make our grief less painful, but the truth is the only way to get through grief is to feel whatever you are feeling at the moment and acknowledging it.

    We go through grief, we can’t go over it it or around it.

    The empty spot you feel in your heart doesn’t mean that you will always feel the same way. What it means is it is a call to you to feel whatever it is more fully. Take time to write a letter to your mom in your journal, or record on a tape recorder what you are feeling. It’s important to get it outside of yourself so that you can observe it and be fully aware.

    This is the opposite of what most people do unfortunately.

    I will keep writing, because it is helpful to me, and I am thankful when it is helpful to others like yourself.

    Peace to you,

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