Tom Attwater knows he will never get the chance to walk his daughter Kelli down the aisle, teach her to drive or vet her first boyfriend.
The 31-year-old businessman is suffering from a terminal brain tumour.
Now he has put pen to paper to write his beloved girl a letter giving her the advice and guidance he will not get the chance to give her in person.
And, after 34 drafts and a ‘tearful experience’, Tom has finally finished writing his advice to Kelli, aged five, on everything from school to marriage, boys and driving.
His fiancée Joely Smith will give Kelli the letter when she is older and the time is right.
Tom, originally from Pattingham, started writing the heartbreaking letter around a month ago after suffering a particularly bad seizure.
“Since then, I’ve been quite bad so I just wanted to write it all down and make sure it was all on paper in case the worst should happen,” says Tom, who will wed Joely later this year.
“I did 34 drafts of the letter. It was a difficult and tearful experience but I really wanted to do it because I know it will be good for Kelli when she’s older.
“There were some really difficult times as I was writing it, particularly thinking of Kelli reading it and it made me realise I won’t be here and the pain my death could bring.”
But the letter is not the only legacy Tom is leaving to Kelli. She too has faced her own battle, after being diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer as a baby.
Tom has vowed to spend what time he has left raising the £500,000 needed to send Kelli abroad for pioneering treatment that could prevent her relapsing to the disease.
In his letter to Kelli, Tom writes: “I hope cancer never returns so that your life is long, fulfilled and happy.” He also talks about his sadness that he will not get the chance to see her grow up – but urges her not to blame people or the world.
“A lot of life is simply luck and mine is running out,” he says. “Most dads and daughters have decades to chat around the kitchen table, their hands warmed by mugs of coffee, as the dad dishes out advice and their girls no doubt roll their eyes. We don’t have that time. I won’t be able to drop you off on your first day at school, pick you up after your first date, hold you when your heart hurts or cheer when you graduate.”
He tells Kelli to always do her best at school but to remember to have fun too.
And when it comes to boys, Tom tells Kelli: “It’s very hard to describe how it feels to really be in love.
“You might remember seeing me and your mum laughing together and cuddling on the sofa, and once the love hearts and flowers fade, that’s what real love looks like.”
He also urges her to choose boys with ‘gentlemanly values, manners and respect’. He adds: “Sadly you will have your heart broken one day.
“It hurts like hell and will feel like the end of the world. But you will get over it. And even if a romance doesn’t work out, try to be kind.”
And he tells Kelli when she does find love and walks down the aisle to be wed, he will be with her on her special day, ‘proud and happy that you have found a special someone to love you and care for you’.
Tom, who lives in Sutton Coldfield, asks Kelli to help her mother when she is feeling sad, to remember that nothing is more important than family and to treat her friends well. On the subject of Joely, he adds that the pair will probably argue at times, especially when Kelli is a teenager.
“Please remember she adores you and wants the best for you,” he says.
“Give Mummy a hug when she is feeling sad and help each other get through any horrible times when I am gone.” Manners should always be remembered, says Tom, knives should never be put in the mouth and Kelli should always try to travel when she can to help broaden her mind.
He also urges Kelli to learn how to drive. “Most dads teach their daughters to drive and usually fall out in the process,” he says.
“Make sure you learn how to drive as soon as you can – it opens up the world for you.
“Also, make sure Mummy doesn’t teach you (just joking, Joely.).
But one of the main messages Tom has for Kelli is to simply be happy. “You never laugh at 50 per cent, you always laugh at 100 per cent,” he tells her.
“Your laugh takes over your whole body and is highly infectious. I hope you never lose that.”
And he asks her to use the sadness she will feel at his death as a driving force for her life. “You can feel sad and use it as a driving force throughout your life. Or you can just be sad. You know which one I hope you choose.”
His other message for Kelli was to believe in herself.
“In life, many people will tell you you cannot do things,” he says.
“You make up your mind. Can you? Do you want to? Big challenges involve risks, so make smart choices. Those who told me I couldn’t do certain things didn’t want me to do them. If you want something it is nearly always possible, so do your best. I’m sure there’s a hell of a lot you can achieve.
“I know you will make me proud and do something great in my memory.”
Tom has tried to pass on his life motto of ‘always keep trying’ and tells her to remember the saying he taught her – that ‘giving up is for losers’.
Another of his messages to Kelli is to always be charitable.
“Charities have been good to you and I,” he says. The Kelli Smith appeal currently stands at £240,000.
The family have shared their story with the nation via newspapers and with a recent appearance on This Morning, with Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield.
And while hitting the almost halfway mark is great achievement, Tom says more help is still needed to reach the target.
“We really appreciate the support but we know we have still got a long way to go,” he says.
Tom is determined to raise the money Kelli needs and has vowed not to rest until he hits the target. And his driving force in his own battle is clear in his letter – the joy Kelli has brought to his life.
“Thank you for being you. Thank you for paying me the biggest compliment of all time by calling me daddy. Having you as my daughter is the greatest honour of my life.”
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