When we're young, it's hard to imagine our lives without our parents there, especially when it comes to celebrating milestones. We want them there through all of our ups and downs, our biggest accomplishments, and our lowest despairs, we want to share our world with them and continue receiving their love forever.
But, of course, that can't always happen. There are plenty of tragic stories of people losing their parents far too soon, but sometimes, those parents take the initiative and do something amazing that assures they'll be able to stay in their children's lives for years to come, even after they're gone.
A Message From The Past
A bride on her wedding day got an unimaginably beautiful gift from the man she least expected it from, her late father.
Freya Rosati, 32 at the time of her marriage, lost her dad when she was only 11 years old. Philip Hargreaves was only 53 when he passed due to esophageal cancer, leaving his wife and children behind.
But he thought ahead. He knew what he was going to be missing and still wanted to be part of his daughter's biggest moments.
Her Father's Wishes
He wrote nine cards before he passed, one for each of Freya's birthdays until she turned 18, and then one to be given to her on her wedding day.
The card was read aloud by Freya's mother, Theresa, instead of a typical father-of-the-bride speech. It read, "I wish I could be standing next to you, the proudest dad in the world, to walk you down the aisle to the man you love, and to the next chapter in your life.
"Today is your day, enjoy everything about it. Laugh and cry. Be happy and confident."
His Presence, Known
"Face everything full on. You will then succeed in your life together."
"You gave me some of the proudest moments in my life with your sense of humor, intelligence, understanding, and caring nature. Don't ever change."
He then signed off, "Love you forever, Dad."
Freya, when speaking about hearing his final words to her, said, "It was such a sad moment - but so important to me that the card was read out. Even looking at his handwriting in that card - it really just felt like he was there, and it was so nice."
Their Loving Bond
"He wrote me cards every birthday up until my 18th, then one for my 21st and a final for my wedding day."
“But the wedding day was the most important one."
Freya calls herself a "daddy's girl" to this very day, saying she used to do everything with him before his passing. They'd both attend her dance classes, watch movies together, and were always playing. She knew she could rely on him to say yes to any one of her wild ideas.
It was in early 2002 that he began to complain of symptoms that would later become his cancer diagnosis.
"My dad, bless him, would moan a lot if he got ill - even with a cold," Freya described. "What's striking is, once he got seriously ill, he never complained. He was a proper warrior - my big hero."
She remembers the early signs of his illness, too. “He used to get indigestion a lot - he’d take heartburn tablets like candies. But it seemed normal - he was a big guy who loved his food."
A Swift Decline
"For some reason, his leg started to swell up a bit - which is when mum decided to take him to the hospital. They ran tests and next thing we knew, they were calling her back in, telling her he had cancer of the esophagus and giving him six months to live."
From there, his condition worsened quickly. Freya and Theresa had to take care of him on weekdays, while Freya's brother, Daniel, would come to visit on weekends. Coping with Philip's eventual passing was tough on the whole family.
The Ghost Of Him
Freya explained that as the years went on, big events became harder to celebrate without her dad there, but it was especially bad when she began wedding planning with her now-husband Michael.
"We went to a lot of wedding fayres and you're having to speak to photographers and caterers, all of whom are asking you who’s walking you down the aisle, what song you’re having for your dad-daughter dance."
“I had to tell our photographer very early on, it would just be me and my mum. My dad wouldn’t be there."
"You see a lot of videos of that moment - the father-of-the-bride sees you in your dress for the first time and tears up. That, I found quite hard, knowing it wouldn't happen."
Still, she included Philip in the wedding as much as she could. She wore a necklace he'd given her before his passing with her wedding dress, had steel pans playing as she walked down he aisle since his favorite place to go on holiday was the island of Antigua, and posted photos of him on a memory tree outside her wedding venue.
A Perfect Wedding
They also asked for donations to the Macmillan Cancer Support in place of wedding favors.
As for the card reading, it was everything Freya could have hoped for. She said it felt like he was "really there," giving a speech in person.
Though this card was the final one, Philip's effort to be part of his daughter's big moments will never be forgotten. "My dad would've loved that wedding - just hearing his words, I can imagine him saying them to me."