Isla, aged 6, and Madison, aged 8, deeply felt the absence of their beloved father, Brian. The nighttime adventures of sneaking cookies and ice cream, teaming up to tease their mother, and shopping trips lost their charm without him.
“Brian, you’re pampering those girls too much!” Linda, Brian’s wife, would often chide him. “Why do you always side with them? I’m sure you’re their partner-in-crime when it comes to raiding the pantry!”
Brian would reply with a playful smile, “I’ll pamper them every day of my life! They’ll always be my priority. I’m sorry, love, but they’ve given you some competition. But remember, I cherish all my girls, including you,” and he’d wrap her in a warm embrace.
Brian had a knack for diffusing any situation. He epitomized the role of a devoted family man. However, his passing cast a shadow over the household. The once lively Isla and Madison became subdued, and Linda grappled with her grief.
Linda’s most recent memories of Brian were heart-wrenching. She had witnessed his final moments, unable to intervene. The diagnosis had been stage four cancer. Despite the doctors’ best efforts and immediate treatment, the disease prevailed.
Brian’s condition worsened, and one fateful morning, he didn’t stir. The previous night, Isla and Madison had snuggled beside him in the hospital. Sensing his time was near, he had requested Linda to let the girls stay.
Linda’s heart sank when the doctors pronounced, “Time of death: 4 a.m. Tuesday…” after she raised an alarm when he didn’t answer his phone. Their sympathetic looks couldn’t console her as they covered Brian’s face with a pristine sheet. The reality was harsh: Brian was no more there, leaving Linda in profound sorrow.
Following Brian’s passing, Linda struggled to cope, despite her best efforts. Her daughters had shown more resilience, even managing to attend the funeral. Linda couldn’t bear to watch him being laid to rest beneath the earth.
“Girls, on my birthday, I want you to look your absolute best. I’m eager to see what you’ll wear. Can you promise to come visit Daddy and show off your lovely dresses? I might not be there with you, but please promise me you’ll dress up,” Brian had implored in his final moments. His last wish was for his daughters to visit him on his birthday.
The day before the occasion, the girls approached Linda about shopping.
“Mommy,” little Isla began, “Daddy loved my red dress. He bought me one for my birthday. I want another red dress.”
“Mom, you can choose for me,” Madison suggested. “I want it to be Dad’s favorite color.”
“I – I don’t think I can, girls,” Linda replied, trying to evade the subject. She was still mourning Brian’s absence and wasn’t prepared for any semblance of closure.
“But we have to visit Daddy!” Isla insisted. “He asked me to wear something beautiful on his birthday. He asked Madison too.”
Tears filled Linda’s eyes. In her grief, she had forgotten Brian’s birthday.
“What did he ask you?” Linda inquired, her voice choked with emotion.
“Daddy wanted us to wear pretty dresses on his birthday. We have to visit him, Mommy,” Isla explained. “Come on! We need to go shopping!”
“When did he ask you this?” Linda questioned, bewildered. “I – I didn’t know…” She was unaware of Brian’s final request.
“The night before he passed away, Mom,” Madison disclosed. “He held our hands and told us he wanted to see us in beautiful dresses on his birthday. Mom, I think we should do it for him. I know it’s hard for you, but please?” She gently cupped Linda’s ears with her hands. “I know you miss Dad, but we need to do this for Isla. She misses Daddy so much.”
Madison had always been an insightful child, grasping concepts that typically eluded kids her age. Eventually, she persuaded Linda to go shopping.
“Okay,” Linda conceded, “Let’s find the most beautiful dresses for you two, so daddy can see what he’s missing out on!” As she spoke, tears welled up in her eyes, and her daughters rushed to embrace her.
“He wouldn’t want to see you like this, mom,” Madison murmured, gently rubbing her mother’s back.
The following day, which marked Brian’s birthday, the sisters donned their new dresses and, hand in hand, made their way to Brian’s resting place, with Linda trailing behind.
Upon reaching Brian’s gravestone, the girls spotted two elegantly wrapped packages bearing their names. A note on top indicated they were from Brian.
“Mommy!” Isla exclaimed, turning to Linda, “Look, daddy left us presents! Silly daddy, we should be giving him gifts on his birthday!” She giggled.
Madison shot Linda a knowing look, aware that the departed couldn’t possibly send gifts.
“Perhaps he wanted to surprise his little girls one last time. Go on, open them,” Linda encouraged, her smile bittersweet.
As the girls eagerly unwrapped their gifts, Linda struggled to hold back her tears. Isla’s face lit up with joy, while Madison shed tears for the first time since their father’s passing.
Inside each box was a pair of beautiful Mary Janes and a heartfelt letter from Brian.
“Shoes!” Isla exclaimed. “They’re so lovely, mommy! And in my favorite color…pink!”
The letter read:
“My beautiful girls,
Even the angels up here are amazed at how two girls can shine so brightly! They believe you two are the loveliest creations of God. I can see how wonderful you both look in your dresses. I wanted to add a little more sparkle to your outfits, so I got these shoes for you. I hope they bring joy to your feet.
Remember, even if I’m not physically with you, I’m always in your hearts. I’ve noticed that you’ve stopped indulging in cookies and ice creams. But here’s a secret: I saw mommy filling up the pantry with big boxes of cookies. The next time you come to see me, I want to hear tales of your sneaky cookie adventures. Just because I’m not there doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with mommy! I want you both to find reasons to smile every day. It’s okay to be a little mischievous sometimes; I bet even mommy would agree.
Thank you for coming to wish me on my birthday. Know that I love and miss you both dearly.
With all my love,
“I can’t read all of that!” Isla protested. “Madison, what did daddy say?”
Madison wrapped her arms around Isla. “He said he’s content where he is and wants us to find happiness too. He misses us a lot. And thank you, mom,” she added, recognizing the true source of the gifts. “We’re grateful you brought us here.”
Linda, with tears in her eyes, whispered, “I love you both so much,” feeling grateful to her daughters for helping her navigate through her grief and find the courage to visit Brian.