One Year Later, On His Birthday, A Very Different Letter To My Father… (Not The Man Who Killed Him)


My father loved us very much… and he lost us.


One year ago, I published a letter on my blog: On My Father’s Birthday, A Letter to The Man Who Killed Him. It was Freshly Pressed and had nearly one thousand hits, in a few days. It was published in Huffington Post and was huge there too. People sent the most amazing responses from all over the world. They shared their own stories of loss, grief, and forgiveness. Many told me I was incredible, for forgiving. Others understood my true intentions. Still, others thought the title of the post was misleading: the man I was writing to wasn’t really a killer, per se; they felt duped. Publishers in Australia and Europe asked to repost it; many other bloggers shared it. I was named a “Voices of the Year 2015” by BlogHer and SheKnows Media, based on the piece, an enormous honor and a boost I needed as I processed so many thing. It was posted the same weekend that my first piece was published in Huffington Post–– an entirely different kind of post. Many of those readers thought I was anti-Palestinian, a killer of babies, a “Jew lover.” I am that; I could not love my husband and children more–– they are Jews. The point being: two very different posts, and two entirely different outcomes.

But the piece about my father was deeply personal, while it garnered all kinds of reactions and accolades, I did not write it with any of that in mind. I wrote it to heal. That letter was the first time I put down in words, my own efforts to really move forward. It’s been more than 40 years since my father was killed; one could argue that I should have forgiven and moved on a long time ago. I would agree with that. However, in my defense, I’ll say it again: there is no expiration on grief. That single loss has followed me my whole life. It has defined me in many ways, and I was finally ready to be in a new place with that reality. I did not write the letter, which became a blog post, to be Freshly Pressed. I did not write it to be praised by so many strangers. I did hope that maybe the man I wrote it to, or someone he knew, would see it, and we would both have closure. But I didn’t write it to be praised. I don’t see myself as anything other than a girl who still misses her father, a woman who has grieved, a person on my own private journey. The fact that all of those other things happened, is just the how life unfolds.

However, all of that did happen. Life unfolds because of how each unique pebble lands on the water. The ripples make waves; the waves bring things to shore. In the year since that letter was posted, a lot has changed. In seeking to move forward, in writing one letter, I learned there were other things to learn, other things to be written. That one post opened me up to hearing truths about my father that I had never heard. It was painful stuff to hear–– not for what I found, but for what I lost. I was faced with hard truths, that changed almost everything. I spent weeks digesting and mourning the years I’ve spent focused on untruths. I went away for 9 days to process it. I walked for miles on the beach. I raged against my own ignorance, and I raged against the lies I was told. I let myself feel the grief that was under all of that rage. Anger is a chameleon, often hiding much more vulnerable emotions.

In the end, there is no going back. I spent much of my childhood wishing that I could wiggle my nose and turn back time. I wished I could sprinkle some fairy dust and change the outcomes. I prayed that I could be good enough, strong enough, special enough… to turn it all around. Then I stopped praying; I stopped wishing, and life just move on. That’s what happens, when reality sets in. We move forward, even if we haven’t “moved on.”

This year, it all looks very different. On November 29, 2015, my father would have turned 74. He’s still gone, but I’ve come a long way in healing and figuring out new paths for this journey. Some days, it’s a big ball of dark, sticky, mess to work through, and some days I feel stronger and more grounded than I ever have. My story, my life is my own. I don’t write it down to make a good story. I don’t write it for recognition, awards or feedback. I don’t write it for others at all. I write it for me, and because I’m a writer, I put it out there. It can mean whatever it means to each person who reads it, but it’s what it means to me that matters the most. Last year I wrote a letter to the man who killed my father; this year is different. It’s one year later, and my eyes are open.



Dear Dad,

This has been an incredible year, and you have been on my mind more than ever. For the first time in my life, that’s a good thing, not the misguided longing I carried for so many years. I feel like the bottom fell out, and there you were, and yet, there you weren’t. Now I get it, and that carries great healing, as well as new reasons to grieve.

I think I understand much more clearly who you were, not just the stories that I relied on. Hearing the truth: that you loved us, that you never let us go, that you fought for us, has been a revelation. Despite the pain that came with it, I feel lighter, blessed to know that my heart was right. I feel relieved to know that the things I felt, the memories I had, were real… It was the reality that I was fed that was broken, not me. After a lifetime of feeling abandoned, I feel loved; I feel found.

At this point in my life, much older than you ever got to be, I’ve had to work through my anger as well. I’m angry that I’m a 52 year-old woman, and only just figuring some things out. I’m angry that lies were my compass, and I never understood why I was off course. I’m sad that I missed the chance to feel love that was offered, because I was scared and confused. I’m bitter that I didn’t see the truth, for myself. And more than anything, I’m sorry for how all of that clouded my love for you, and my ability to share that with others.

I miss you. All these years later, I miss you in new and unexpected ways. I miss having grown up with the love that was right there, if I had only known. Even in your absence, I would have given anything just to carry your love with me. I miss having felt your love, and having felt free to love you back. I miss all that we didn’t get to share with each other. I miss you.

I love you, and more importantly, I finally know just how much you loved me. I don’t feel like a silly kid who just created stories to feel better, I feel like a kid who was loved… and who lost someone very precious. Thank you for loving me so much, dad. Thank you for being present when I was scared. I remember now. Thank you for your presence even now, I feel it. Thank you for loving us so much that you were willing to do whatever you had to do, to take care of us and show us that we had a whole family of people who loved us. Thank you.

Happy Birthday! It’s hard to believe that you would be 74 years old this year! You will forever be 32, 29, 21, 18, 16, 2… the ages you were in the few photos I have. I study those photos, looking for you, looking for me, looking for the things I don’t know. I look at those photos hoping to see something I’ve missed. But you just smile back, our dad, my mother’s spouse, your mother’s son, my aunts’ brother; a cousin, a grandson, a friend… it’s their stories that bring the photos to life… and my filtered memories.

Happy birthday, for all the years we shared and all the years we lost. Happy birthday, for the man you were, and the man you might have been. Happy birthday for loving me and for knowing that I loved you in return. Happy Birthday for each of the people you touched, and the marks you left on our hearts. This year, I’m not thinking about the man who killed you, or the events that shaped our lives, I’m thinking about you. I’m missing you and loving you. I’m celebrating your birthday with joy, with love, and with peace. Happy birthday dad; I love you.

    *     *     *

GIPYHelp Me Reach My Goals!   KAPOW!  The Tales From the Motherland Facebook page recently hit the 2015 goal of 800 likes (which I set after hitting the 700 mark)! I’m going big for the next year and aiming for 1,000!! Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.  ©2015  Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit; plagiarism sucks!

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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39 Responses to One Year Later, On His Birthday, A Very Different Letter To My Father… (Not The Man Who Killed Him)

  1. Pingback: One Year Later, On His Birthday, A Very Different Letter To My Father… (Not The Man Who Killed Him) | ugiridharaprasad

  2. Judah First says:

    Beautiful, Dawn. Isn’t the journey amazing?! 🙂


  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    Powerful words as always, Dawn. Thank you for sharing them with us.


  4. “Life unfolds because of how each unique pebble lands on the water. The ripples make waves; the waves bring things to shore.” Beautifully said.
    Following you on this emotional journey feels like a privilege, so thank you for that. We are all on the same journey, just on a different time table. I hope next leg brings you sunshine and smiles.


  5. Cathy Ulrich says:

    Beautiful piece, Dawn. So glad the healing continues. What a journey, and it’s so wonderful to know you and to be able to share in your challenges and triumphs.


  6. mamaheidi60 says:

    I’m so glad for you that you have relatives to fill in the blanks. The description of your year seems to have just flown through you, right out your finger tips. What a year it’s been. Doesn’t it make you wonder how your kids and grandchild will interpret their history? How will they describe us? I love your writing because you evoke a strong response from me almost every single post!


  7. Valery says:

    So foolish to think that I could read this without getting tissues first.

    I remember that girl. I could not understand, but back then I recognized the unusual combination of strength and vulnerability in you. I was spellbound by your amazing creativity and imagination (ie: horses on the Cushing playground, etc.) I heard your explanation for why your father was gone, and I couldn’t tell if it was real, made-up, or some combination of the two. But I could feel your pain. And I cherished your friendship. You seemed to handle everything with fierce strength: taking care of your home and family, keeping it all together with such determination. I envied your independance, not understanding where it came from.

    Now look at you! I wonder if you can see yourself the way others do – nah, you’re too modest. I am so glad you learned more about your past. Glad you kept an open place in your heart for the truth of your dad’s love for you. I have no doubt that he’s bursting with pride for you and the way you share that love with everyone – through the gift of your writing. Big hugs to you for your dad’s birthday and always. 143<3

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, it seems I’m the one who should get tissues, whenever I see your name in my comments, Val! Thank you, thank you, thank you… for being my friend through all of it; it for seeing me so lovingly (and no, it’s not modesty, but inability to relate); for being there now and then to witness and affirm. Thank you friend, 143, 143.


  8. Amy Reese says:

    I applaud for taking that first step writing that letter last year. Just look where it took you. I know it must have been painful, and it brought you more wounds, but also brought you closer to the truth of things. What a journey you’ve had. Thanks for sharing it here, Dawn. It’s really moving. Wishing and your family peace and continued healing.


  9. Lovely piece, Dawn. Thanks for sharing with us. — Suzanne


  10. Carol Middelburg says:

    Such a beautiful and touching piece of writing, Dawn. Your father would be so very proud of you, Kristen, and Scott, were he alive, but I have a feeling he’s smiling down from Heaven on each of you. Love forever.
    Your Aunt Cokie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Cokie. Your support and love mean the world to me. I feel so lucky to have you and Pat in my life. I will always miss dad, but you guys fill me with such love and pride. Thank you for that. This comment means so much. Love forever, xoxo


  11. Jackie Weber says:

    Reblogged this on The Needy Narcissist. and commented:
    This woman is by far one of the biggest inspirations I have on this wonderful website. I came to this site looking for my own voice and sounding board and have been so inspired to see so many people like Dawn who show immense vulnerability and true honesty in all of words. Please take the time out to read one of my favorite bloggers. You won’t regret it.


  12. Amy P says:

    Love your insights


  13. We all need to have certain emotional needs met. Some Dads leave us hungry for it. I’m still on my journey. I hope to one day be in your soft place. I felt your emotional struggle and it’s final answer. Thank you for sharing you personal journey of self-discovery.
    Isadora 😎


  14. Pingback: One Year Later, On His Birthday, A Very Different Letter To My Father… (Not The Man Who Killed Him) |

  15. Mike Lince says:

    Dawn, as a father with daughters of my own, I read your story from a father’s perspective – how a daughter loves her father even with long periods of time that go by without communicating. Every family is different, but the feelings are the same. Your letter made those loving thoughts between father and daughter come to the surface, and it warms my heart to sense the closeness of family even when time and distance keeps us apart.

    Thank you for sharing your loving thoughts. – Mike


    • Mike, I’m very touched that my piece in anyway connected you with your daughters. I hope you’ll build on that, and continue to work for a close relationship with them and your lovely grandsons. (( Hugs ))

      Sent from my iPhone



  16. What a difference a year makes! You’ve come a long way baby. Let’s see how many more slogans fit 😉 I love witnessing the changes for you. Beautiful. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Reblogged this on TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND and commented:

    This post means as much each year… but my perspective on my father, keeps growing and getting richer. Thanks to all the wonderful readers who have supported this piece!


  18. rgayer55 says:

    Very touching, Dawn. My eyes are misty. God Bless you.

    Liked by 1 person



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