Dear Dad:

Bendicion! I have heard that we all have guardian angels that bless our lives and watch over us. However, I feel fortunate that my angel has been with me in a physical reality, since my guardian angel has been you. I feel extremely grateful and blessed to have you in my life. You are not only my father, you are a soul companion. There are no words or actions that can express to you how much of an impact you have made on who I am today. I remember as a child how much I wanted to be like you—putting on your clothes even though they were several times my size.

I still mold myself and my life around what I saw in you.

I remember how you would stop to help any stranger, whether it was with kind words, giving of your time through manual or mental labor, or even monetary gifts when you could. It was not your words that impacted me, it was your actions that demonstrated to me what was truly valuable in life. I also remember as a child walking with you along the rivers in Puerto Rico in amazement of how well you knew the plants and animals—to the extent that you knew when it was going to rain just by observing the changes in nature. It is as if you are one with nature.

At the same time, I remember when we moved away from you, to Florida, in elementary school and the pain and confusion that the experience brought. But unlike other fathers, you made sure to instill the values that you saw as important and, at the same time, made sure we knew how much we were loved. Although you come from a generation that did not value the expression of emotions, you would call and, most importantly, write to me often to tell me how much you loved me and missed me.

You also expressed your belief in my potential and instilled light in my darkest moments.

You gave a purpose to my pain and reminded me that within my fear was the same loving, caring child that was one with his surroundings and who had a higher purpose to serve others. Even when I strayed, you were consistent with your message. When I achieved a milestone you celebrated with me, and when I fell you would remind me that it was a blessing in disguise and that it would serve to pave my path. I won’t deny that at times I resisted those words, but I could not resist the seed that you placed in my life and the way you would water and create the soil to make it grow through your modeling and words of support. For instance, you never asked me to do or act in a way that you could not replicate as an example for me.

You did not try to force a belief system of who I should be; instead, you empowered me to search for my own truths.

I admire you for many reasons, including where you came from and who you are. Last summer we took a journey into our family roots by going to where you grew up. It was amazing to walk to the end of the road and then have to hike up the mountain for 30 minutes to get to where your home once stood. How could you have grown up without running water or electricity, and with 13 brother and sisters, depending on nature and still go to graduate school and make many contributions to society. Most importantly, how could you make that transition and maintain the true value and importance of how you treat others and nature?

Last summer when we were on your land in the mountains fixing a plantain tree that had fallen, I remember looking at you, through ignorance, asking why we would spend all this time and energy standing up one plantain plant when it would only die after it finished producing the few plantains that it had on it; you had so many of them and could only eat a small percentage of the crop. At that point you looked at me and said that those couple of plantains can help provide food for a neighboring family that may need something for dinner. I see now that you grow many vegetables, fruits, and herbs just to provide for others. This is done not out of financial necessity. You do it to honor what you can do for others, altruistically, without expecting something in return.

How can I have been so lucky to be born with a father who let me make mistakes, empowered me through his words, demonstrated the truths about life through actions, and served as a constant reminder of the light that we all have within us?

As a child I wanted to be like you, and as a father I hope to make the same impact in my daughter’s life that you have made in mine. Thank you for being you and for the blessing that you have been in my journey and the lives of many. And, thank you for maintaining our traditions and connection between the extended family through family reuiniuns and celebrations. I am eternally grateful.

Love you, Joeel A. Rivera

I write this letter, not only to tell my father how grateful I am for him, but as a reminder for all of us who are parents, play a parental role, or just want to be a better person to those around us and to nature. Our actions, not our words, are what will have the largest impact in our life and the lives of those around us. Children do not hear words, they see behaviors, and those behaviors will create roots in the tree that they call life. They may stray away at times, but those roots will be what supports their growth into adulthood and determine whether their lives blossom or decay.

Author's Bio: 

Joeel A. Rivera, M.Ed., Ph.D. (ABD) holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and is currently completing his dissertation for his Ph.D. in Psychology. Joeel’s extensive career as a relationship coach includes certifications in P.R.E.P, a 30-year research-based program for couples, Nurturing Father’s curriculum, and Parenting 21st Century. Joeel is now taking a select number of Life, Relationship, and Entrepreneurship Coaching clients. Contact Joeel at