What I Did Before My Dad Died, Dealing With Grief Through Love

What I Did Before My Dad Died, Dealing With Grief Through love

Lately, it feels like a lot of my friends are losing loved ones and family. Grief comes in big ways and small as we all adjust to such huge loss of friends, partners and loves. Sometimes accepting that loss becomes almost unbearable and even as we plan a funeral, a memorial service, we are still in denial. Because it seems so wrong that someone we love so much could suddenly not be there.

I’m a person who doesn’t have any parents or grandparents left and hardly any aunts or uncles. I went from a huge, outgoing family to a family with just a few stragglers. Sometimes it makes me feel terribly alone, so alone that it’s hard to breathe.

My dad died of a quick-moving cancer and lasted about two weeks from his diagnosis to his death, but before all of that, at one of his birthday parties, I wrote him this.

What I Wrote

When I was a little girl, I would sit on the golden sofa in our house and my dad would sit on the floor. I’d take a black plastic comb, the kind you can still buy for 10 cents. With that comb I would pick through his hair.

“Whatcha looking for Carriekins?” he’d ask.

“Bugs,” I’d say in my little three-year-old voice.

“Lice?” he’d ask.


Lice were far too icky and required shaving off your head. Even imaginary lice were too scary to be in my daddy’s hair. 

“Nits?” he’d guess.


“Find any?”

And I would take a pretend bug and show him.

“Oh…” he’d grab the imaginary, nasty bug, carefully look at it and then say, “Yummy.” 

He’d pretend to gobble it up. I’d giggle and giggle and keep finding more. He’d keep eating them. Night after night, he’d do this. Other dads would have rolled their eyes. Other dads may have sighed and gotten up to watch TV. Other dads would have grabbed that comb and said, “Enough.”

Not my dad.

My dad knows how to love.

He still does.

That was so many years ago.

 You’re 75 years old now, Dad. And I haven’t inspected your hair for bugs, but I think there may be a couple or two invisible nits in there right now.

You are 75 years old now and let me tell you and everyone here a few things I’ve learned about you.

I’ve made a list. Of things you aren’t good at. 

You are not a good liar. You always start to fidget and look away when you are supposed to fib. Uncle Kilton is like that too.

You are not a good cheater or pranksteM. Your eyes twinkle too much when you try to pull a fast one and we all know what’s coming.

You are no good at sitting still. You always seem to ache for the movement of your hands and feet, swaying into a purpose. There’s a lawn to fertilize, a chair to build, a person to see, a cat to feed.

You are no good at being selfish. Even though you guys are divorce when Mom needs a ride to the airport. You take her. When a friend is ill. You visit. When there is a presidential election. You volunteer.

You are no good at shirking. You stand up to your responsibilities. You stand up as the man you are, never pretending to be someone different, even if your pants keep falling down.

You are no good at lying, cheating, shirking, sitting still and being selfish. But you are good, you are so good at being Lew Barnard. You are so good at being a father, at being a friend, at being a man.

That’s why we are all here. You are easy to love and for 75 years you have blessed your friends and family with your goofy wit, genuine smile, toothpick eating, ever questioning mind, your forgivenessand your honesty. We love you for it. 

Why I’m Sharing This

There’s only one reason I’m sharing this with you. I wasn’t always a perfect daughter. At one point in my early twenties and I was taking seizure medicine, I barely knew what reality was because my body couldn’t metabolize the medication. I was a grouchy teen. I was bad at staying on the phone with him for hours. But in that one moment, I was so lucky, because I was able to tell my dad how much he meant to me.

And that matters.

And I want to somehow convince all of you to have that moment with the people and animals you love, to show them how much you love them even though you’re imperfect and their imperfect. Don’t be afraid to show them love.

Love isn’t always an easy choice, but it’s a choice to take, always the best choice. Always.

Choose love every day.



My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

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On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!

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A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

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Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!


Hey! If you download the Anchor application, you can call into the podcast, record a question, or just say ‘hi,’ and we’ll answer. You can be heard on our podcast! Sa-sweet!

No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?

Here is the link to the mobile app. Our latest episode is above. It’s also on YouTube here.

Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children's books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life.

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