#1 NYT bestselling author Linda Lael Miller
The Last Birthday Card

My dad and I shared a birthday. This year, we were planning a family party to celebrate, along with my nephew, Jerome. As many of you already know, Dad had a serious heart attack early in the morning of June 9.

While we kept vigil in his hospital room, my stepmother, Edith, gave me a beautiful card Dad had picked out especially for me. It showed a lone cowboy in silhouette, riding along the crest of a hill, with a dazzling sunset behind him. Inside, the card read, “Even the wide open spaces aren’t big enough to hold my love for you.” On some level, he must have known he’d be taking another trail soon, and this was his way of reminding me that he loved me, and that he was depending on me to use the strength he gave me.

Last night, just before nine, my all-time favorite cowboy turned his horse and rode into that sunset. And while I will miss him until I too catch up with the herd, I am profoundly grateful that this active, dignified man did not languish in a long illness. He would have hated that so much. He loved his home, his flowers, his family and his friends. And in my memory, I see that smile and those clear blue eyes.

Happy trails, Cowboy. I’ll see you on the other side of the river. In the meantime, I’ll do what’s there to be done.

My Dad

In the wee small hours of June 9, the day before our shared birthday, my dad had a massive heart attack. He’s holding on, but the prognosis isn’t very good. I spent all of the 9th and most of the 10th at his bedside, then returned to Spokane, exhausted and fighting off another onslaught of that flu I told you about last week. Of course, I’ve got one ear out for the telephone, and will return to Grand Coulee as needed. In the meantime, I’m hoping to go back out to the lake house and write. You see, my dad isn’t much for handkerchief-wringing–he’s want me to do my work and carry on with strength and dignity.

There’s always the meantime, isn’t there?

I told him I love him, and that he’s been the best dad anybody could ever hope to have, and promised him I would be strong–because he taught us to be strong. My creativity and talent for words come from my mother. My true grit is Dad’s gift.

Thanks, Dad. I love you. And whatever happens, I’ll be strong.

The Pony Express carried almost 35,000 pieces of mail over more than 650,000 miles during those nineteen months and lost only one mail sack.