A Letter to My Father

Our Heart Felt department highlights our readers’ experiences with heart disease from their own perspective. We’re always looking for contributions, so please send us yours. Before submitting, please review our Writer’s Guidelines.


No child, no matter their age, can prepare to say goodbye to their father. On September 8, 2012, when I laid my eyes on your lifeless body for the last time, I wish I would have had this conversation with you as a child. If I could rewind time and revisit the first time I sat on your lap, I would say these words to you:

Dad, whatever lifestyle you decide to live will play an instrumental part in how I will live my life, aware of it or not. I appreciate and admire your work ethic and commitment to provide for our family. I’m proud of you, Dad, and the many other fathers who fought for their dignity as men.

But there’s one fight fathers are losing every day that has a major impact on their families. Dad, were we blind or naive to the seriousness that men in our family died from heart-related issues and strokes? Men in our family as young as 30 years old suffered from heart complications. We said farewell to three men within a 16-month period. The same fate that took your dad from you, and took you from us, came to take me away from mine.

As if it were yesterday, I remember seeing you sitting up in your hospital bed a few days before your departure from us. You made this statement: “I wish there were more I could have left for my kids.”

Tony's dad, Wardell Westbrooks

Dad, I never imagined that three years later I would be sitting in that same hospital, with the same medical condition, making the same statement. There I realized what your children wanted from you is what my kids want from me — a healthy father who will be around to share in their family’s lives. I turned my back to fate and decided to fight, not knowing the outcome. I owe it to God, myself, my kids, your dad and the men in our family who passed away from this condition. Dad, I apologize for not knowing then what I know now, that I may have been able to help you through this.

So, here we are, and nothing I can do or say will change your situation. At my best, I promise, Dad, to be a blessing to our family and to those who may be feeling the hopelessness you felt as a result of this condition. We miss you, Pops.

Your son, Tony

Tony Westbrooks | Survivor Sacramento, California

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