Dedicated to: Sir Alwick

Coraline—

I always knew this day would come. For me, it has come all too soon. Deep down, I know you're ready. No longer are you a little girl—the one who would curl up in my lap when she was sad; or dance outside as the sun kissed her cheeks and the wind blew through her hair; or sit on the rock by the bay, dipping her feet into the water as she skipped stones from the shore. Those days have long since past, and I often wonder where they went. There is always a tendency to look at the big picture rather than appreciate the beauty of its intricacies; years seem long, yet days are short and pass with alarming swiftness. To me, it is as though I took my eyes off of you for but a moment, and when I turned back, a beautiful young woman was standing in your place.

I'll admit, there are times when my heart is heavy. Especially now, as you prepare to take the next step in your life's journey. Some nights when I lay down to sleep, my mind protests. I toss and turn and eventually surrender to the waves of thought lapping at me. I lie awake in the darkness and look back on all that was and look ahead to all that might be, and I'm excited and afraid all at once; and I feel—for a moment, anyway—like the world is crashing down around me. It's not the prospect of you creating a life of your own that scares me. You are strong, bright, courageous, loyal, compassionate, and fair-minded and I know that you will have no problem carving out a place all your own in this world. What worries me is the world itself. I know what a cruel, unforgiving place it can be, and part of me wants to be there to shield you from it…to protect you from the darkness that lingers in places seen and unseen. But I know I can't. It would be unfair of me to deny you the independence you deserve because I am afraid of letting go. I was foolish to take your younger days for granted. It sounds ridiculous, but I used to think that they would last forever and it would just be you and me—playing games, having tea parties, and blasting our favorite songs on the radio. But I was a happy fool. Being a father and watching you grow has been the greatest adventure of my life and though letting go will undeniably difficult, I know in my heart that it is what's best for you. I can't keep you to myself anymore; whole worlds lay before you.

When I think of where you are in life, it makes me look back on my own. I remember when your mother and I got married. There were many people—friends and strangers alike—who told us we were too young; that we should wait until we were a little older to make such a life-altering decision. But we were in love, and true love—to those fortunate enough to know its virtues—is euphoric, enchanting, and encapsulating. Against their wishes, we went ahead with it. It was and remains the single greatest decision of my life. When we were together, nothing else mattered. Life may have been filled with trials and tribulations, but there was nothing that we couldn't overcome together. Those who mock marriage compare it to a prison sentence. They say things like "'I am' is the shortest sentence in the English Language, but 'I do' is by far the longest." They, however, are just bitter and deprived. The purpose of marriage is to spend a lifetime enriching one another. Your mother and I shared a bond like that, and I know your experience will be as satisfying.

This brings me to the real reason I am writing you. I know that it is every girl's dream to have the perfect wedding. Every detail, from the favors to the place-settings, is meticulously planned and organized. You imagine how you will look in your dress, you dream of walking down the aisle with everyone's eyes upon you, and you long to see the look of wonder in the eyes of the groom. Most importantly, though, you know that every one who loves you is there to celebrate your union.

I wish that I could make that happen for you, Coraline, but there are some things that even I am powerless to change. Though your mother won't be there in the traditional sense, I know she will be there in spirit. She always loved you and I know—whether she remembers or not—she loves you still. There is no doubt that she would be by your side if she could. She would have loved sharing every moment of this voyage with you, from helping with the invitations to shopping for a dress.

My greatest regret is that you did not get to know her better. You were still a baby when the headaches started; when the pain became so bad that she would spend hours in the dark, choking back tears. It wasn't long after that she began to slip. She started seeing things that weren't there, losing control of her powers, and speaking nonsensically. In a moment of clarity, she told me that she needed to be apart from us. She did not want, in a fit of confused rage, to hurt either of us—especially you. That night, she packed some of her things in a duffel bag and had me take her to the Jump City Psychiatric Hospital. As she kissed me goodbye, she made me promise that I wouldn't bring you there to see her; she didn't want you spend your nights and weekends sitting in a hospital room. I think she wanted to get better before she saw you again…so you would get to know her as she was—Raven of the Teen Titans—rather than what she became.

Almost every night, I would put you to bed and ask your Aunt to watch you while I visited her. For a while, things seemed to get better. Then, almost as quickly as she improved, she deteriorated until finally—the Tuesday before our 7th anniversary—she couldn't even remember who I was. I tried to jog her memory—I showed her pictures and mentioned names and dates, but nothing helped.

I always hope that one day she will get better—that she will wake up one morning and be as she was. Until that day comes, hope is all I have… Hope, and you. I see much of your mother in you. You have her strength. It flows freely through you. I know she would be proud of you, just as I am. While I don't know what the future holds, I know that the road ahead of you is bright…and I look forward to coming along for the ride!

I'll be waiting to walk you down the aisle with a smile on my face. May all of the happiness in the world be yours!

All My Love,

Dad