My Father’s Day Story: Finding Immeasurable Love After Death

The coronavirus took his father's life, now Smith Raoul reflects on his struggles to unpack their unresolved issues.

Merriam Webster defines a “father” as a male parent or a man who begets a child. But today, being a father is about so much more. Today, fatherhood, especially Black fatherhood, is less about vicinity and relation, and more about influence, presence, and selfless acts of acceptance and love. For this Father’s Day, wants to share the stories of three different father relationships, in their own words, to provide a more expanded view of modern-day Black fatherhood. 


On Tuesday, May 26, 2020, Smith Raoul buried his father. The next day he turned 43. Three weeks prior, Pierre Antoine Raoul, a native of Haiti living in Brooklyn, New York, had succumbed to complications from the deadly COVID-19 virus. He was 73-years old. 

The past few months have been painful for Smith who is the only son and eldest of four. They will all commemorate this Father's Day as the first without their family's patriarch. In the midst of his own grief, now, Raoul has to figure out how to stand in place of his father – small in stature, but larger than life – and carry his family through their mourning in the midst of the pandemic. 

In his words, here is Smith Raoul’s declaration of gratitude to his beloved father. 

Two weeks before my father died, I found a picture of myself from when I was two years old in his briefcase. I’ve always been jealous of my other siblings. He always showed them so much love. They got the love; I got the responsibility. From a very early age he began grooming me to be his successor.

I was raised to know all of the important things – codes, rules, laws, and where to find all the important documents. If anything were to happen to him, I needed to be prepared to care for my family in his absence, but that always made me feel like I was missing his love. 

 When he got sick, I went into on-duty mode. It was my instinct and what he taught me, because, again, if anything were to happen to him, I needed to be ready to care for my family. He kept all of his important documents in his briefcase. I was surprised to see that he had also kept this picture of a two-year-old me in there as well. It meant so much to me. 

From my father, I learned what it means to be the head of a household. I learned what it takes to keep people together. I learned what it means to succeed. And I learned what it meant to be a man with just a high school diploma, but still capable of demanding unshakable respect from people who had more education than him – including his kids. We thought he was invincible. He got a lot of “no’s” in life, but the “yes’s” outweighed them all. He always knew the right people and was capable of achieving any and everything he put his mind to doing. 

My father and I, we always clashed. He was gruff and stern. We especially clashed when it came to our differences in methodologies. He was old school, traditional in a lot of ways. I always presented other ways of doing and seeing and thinking about things. But at the end of the day, I would still rather he be here. Having him gone just doesn’t feel right. There is a big void left that can never be filled. And there were so many things left unsaid, so many unresolved issues between my dad and I that cannot be faced because he is not here anymore. 

If there is anything, any one lesson, I can take from my father, it is that family is everything and because of that we are going to do everything we can to stand together in his absence. 

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