In the new book, Letters to My Children, 35 parents, from showbiz actors to athletes to politicians, write to their kids to impart wisdom, affirm their love, and share words of encouragement on how to embrace the future. It is probably one of the few times you'll see these public figures at their most joyful, hopeful, and, yes, vulnerable.
One of the letters featured is by photographer Jay Jay Lucas, co-founder of Chestknots Studio. He is also father to Ethan Jairo and Caitlin Soleil, whom many of you probably know as “Courageous Caitie.” You may be familiar with the his family's journey – the struggle to to know what was wrong with Caitie and finally knowing her condition, only to be faced by the fact that she didn’t have much time left.
In this letter, Jay Jay pays tribute to his daughter and the amazing love she inspired. (Read his wife's letter to their son here.)
Papa here. Your rocket ship, the claw, your poop buddy, bath and bubble maker, your helicopter in the pool, and shadow puppeteer!
I was the one who taught you the silliest things, ones that Mom didn’t like, but they were ours to enjoy. When we played inside your tent in the room, we had the grandest time. We danced a lot together even though you know I don’t really dance.
My fondest moments with you are the times I would bring you to shoots because you loved being with me. You would always ask if you could come. Whenever I said yes, your eyes would just light up. I’d see you hurry up to get dressed, pick a bag, pack a Chapstick or a puzzle inside your pouch, and most importantly, choose the shoes that you liked.
I would see you rush into the car, say “Let’s go!” to Mom, and happily sit in the back seat. Sometimes, you would even sit on my lap and try to drive. You were actually pretty good at using the steering wheel! Songs kept us up and happy on the road. You loved asking questions, spotting airplanes, playing “I Spy,” and just napping when you got tired. I loved watching you sleep. Th ose are some of my favorite moments as your father. Remember when you learned to swim? I was with you in every Baby and Me swim session. I remember that cold shower room where we always dressed up and rushed to our class for we were often late. But, oh my, you were a fast learner! Doing the monkey crawl, sorting colors, blowing bubbles, kicking your feet, and following instructions came naturally for you.
I was amazed. I was proud.
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The water will always be our special place and one of my greatest memories of you. Your giggles and smiles, how you would trust me whenever you jumped — all these made our bond as tight as glue. We would always sing the “Bye, Bye” song after every pool session so you would know that our time is over. But we always had 10 minutes after in the kiddie pool area with the slide. It was our fun overtime.
In this life, honey, I imagine that you just got out of the pool and are going on the grandest slide ever. You are probably dancing a lot in heaven now. I’m glad I got to dance with you, too, that I got to lift you up in the air and give you kisses. I’m looking forward to that kind of dance again.
You taught me a lot about unconditional love because of how you loved me, your mom, and your brother Ethan. We would read books together every night. You’d run to your bookshelf and choose fi ve books, and all of them would be your Bible stories. And then we would pray out loud. You would pray for everyone and just ask God to make you eat faster. We would always say, “I love you, I love you more, I love you most… But Jesus loves me more than most.”
Then I would sing “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children” to you. And finally, you would doze off . Pictures will forever be something we shared. I always wanted to record everything and anything about you. You are one of my greatest subjects. You had always been interested in cameras. You always wanted to try mine, and I would let you. And you took wonderful photos and would be so proud to show them to me.
Well, Caitie, this time, you didn’t even need to click the shutter for people to smile. Because of how you lived your life, you made thousands and thousands of people smile. You showed Jesus how courageously you lived, and He just beamed with gladness. Honestly, it now feels as if I will just see you when I get home from a trip. I guess living in this world is just one long journey, and, eventually, being with you and Jesus would be my real home.
Thank you, Caitlin — my little sunshine, my princess, master swimmer, dancer, painter, and most of all, my loving daughter — for giving me a glimpse of heaven here on earth.
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Published bySummit Books, Letters to My Children (P295) is available at your favorite book store.