Serena Williams
**FILE** Serena Williams (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Back in the late spring of 1996, around the time that my wife and I finally realized that our marriage was coming to an end, I began writing letters to my children. 

As part of the terms of our divorce, I chose to give my children’s mother full custody because I wasn’t the man that God wanted me to be at that moment. 

I often found myself lost and unsure, as the songwriter said, “with a ship without a sail,” because I was struggling to reconcile why God had taken the captain of our family’s ship – Daddy. You see, my father died in June 1995, losing a swift and painful battle with cancer within a short six months. 

As for being a newly-divorced father, I was forced to adjust to a “new normal.”

Suddenly, I wasn’t there to kiss my little girl, Jasmine, and my little boy, Jared, goodnight. I wasn’t there to see them come home from school – sometimes excited about the things they’d learned and done – sometimes upset over a minor setback that they felt was tantamount to the end of the world. 

They missed me a lot. But I believe I missed them even more. 

So, I began writing letters, sometimes to one of them, sometimes to both, in hopes of sharing words of advice and encouragement which I prayed would suffice in my absence. 

Ironically, I never shared my letters with my children, although I continued writing them for more than eight years. I’ve thought about sending them to my children, or perhaps even putting them into book form for publication. But for now, they remain safely tucked away in my office. 

One of those letters, written on Sept. 11, 1999, which I wrote to my daughter, was entitled, “Keep Fighting!”

I share this letter now as tennis superstar Serena Williams competes in the U.S. Open for what may be her swan song on the tennis court:

Dear Jasmine, 

Today, Serena Williams won the U.S. Open Tennis Championship in straight sets. I cried for her in her victory, baby girl. She is a young woman from Compton, California who had a dream and a supportive family. She’s the first Black woman to win the singles championship since Althea Gibson (do you know who that is?) and she’s only 17 years old. 

Remember this day my beloved daughter. 

In my life, I, too, have had some tremendous victories and opportunities. But sometimes, I have let others deter me from my course. Sometimes I have been my own worst enemy. 

Don’t confuse lust for love. Don’t confuse true friends for wolves in sheep’s clothing. 

Trust in your mother and in me. But I know you’re angry, confused and hate how things have changed. But know that I will always be with you. Not always physically where you can touch me and see me and hug me. But we are connected through our souls – our hearts and minds and chromosomes are bound together forever. You are my beloved first born in whom I am very pleased. 

I urge you, Jasmine, to be careful in your walk. This is not dress rehearsal – it’s the real deal. And the curtain which has already risen will one day fall after the final performance – whether you are prepared or not. 

Serena Williams has even inspired me in more ways than I first realized. But she should serve as an inspiration to you, too. She counts as a young woman who has achieved greatness by remaining steadfast, working to improve her God-given abilities and, I believe, by remaining humble throughout the process. 

You, too, must seek to realize your own talents and the desires of your heart. 

Let God lead you and guide you in all things. And know that while it will not always be as easy as it sounds, it’s the best way – the only way – to truly make your dreams come true.

Love Always, Daddy

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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