Dad, Here is the hope you left behind

To: Dad

From: Hope (As told to Lauren Brill)

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Dear Dad, 

As you know, I was born an identical twin. When mom was pregnant, you named me Faith and my sister Hope. Unfortunately, doctors told you it was unlikely that I would make it. Mom wanted the baby that would survive to be named Faith Pauline, after her mother, so you and mom swapped our names right before we arrived. 

When my sister Faith was delivered, she had fluid in her lungs. Unexpectedly, she died a day later, and I, the baby that was not supposed to make it, miraculously survived. Too late to change our names again, you left me as Hope. 

My name has shaped the way I live my life. There are so many distractions in this world, but I have always felt a deep calling to exist in the light – to make a difference and inspire people. And you, Dad, taught me how to do so. 

For as long as I can remember, music was a very special part of my life. I have been singing since before I could say words. At three, I started to play piano and when I was five, I would sit on your lap and play the guitar until my arms got long enough to play on my own.   

Our home was in a peaceful and rural area of upstate New York. I connected to nature through music, as I got lost in the wooded trails while humming melodies in my head.

Some of my favorite memories growing up are of you writing songs in our house. From a distance, I remember hearing your voice as you worked on lyrics while strumming your guitar.

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Sometimes, I would sit next to you and you would often ask me, “What do you think about this line or this chord?”  

I would respond, “I think it’s really great, dad.”

Or, I would say, “You should try this.”

It didn’t take me long to realize that there were meaningful messages in all of your songs. You were very socially conscious. When 9/11 happened, you wrote a song. When there was an earthquake in Haiti, you wrote a song. When children were killed in a school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, you also wrote a song. You had so much compassion, especially for children. In times of tragedy, you used your music to highlight the strength and beauty that is in us all. 

Hope’s father helped grow her love for music.

You taught me how to connect music to both myself and humanity as well as how to use music to express my emotions and love who I am. This sparked a gentle and humble confidence that I will always carry with me. 

Three years ago, you and mom decided to move. I was devastated. You asked me to help you relocate and take the 19-hour drive from Burbank, California, to your new home. I always loved taking road trips with you and mom and this time was no different. During those 19 hours, we talked, we cried and we sang. It was a beautiful and unforgettable drive, as we watched the world go by. I didn’t know it at the moment, but it also would be the last time I would harmonize with you and fall asleep while you drove. Shortly after you settled in your new home, I got a call. You were in the hospital because you suffered a life-threatening stroke. Ten days later, with all of your friends and our family by your side, holding your hand, singing to you and hugging you, you took your last breath. 

I wrapped my arms around you and squeezed so tightly as I cried uncontrollably. Losing you was one of the hardest experiences of my life. It’s been three years and I am still trying to process it all. But even though I have pain, because of you, Dad, I also have music. [/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJFu71wZzB4″][vc_column_text]There is so much about the last three years that I want you to know. I think you would be proud to see the indelible mark the example you set left on me. 

You were born around a time when the world was different. There were places you couldn’t go and fountains you couldn’t drink from. When you were a teenager traveling through Alabama with your friends, you were held up by the local police for two hours while you feared for your life. They eventually let you and your bandmates go, but these experiences made you aware of social injustices, which we are still facing today. 

Dad, a few months ago, a man by the name of George Floyd was killed under the knee of a law enforcement officer. Finally, the world woke up to the tragic behavior that we know has been happening for such a long time. You would have been over the moon to see people all over the planet uniting to fight against this injustice.

Hope is a socially-conscious singer and songwriter. Photo by Jane Engs

I now understand what you meant when you talked about an ocean of tears in your song, as I witnessed so many people cry together. 

Even so, there is still so much work to be done to heal from all the damage, both past and present. Sometimes the reality of the situation drains me to the point that I feel helpless and paralyzed. But I learned from you that there is more than one way to impact change. So, I am channeling that energy into my creativity, using my music to try and show people that love, not hate, is the answer. 

We must start by loving ourselves, so we can begin to love and understand one another. 

The world is an interesting place right now. And truthfully, I don’t know what the future will bring, but I do know that I am answering my calling. 

Dad, Hope is not only my name, but it is our legacy. 

You may be gone, but your message of compassion lives on in my music. 

I love and miss you, but I know you are still singing with me. 

Your daughter, 

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