Dear Pop,

I used to dread Father’s Day.

Seeing all these families celebrating their dadsit felt like salt in a wound after losing my father. The wound never really heals, I have just learned to live with it, protecting it quietly and mourning privately as you do with any major loss. And turning off Facebook notifications every year when that day rolls around.

I didn’t expect though, after a few years, to look forward to this holiday again. To celebrate you, and the impact you have had in my life.

You came into our life like a whirlwind after what had been a year of hell for our family. We were broken, still picking up the pieces and trying to put our little family unit together after losing our dad so quickly.

Then you showed up.

If a crystal ball had shown you the torture I would put you through for the next 10 years, I wonder if you still would have stayed. I wonder if you would have proposed so quickly to my mother and happily opened your bachelor door to us girls.

I didn’t hide my feelings when we first met. Feelings of teen angst, angry grief, and resentment which I was sure would convince you it was ‘all just too much.’ I was sure I could hate on you just enough that you would walk away.

And yet. You stayed. Through gritted teeth at times, I’m sure, but I never saw it.

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You met my resentment with patience, my anger with kindness, and my grief with compassion. On the very hard anniversary date of my father’s death, you acknowledged our pain and listen to our memories.

You allowed us to miss and love our dad while you were finishing his job.

Most of the time, with little thanks or acknowledgment.

I’m not exactly sure when the chill wore off for me, but I remember going to you as a 16-year-old, in confidence, saying I needed help. I saw the fear in your eyesthe fear only a father can feeland the relief on your face when I said I just wanted to see Harry Potter with friends, and I knew Mom wouldn’t approve. Could you help?

I remember calling you when I drank too much at that party for the very first time, and you came to pick me up, saying nothing, putting me to bed, and not breathing a word about it the next day. You knew I didn’t need a lecture, my lesson had been painfully learned as I suffered the next day.

I remember you helping me fill out my first tax return, teaching me about superannuation, mentoring me through office politics, and walking us through purchasing a first home (and moving me no less than 10 times over the last 12 years).

You became my Jiminy Cricket, my Yoda, and my friend. You worked so hard for my future even while I wanted to cling to the past.

I can’t think of a more loving action then taking another man’s family as your own and raising them and loving them, sacrificing and giving.

But you did. And you still do.

When you walked me down the aisle on my wedding day, I saw the pride in your eyes, and I remember feeling proud of us–we fought for what we have now, a bond not by blood, but by choice, sweat, and tears.

Now, I can say I have had the good fortune of having not one but two incredible fathers–one who gave me a loving childhood, and you who prepared me for the future of adulthood and who is there for me now as I navigate being a parent myself.

Not many people can have such a blessing.

Thank you for choosing me. I’m a better person today for having you in my life.

From your favorite daughter by loving choice.

Rachel Reva

Rachel Reva is a global media strategist, coach, writer and founder of ‘Life On Her Terms’. She lives in Australia with her husband and son.