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Family Matters

Filling the Emptiness: A Father's Letter to His Son

January 1st, 2016

By Michael Jesso

Steven Sachse is a 33-year-old restaurateur from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who for the past 10 years has lived in Fort McMurray. Steven tragically lost his dad to lung cancer when he was 12 years old.  This past summer, while visiting his mother Joan in Saskatoon, she handed him an envelope.  She explained that when he was just eight months old, his father Gebhard, an urban planner for the city of Saskatoon, was taking part in a Time Capsule project being buried on the grounds of City Hall. The time capsule isn't set to be opened until 2032, but his mother, not knowing if the capsule would ever be opened and knowing that Steven had so many questions about his father, gave Steven a copy of the letter that had been in a safety deposit box since 1983. She explained the details surrounding the envelope and said he could read it if he wished or he could wait, but as long as he knew about the letter she was happy. Steven decided to read the letter, and it was nothing shy of a treasure trove.

Starting out the letter with why his father was writing it, the letter quickly turned to the journey of life. He covered his early childhood and closeness with his parents, how hard World War 2 had been on his family and watching the family home be blown up by a bomb as they fled to safety. He discussed his years in University and how he waved good-bye to his own mother from a ship on a German pier when he was just 20, setting out for a better life in America with a friend he'd made at University.  He described arriving in Philadelphia and the mood of 1956; how he met the first woman he would later marry; how he volunteered for the American draft and ended up stationed back in his homeland of Germany. How on his return to America he ended up living in the Pacific Northwest, how he designed and built a house there, his love for racing early 60s Porsches, his amicable divorce and his move to Vancouver, Canada.  His description of the beauty of a 1970s Vancouver and his love for nature and aboriginal art was riveting, it was as if you were there with him. He would later accept a job from the City of Saskatoon causing another move to which would be where he put down his final roots. It was at a party that neither of them wanted to go to that Gebhard met Stevens mother Joan, and were soon married.

These were all things that Steven never knew about his dad.  He made sure to include stories of talking to his mother's belly; he was sure Steven recognized his voice when he was born. He included his fears, joy and happiness with his wife and new son, political views of the 80s and the direction he thought the country was going, how he hoped that they would find a cure for cancer, something that sadly would take his life 11 years later.  He ended the letter with how the age of 50 was not old and that you can go after your dreams at any age, to be kind and to recognized all the beauty that's in front of you.

For this piece Steven read the letter to me.  His wish is that each and every parent do this for their child. He carried an emptiness for years that this letter filled in ways that no one can imagine. No one knows what's going to happen to them from one day to the next, you can only hope that you will be there to answer all your child's questions as they get older and grow up. I hope this inspires you to write your own story, hopefully it will be opened and read together one day but if that doesn't happen you may have left behind the greatest gift of all.


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