Letter to daughter: Hold your loved ones close

Dear Huhana and Kāhu,


Last night I dreamed my Grandad Ray (your Great Grandfather), had passed away.
In the dream, my phone rang.



“Hey,” Mum said, “Grandad’s died.” Three words. 

I felt my stomach drop, but Mum sounded so composed. No surprise really. Her, the toughest woman I know.  

“OK, I’m on my way.” I fired the words off quickly.



You, your mum, your uncle Tony, and I sped blindly around a few Otaki corners to our Dunstan Street home. Since Tony was there,I guess we were coming from the old place down Maire St where he used to live. You know how dreams are – if half of it makes sense, you’re doing well.

When we arrived, my mum was in the courtyard. Grandad Ray was sitting outside in the sheepskin blanketed chair that was usually at his table. He looked like he had just dozed off in the afternoon sun, like he had a hundred other times on his porch at home. But I knew he wouldn’t wake up. I knew his eyes wouldn’t sparkle through those thick, safety-goggle-like glasses again.

I woke wide-eyed and panicked, and felt like half of my stomach was underneath the bed. My train of thought connected one carriage at a time.


I’m in bed.  

So it must have been a dream.  

So granddad didn’t die.  



Long breath out.


The next thought I had was that we have to see him today. And I realised we hadn’t made the drive to his house in three months.
And I asked myself why.
And I had no response.

I’ll need more than today and this quick letter to tell you why your Great Granddad is incredible. But over time I will. He’s ninety-three years old, so the time I’ve got left to spend with him is limited. The time you can spend with him is just as precious, even more so since you haven’t had the pleasure of knowing him for thirty-three years already. I have. Lucky.

I could make excuses here about how you, work, Shoebox Christmas, Kapiti Island Honey, music or other ‘stuff’ have meant I haven’t had time. But in the context of what I know is important, they would all be just that, excuses. Stale, wafer-thin excuses.
I’ve had all the time in the world, exactly the same amount that everyone else has had. I just didn’t use it like I should have.

I’ve got a kind of dark reminder written in white chalk on the wall of my office. It says everyone I love is only here for a short time, so enjoy that time with them. I face it every morning when I exercise and I know it’s time I should be spending with them, but I don’t. I can get caught up in doing things, making things, and leaving things behind for the people that I love. Sometimes that means I forget about the time I’ve got with them here and now.

I’m writing you this letter in the hopes you’ll be better at it than me, or at least start working on it earlier.


{A few months later}

Tonight you, your mum and I had dinner with Mater and Koko (your nana and grandad) at a restaurant overlooking Kapiti Island. Today is the anniversary of my two big-little sisters passing away – mum and dad’s two eldest daughters. The Aunties you never got to meet. They drowned in the Rauoterangi channel that we ate our steak and fish dinners in front of tonight. Until you came along, I have never truly come close to understanding what it took for Mum and Dad to live through their daughters sudden deaths. Them, the toughest man and woman I know.

We toasted to their daughters, overlooking the water. And I remembered this letter that I had started for you.

I know mum and dad would give anything to have their little girls at dinner tonight, even for just one more hug before Tangaroa took them away. They can’t make that trade though, it’s a wish that can’t come true except for when they close their eyes.

You and I can. We can still spend time where it counts. Right now. Lucky.

Don’t wait until the ones you love are ninety-three. Don’t wait until you dream of them dying. Because the reminder that comes next isn’t a reminder at all, it’s the gut twisting phone call telling you it’s too late. The notice that you had your chance for that minute, that hug, and missed it. They’re gone now, we all go. That’s life.

Hold the people you love while you can. Squeeze them. Tell them you love them. Don’t worry about cool. Don’t worry about tough.
Make the time to spend with the people you love and enjoy it. They deserve it as much as you do.

Love you,


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *