A young girl talks to her father nightly.
My daughter should have been asleep, so when I heard sounds coming from her bedroom I quietly opened the door and stepped into the dark room. She was sitting on the window ledge and I almost ran to pull her in, but I quickly realized she was safe. As I stood in the quiet darkness, I listened to what I thought was a prayer. I soon learned she wasn't saying a prayer—she was talking to her father.
The moon hung in the night sky and edged her silhouette in silver, the air was cool, but the night shirt that hung from her shoulders kept her warm. It was the same one she wore every night since her father left, the same one she wore the last night he was home with us.
I held my breath and fought a tear as I heard my daughter whisper, "Hi, Daddy, everyone is asleep and I need to talk to you again." She looked up into the star-filled sky that had turned grey with the full moon.
"I know I need to talk to you a lot since you've been gone, Daddy, but so many things have been happening that I don't understand." She pulled her fine blond hair back behind her ears. "I know if anyone can help me, it's you, Daddy." She looked down at her folded hands resting on her knees. "I get scared when I see Mommy cry so much, she's so sad," she whispered. "She tries to hide it from me, but I can tell when she's been crying."
She looked back into her room, but she didn't see me crying in the shadows. "When I see that Mommy has been crying, it makes me so sad. The other day Mommy was talking to Grandma—you know, they get along now—and Grandma visits almost every day. Grandma was telling Mommy about when you were a little boy. She said that you loved to play soldier with your friends." She looked up into the night sky. "Mommy started to cry, so did Grandma. Is that what you were doing when you went away, Daddy? If you were just playing soldier, can't you just come home and make Mommy stop crying?" She took a deep breath.
"We still go to church every Sunday, and sometimes Mommy talks with Miss Cross, you remember her, she's the minister's wife. I heard her tell Mommy that she prays for you every night. Isn't that nice? I pray for you every night too, Daddy. I pray that you'll come home soon, but Mommy told me that you are never coming home, that you went to live in Heaven. I learned all about Heaven in Sunday school. Is it as nice as Miss Cross says it is? Do you know any angels?" A slight smile crossed her face. "I remember you told me that I was your angel, so I know that if you meet an angel, you'll love her a lot too, just like you loved me. I still have the little glass angel you gave me. I'll have it forever Daddy, because you gave it to me."
A single tear slid down her cheek and I watched her brush it away. "I'm sorry, Daddy. I promised I wouldn't cry, but sometimes I can't help it. The other day I was thinking about what forever means. I thought it meant a very long time. I asked Mommy and she just looked at me for a long time, then she knelt down and gave me a long hug. I know she was crying, so I let her hug me until she stopped. I think she feels better when she hugs me so I don't mind. I like when Mommy hugs me, especially since you can't hug me anymore. I still miss the way you always hugged me at bed time. It always made me feel safe. I remember what you told me when you left that morning. Remember? You said that you would always watch over me no matter what ever happened. And I know you are, Daddy. When I'm scared I remember that you're there, up in heaven, looking down at your little angel, and you'll make sure everything is okay."
My heart sobbed for my daughter as she began to cry again. Tears spotted her night shirt, she wiped her eyes with her fingers and said, "That's the reason I wanted to talk to you tonight, Daddy. I hear some people tell Mommy not to worry, that she'll find someone else one day, and that she'll be fine. Daddy, I don't want anyone to try to take your place, no one can. I remember I'm not supposed to argue with grownups, so I just make believe I don't hear them. But I know what they mean when they tell Mommy that. She just says she doesn't think she'll ever meet anyone like you. I know I never will. I wish people would stop saying things like that to Mommy. It makes her sad, and it makes me sad, too. No one else will ever be my daddy, that's a promise. Someday, I'll be old enough to tell them to stop saying things like that."
My little girl put her hand over her mouth and yawned with a soft sigh. She looked up into the moonlit sky and said, "I better get to bed, Daddy. Tomorrow me and Mommy have to go see the man you worked for at the Army base. Mommy says they are going to give you a medal because you are brave. I already knew you were brave, even without the medal." She climbed over the pillowed window seat back into her room and turned back to the open window. She looked up into the sky, and with a tear that seemed to sparkle on her cheek, she said, "I'll talk to you tomorrow." Then, with a little giggle, she said, "Good night, Daddy. Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite."
Standing there in my daughter's dark bedroom, tears filled my eyes as her words seared into my heart. "I love you, daddy."
I never loved her more.