Father’s Day
Written by Joe Dambach (2011)

“The parent child relationship never ends. A mother or father will always remain a parent regardless of the age of the child at the time of death or the reason the child is no longer present.

Time may bring more sophisticated coping strategies but the absence of the loved child lingers in the heart of the parent and remains there for their entire lives.”
                                           -from Journey Through Loss by Julie Siri

So true. It’s been nearly 19 months since Luke’s passing. It might as well have been yesterday. We’ve been grieving ever since and it has not been easy, despite any outward appearances. Father’s Day (along with Mother’s Day) is one of the hardest days.

I find myself going into deep reflection; thinking of the good and happy times with Luke, but also the difficult times.  Words cannot describe the pain since his death.  It’s hard to separate the good memories from the pain, as if you can’t have one without the other.  They are woven together, balled up into one big tangled mess of mixed emotions.

It’s 4:40am, and I’m listening to the birds talk and sing and play.  I think about the difference between mourning and grief.  Mourning being a public display of grief.  I think about how everyone grieves differently and that there are no shortcuts.  It comes in bursts and waves and sometimes I just want to wallow in its wake.  

Grief cannot be avoided.  Like the lines in the children’s book, Going on a Bear Hunt, where they say, “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ll have to go through it.”  You have to go through grief, in order to be able to manage it.  To deal with it.  There is no way around it.  

I think of the times I would sit outside with Luke, on the side of the house, in the shade, reading a book while Luke would feel the light breeze blowing on his face, his eyes squinting, hair flowing.  He’d get that glow of happiness that could transcend his disabilities.  I think of lying in bed with him, when I used to take him out of the crib and lay him next to me.  We’d both sleep and wake and sleep and just enjoy relaxing together, suction machine always within arms reach.

I think of the painful and haunting memories.  I think of the worst night of my life, when Luke died.  I think about how we had to leave the hospital, leave without him.  No going back.  It was 3:30am when we drove off into the darkness.  

We’re still in the darkness.  

It’s 5:01am and I can hear the birds.  A distant wah-hooo, hoo hoo – the call of the mourning dove.  I can see the glow of the mourning light.

By Joe Dambach

Thank you to fellow grieving dad and friend Joe Dambach for sharing this piece with us.  He was kind enough to share some of his thoughts, emotions and reflections regarding the loss of his beautiful little boy Luke. 

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User Comments ( 8 )

  • Jim Dambach

    The loss of Joe is hard to describe in words. I never fully understood the depth of his grief after the loss of his son until Joe’s death. His words ring so true now….” I think of the worst night of my life, when Luke (Joe) died. I think about how we had to leave the hospital, leave without him. No going back.” I think the same thing now……

    Joe was a great son, brother, twin brother, husband, father, uncle and friend. Joe will always be remembered for his smile, love of his family and his sense of adventure and love of life.

    We did so much together…..


    Joe’s identical twin brother, best friend of 45 years,

    Jim Dambach

  • Brenda Tower

    To Chris and Jack,
    I learned of Joe’s death on NH Chronicle tonight after watching a segment about fat biking. When I saw that it was dedicated to the memory of Joe I searched his name on Google. I was saddened even more to learn that you and Joe also lost a little boy. I read Joe’s piece called “Father’s Day” and I was so moved. I lost a son as well in 2007. He was much older, a dad himself. I know the pain of losing a child. It doesn’t matter what age that child was, he is still your child, your flesh and blood, your very soul. Only a parent understands the depth of such a loss. In my son’s case it was a private plane crash. I will never forget the phone call from my daughter in law. The horror and disbelief is something I can never find words to describe.
    I am so deeply sorry for your loss. To have lost not only your baby but his father as well. No words are adequate. Please please know that my prayers and thoughts are with you and your family. I didn’t know Joe or Luke but I know they are loved and cherished and missed beyond measure. Love never dies. May you find some comfort in your memories of Joe and Luke.
    Brenda Tower

  • Tim Savoy

    Sadly, Joe passed away this January. I was a fellow HS student of his.

  • Ana and Sal

    It’s amazing to read this article today… Just a few weeks after we learned of Jor Dambach’d passing… Luke and him now in heaven and United.
    We certainly miss him as a frien and this coming Fathers Day as his other son Jack spends his day with mom, I’m sure Joe and Luke will be right there with them …
    And so will Luke.

    • So very sorry to hear of Joe’s passing. Although I have never met Joe, we had a connection. We both knew the pain of losing a child. His reflection in the “Father’s Day” article he wrote continues to be one of the most read pieces on the Grieving Dads blog. His words have helped many grieving dads along the way.



  • So glad you shared. My husband and I lost our little boy in March complications following surgery. Amazingly and cruelly enough, my husband also lost his oldest daughter (my oldest step-daughter) in a car crash seven years ago. He does not share much so I appreciate a male’s perspective.


    • Joe

      I don’t say much either, but it comes out when I write. And when I talk with other parents who have lost a child (or children). We all share an instant connection, albeit an unwanted one.

  • George w kennedy

    Thanks for sharing. I also hear the morning doves, as a matter of fact everytime I hear the doves I think of Pete, who I lost 19 years ago, and the only thing that changes is the calander.

    Take care