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You were a father when I neither had nor wanted one, but needed one still. You read to me, sharing your interests, your passion, your time, your heart. I can’t even begin to express the gratitude I feel for you because of that. When I was old enough to read for myself, you still shared your stories with me—placing a book here on the pillow of my bed, there on my shelf or into my hands, always with the words, “I think you’ll like this one.” I did like them. I liked them so much I made them my interests, my passion, even my living. I read stories to many children now. Sometimes I place a book into young hands with the words, “I think you’ll like this one.” And then I remember you.

Today, I re-experienced one of your favorite stories. I wished that you could have shared the moment with me just one more time, watching as millions of people were touched. It is a powerful story, with powerful themes and images. Still, the image that touched me most today was the one in my own mind—a kind, strong, man with a fierce red beard and twinkling eyes, sitting in a great brown recliner, with a small boy squirming in his lap, and a tattered book in his hands. Sometimes reading the words, sometimes singing them, sometimes repeating or explaining them—but always with conviction, with patience, and with love. Occasionally the little boy didn’t listen, often he didn’t understand, and usually he fell asleep in the process. But he did remember. More than any words, more than any stories, what he remembered was you.

Long after you were gone, I began re-reading all of your stories. I am reading them still, and will for many years to come. I read them to others, and someday I will read them to my own children, just as you did for me. Now, I know the stories well. I know them better and more deeply than I ever did while you were here. But there’s something I else I know too, something that can’t be found among the mere words and pages of a story: I know what it is to be loved. Thank you for reading to me. Thank you for loving me. After the last word on the last page of the last story is done, I will remember your love—and that is the happiest ending a grown-up-little-boy could ever want.

Written In Loving Memory of Michael William Locke, 1949-1998