Letter to My Father: Joe Agoglia

September 25, 2004

Dear Dad,

It seems so foolish to write you when I can’t hand this to you, but writing helps me to process your death in small, digestible bites. Others deal with loss entirely differently. Writing is my best form of release from the thoughts and feelings I have of you and this entire situation. Reflecting on your life keeps me grounded in who I am and appreciative of my family heritage. At the same time I don’t want to stay stuck in the past, either. As blurry as things became shortly after you departed, I am slowly (and I say slowly, conservatively) regaining some focus, but it takes a lot to see what God is doing. As you always encouraged us to spend time with our Lord, I am slowly seeing your reasoning for placing such a high priority on this relationship in your life.

We just returned from Uncle Frank’s wedding in Pennsylvania. It was wonderful to be a part of this special occasion. Your three sons were present with mom. It was unique that all four of us were together since we’re not always able to, due to our busy work schedules. Seeing all the relatives was also wonderful. We shared lots of laughs, remembered many memories, and then made plans to meet in the near future.

In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares." - Abraham Lincoln

SIDE NOTE: This was a letter to Fanny McCullough Lincoln wrote this touching letter of condolence to the daughter of his long-time friend, William McCullough. During Lincoln's law circuit days, McCullough was sheriff and clerk of the McLean County Circuit Court in Bloomington, Illinois. Early in the Civil War he helped organize the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, which he served as Lieutenant Colonel. On December 5, 1862, he was killed during an night charge near Coffeeville, Mississippi.

We’ve attended a few weddings this past year and each time, it’s very awkward not seeing you with mom. She mentioned a few times how much it meant to her when you would ask her to share a dance on the dance floor. With all the relatives dancing with their loved ones, she missed holding your hand and following your lead. I’m sure there was something about your hand holding hers which sparked something in mother’s heart. Each finger firmly intertwined in between hers, quietly reminded her of the special bond and love you had for her. Mom was your life companion, your trusted friend, and you were hers. The trust you both created and upheld within your relationship could never break the chord of love that knit your hearts together as one, not even your death. In a world where trust is shattered each day by infidelity and where unfaithfulness is glorified in our media, your relationship with mom was in the minority category on earth; in heaven, it will be honored when mom meets up with you again. I can now see why you and mom wanted your three sons to marry wives who embraced godly virtues.

Uncle Frank’s wedding was unique right from the start. The motif of serving was found throughout the entire occasion. I was surprised to see my uncle and his new bride partake in the serving of the guests for dinner. Never have I seen in any wedding I’ve ever participated in where the bride and groom served the invited guests. It’s usually the other way around. But when I thought about their example, it was the perfect preface to their marriage.

Dad, shouldn’t that be the model for all marriages – each one laying down their needs first to serve the other? It’s the exact model Christ showed us. He gave up his rights so that he could take on what was our mess, our own cesspool of sins. As scripture shows us, we are his bride and he is the Groom. And I believe that picture was given to us to describe our relationship with him: it’s a sacred walk, an exciting journey together, one that should be kept faithful and trustworthy, intimate and pure, rejoicing in the gifts of each other, and willing to endure difficult times. Christ showed us how to love one another: by serving. This was most evident when he gave us his life so that we could gain ours back. Amazing, here was a spotless Groom who still chose to be with an unfaithful bride.

As the vows were read to one another, I was touched by the personal words that were shared. I was also moved by the promises they said they would uphold. Just watching this made me think of the day I would share my vows with my future bride. I would like to personally write my own vows for her. I want her to hear my promises to her, and I want those in attendance to hear them so I may be accountable to them also.
The day after the wedding, I woke up a little earlier than normal. For some reason, I was thinking of the entire wedding that took place the day before. After attending many weddings, to some extent I believe I’ve become calloused as to the true nature of what really occurs during the marriage ceremony. I’ve failed to see that something very special occurs, something mysterious and pure, as two become spiritually one. But at my uncle’s wedding, my eyes saw something quite different and it forced me to re-think what it means to give your heart and yourself to another. Thus, I decided to read Proverbs 31, the infamous passage about a godly woman.

As I read that entire chapter, I was exhausted at the many responsibilities and tasks this woman took upon herself. I don’t see this as a checklist for the ideal woman but as a model for woman to look to and be inspired to become. Nevertheless, I believe the heart of this woman was found in verse 30b and it encompasses the entire intent of the author. It says, “But a woman who fears the Lord, shall be praised.” Early that morning those words spoke clearly to my heart for I not only saw this as a priority for women but also men. Even though I haven’t found that special life companion yet, this desire to thirst after God still holds true for me and in some areas, is even stronger. I must desire to know him not only with my head but also with my heart. I must set aside daily time to meet with him, just as I schedule appointments with others each day. And just as I wouldn’t break those important meetings, my commitment to meet Christ each day shouldn’t be broken or rescheduled either.

Dad, I know if you were alive you would have been with us at this wedding. You would have been so proud of Uncle Frank and you would have rejoiced in his special day. As usual, you would have taken many photos just to give them away as gifts to remember the time we shared together. And you would have made us laugh with your infectious joy which would have added to the festivities of the day.

How I miss your smile. That would always brighten my day. How I miss hearing you call me “son.” When I was a young boy, I hated hearing you say it because it reminded me of something I did wrong. Now, I realize you meant it entirely differently. I now see its meaning to imply a special relationship, a closeness we shared which other young men didn’t have. It describes a special bond a father has for his son. Your love was a guide to give me direction and, at times, it was a reproof to bring me back on course. Now, I wish I could hear you call me son again. I pray one day, I will have a little boy of my own so I can walk beside him and call him my “son.”

Even though one year has already passed us by, you’re always in my thoughts and I will continue to write you even though you can’t read my letters. I simply love you and miss you. You'll always be my Pops and I'll always be your son!