Dad reflects on first Father's Day without his youngest son

Since our son, Conor, was born in 2002, I have always anticipated Father’s Day with joy and expectation. It was one of my favorite days of the year. A Sunday in June when everyone is kind to you and you get to do whatever you want. You receive gifts, some of them handmade (the best kind). Dinner with the entire family. U.S. Open golf on TV. What is not to love?

This year, I am not anticipating Father’s Day with joy and expectation. This Sunday will be my first Father’s Day without my 14-year-old son, Sean, joining me for a round of golf, competing with me in a spirited game of ping-pong, wishing me a Happy Father’s Day and handing me one of his creative, beautiful, hand-made cards. I was not ready to live the rest of my life without Sean. I never even got the chance to say good-bye to my little buddy.

From the day that we moved here 17 years ago, we have loved Hinsdale. It has been an ideal place to raise our four children. But more than the physical space of Hinsdale, we love the people of Hinsdale. Before we moved here, we heard that Hinsdale was loaded with selfish, self-absorbed snobs. That has not been our experience. Both before and after Sean died, we have found the people of Hinsdale to be kind, generous and loving. The support that we have felt from friends, acquaintances and even strangers these past 11 months has helped us move forward with our brokenness and pain. We know that the world is a mess and the media would have us believe that our world is beyond salvation, but we can testify that there is far more love in our world than hate and far more good than evil.

Thank you all for that.

In particular, I would like to recognize three fathers in the Hinsdale community who have helped me to understand that I am not alone in my grief and bereavement. The grief experienced when your child dies is indescribable. You are shattered, blown apart and all but destroyed. But I have learned from Rob Tonn (whose son Brooks died at the age of 10 in 2017), James McCarthy (whose son Jimmy died at age 15 in 1995), and Dave Ricordati (whose step-daughter, Amanda, died at age 20 in 2005) and from many other bereaved fathers that, even when we may not want it to, life goes on and we have a duty to actively love all of our children, living and dead, and to honor our deceased child.

If you are one of the fortunate many who have not lost a child, and you have a friend or even an acquaintance who has, this Father’s Day I ask you to reach out to him. Remember his departed child, as well as his living ones. People say, “There are no words.” But there are words. They do not have to be profound. They just have to be sincere. Tell a story, if you have one, of their child. Ask for a story if you do not. Say their names. Do not be afraid that it will make us sad — we are already sad. And please do not be uncomfortable if we shed tears. They are tears of love for our child and our child is worth the tears.

After all, we are fathers to all of our children, including those who are no longer with us. Even though we will not get any handmade cards from them this Father’s Day.

— Brian Richards lives Hinsdale with his wife, Kristine, and their children,

Conor, Grace and Finn.