Roma Downey: 'I'll leave a message for you in the moon' -- The incredible gift my father gave me

When I think of my father, I can see that throughout my life, he was always trying to give me wings so that I could go anywhere I wanted.

I was born and raised in Derry City at the height of the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland. My dad wanted me to get away, and he said over and over that my education would be my passport out. He encouraged me to work hard in school so I could go to college. My mother had died when I was only ­­ten and my father had to step into being a single dad. We were very close. He was always supportive and encouraging of my artistic desires as well. He wanted me to live my best life.

As I was preparing to leave Ireland for college in England, I began to feel anxious about leaving him. This was before the internet and cell phones, and to be so far away from my father with no way of immediately reaching him made me nervous.

MY FATHER DIED TWO YEARS AGO. I'M STILL STRUGGLING TO CLEAN OUT HIS CLOSET

One night, just a few days before I was scheduled to leave, he took me outside to the backyard. It was a clear night with a full moon. And he said, "Roma, wherever you are in the world, that moon will be shining on you. So, whenever you feel alone, always look into the night sky, and you’ll be reminded of how much I love you. I’ll leave a message for you in the moon.” I hugged him, so grateful for his gentleness. And as that first full moon ascended after I had settled into my studies in England, I went outside and looked up at the moon. And I felt my dad’s love there. It was a great comfort.

No matter where I am in the world , the moon always shines a message of love from my father. It reminds me that though I sometimes feel alone, he is still with me in spirit.

Unfortunately, my father died during my final year in drama school. In my deep grief, I was so worried that since his spirit had now gone from this Earth, I would not be able to feel his love and that he would no longer be able to send messages with the moon. When I went back to Ireland for his funeral, I was almost afraid to go outside and look, but I finally walked out to the very backyard where he had promised his moon messages.

I looked up at the big, bright moon. And, sure enough, I felt him — his quiet love, so silent yet strong. I picked up his message: "Wherever you go in the world, Roma, the same moon will always be shining down on you. So never forget, no matter where you are, I will always be there, loving you."

I remember silently crying, grateful as I felt his love so powerfully.

The moon has been a beautiful comfort to me all these years. And I’ve now shared this message with my daughter. Even though we have the technology to be literally at each other’s fingertips no matter how many miles may be between us, I sometimes text her when we are apart and say: Go look at the moon! I left a message for you there.

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Throughout the journey of my life, certain symbols have helped me feel close to my parents despite their early deaths. No matter where I am in the world , the moon always shines a message of love from my father. It reminds me that though I sometimes feel alone, he is still with me in spirit. I’ve carried a longing for my parents in my heart for many years now. No matter how much I’ve grown, I still long for the touch of my mom’s hand on my brow, the special cadence of her laugh or my dad’s quiet strength.

As another Father’s Day is upon us and I prepare to celebrate my own husband Mark and all the other great fathers we know, I will, of course, think of my own father, Paddy Downey. You can be sure that if there is a moon in the night sky I will step out into my garden, bathe in the moonlight and think of him on the other side of Heaven still sending me his love.

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