Writing Emails to My Late Father

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Ten years ago, I was in a dark place. I was consumed by shock and rage and grief. My guts were in a knot. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I vented the emotions that were poisoning my will to live in a series of emails to myself. It was the only thing that helped me get through that awful period in my life. For me and for Rax King, writing emails was a way to cope.

As King related at Glamour, King wrote her father emails to remember their relationship and to work through her grief after he died in May, 2018. Stunningly, months after she’d began writing, someone — a living witness to the relationship she had with her dad — wrote back.

When I felt particularly tortured, I opened my dad’s last voicemail to me and listened to it. His voice reaffirmed that I was a human experiencing honest grief rather than a dead pixel on a distant screen, passively crying over the cruelty of some algorithm. In the voicemail he thanked me for the gift basket of bagels, lox, and whitefish salad that I’d had delivered to him for his birthday. He was pleased to have received it and didn’t know he was going to be dead in a month.

I began writing him emails. I didn’t send them at first. Typing his email address into the recipient bar was enough to conjure up his listening presence. For months I transcribed the hostile anguish in my head into emails to my father, which I would then seal off with the addition of his email address and save in my drafts folder. It was the high school diary, unfiltered. He would never find out how it ended now; it felt good to “tell” him.

Email was barely on his radar. But one day I opened Gmail and searched my email history for his name anyway, even though I knew I wouldn’t find much. It was the sort of thing I did often in the early days of my father’s death, fracking for his presence in the deepest and most unlikely crevices of my life.

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