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An open letter to Bernal E. Smith II: Happy Heavenly Birthday, Dad!

To the second best man watching me from overhead (after God):
It’s been 130 days since you transitioned from work to reward. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the toughest four and a half months of my life. I’ve never had to live life without my dad, my protector, my provider.
To many, he was a servant-leader, a community activist, a philanthropist, a visionary. And, of course, he was publisher of The New Tri-State Defender. But to me, he was simply Daddy.

From teaching me how to walk, to dribbling a ball, driving a car, even dancing, you showed me ways to stand on my own two feet. A dad’s job is not only to protect his daughter, but also to show her how to defend herself — to prepare her for the day when he is not around.

Thank you for always believing in me and pushing me to always chase my dreams. You wanted so much for me — you wanted me to be happy, to be loved, to make a significant impact, to be the best me, and just to live a life with as little regret as possible.
You and Momma showed me what true, unconditional love looks like — and even in your death, she still honors you.
Thank you for being you — every imperfection, flaw and perfect aspect of who you were. Thank you for teaching me what you loved and what was important to you. There isn’t one thing about you that doesn’t inspire me daily.
However, I have found comfort in knowing that you are still here every step of the way —and will always be. I’ve come to realize that we’re going to be OK. You raised me, Bryndon and Braylon to be strong, independent, respectful, courageous, outspoken and persistent. You set the foundation for my brothers and me.
Everything we do is going to be for you and we want to make you proud till our very last breath; just as you did. Daddy, I miss you more than words can ever express. Thank you for being my heart, my world and now, my precious guardian angel.
I have your sense of humor and share your love for life — you loved people and a good party. And on today, I celebrate your life and legacy.
Nobody can understand the broken heart that comes from a girl losing her dad. While the initial wound goes away, the scars and bruises stay forever.
I thank God for allowing my dad to be the vessel for my journey into this universe. More  importantly, for his care, love and support for the first 23 years of my life, as well as for equipping me for the remainder of the journey.
I’m thankful for the 23 years, I had with you… You’re still with me, in my laughter, my smile, my tears, my writing and my heart.
I love you — unconditionally and forever.
Brianna Alexis Smith

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