Dear Anoushka – Noush,
Today, as I write this letter, you’re only 5 years old.
Your Dad died less than a week ago and your little heart must be broken into a million pieces. You won’t read this for many years but like so many people who knew and loved your Dad, this week he has been constantly in my head and my heart and so many of my thoughts. And so have you.
Because ever since you were born, it was impossible to think about your Dad without thinking about you. I never met you but I feel like I know so much about you because of the way your Dad spoke and wrote about you. Constantly and with untold joy. I can honestly say I have never seen anyone, male or female, so utterly transformed by becoming a parent.
I’m writing this letter on the Internet because one day, when you’re older, I reckon you’ll spend a lot of time searching for your Dad online. Trying to build a picture of him to supplement your own childhood memories. I suspect you will find lots of tributes to him written by others dotted in amongst all his own writing in which he wrote with such disarming, sometimes brutal truth about himself, his feelings, his life and his thoughts about the world, the human condition and of course you.
‘Lucky’ seems like a laughable word to use about anything to do with the tragedy of his death but there is an element of good fortune in the fact that your Dad has left you so many love letters online through his columns, his blogs, interviews he’s given…thousands upon thousands of words he’s written and spoken about his love for you. There aren’t many people who have that kind of legacy. It is his lifelong gift to you.
Noush, you were the best thing that ever happened to him and that would have remained true even if he’d lived to 100. Which he should have, dammit.
But just as he wrote about you, I reckon you’ll want to know him through the eyes of other people; people who knew him. Of course you have your mum and your aunt Kate and your grandmother and all your cousins and aunts and uncles. They will have loads to tell you about your dad. Just try and stop them. They knew him longest and they knew him best, in the way only a tight-knit, extended family can.
But your Dad’s influence extended far beyond blood. He was like a rock thrown into the centre of a lake, with so many circles of people in his orbit. Dozens and dozens of different circles of friendship. He had a kind of magnetic force about him like that. He drew people to him with his warmth, his kindness, his generosity, his humour, his thoughtfulness and his love.
I wasn’t in his inner circle. We weren’t super close. There are a thousand people who knew him better than me, but he still had a big impact; something I’ve only realised since he died.
For a decade or so, I was lucky enough to call him a friend. Your Dad and I knew each other through being in the media and mutual mates and through working together when I asked him to be a co-host on a TV show I was doing and he instantly accepted and turned up every week without asking for anything in return. We did similar things in some ways, writing about our lives and our opinions, working in print and then online and dealing with everything that comes with that, some of it good, lots of it hard.
It’s not a space many people play in so every time things went pear-shaped for me, your dad who one of the very few who always understood. Without exception, he always had my back. Even if he didn’t agree with me – or I him – we always reached out supportively to one another and I cannot even begin to explain how much that meant during a social media pile-on. Sometimes it felt like nobody else got it. Your Dad always made me feel protected. And in an avalanche of opinions that exist when you work in the media, your Dad’s always meant more to me than most.
Sam was a permanent co-host on the weekly TV show Mamamia on Sky News. His gruff sensitivity and total authenticity made him compelling to watch (post continues):
Noush, there’s something I really want you to know, because you might read otherwise on the Internet and I want to be crystal clear: Sam loved women. He respected women. He adored women. He admired women. He defended women. He was a feminist and a true ally in the battle against sexism and discrimination, especially after you came along!
He wanted a better future for his precious daughter than the one where women weren’t equal in many areas of society and many parts of the world. It pained him deeply that this was the case. Many things pained your Dad deeply actually because he was incredibly principled. He abhorred racism, homophobia, violence against women and discrimination of any kind. He loathed hypocrisy and never grew tired of calling it out; in fact, it gave him great joy.
He loved the underdog and would always fight for one.
See Sean Power talk to Sam de Brito about how much Sam’s writing helped him to become a man (post continues):
But no matter what subject anyone tried to talk to your Dad about, he would invariably find a way to bring the conversation around to you. I’ve read so many wonderful things about him this week but none truer than that he lived being a parent as though he’d invented it.
He really, really did. I often teased him about his views on parenting because he was very idealistic. He parented with the zeal of a newly converted religious zealot. You were the moon and the sun and the stars to him and having you changed his DNA.
The biggest heartbreak of his life was not being able to be with you 24/7 after he and your Mum (who he had a great friendship with and was particularly close to when he died) split up when you were a baby.
He tried to make up for this by being the world’s most attentive, committed father every second he was with you and every second that he wasn’t.
I remember one column he wrote about being horrified to observe parents sitting in cafes with their kids, reading the paper or on their phones instead of engaging with them. He simply could not understand how anyone would want to waste a single moment of their child’s company, even while they slept. That’s how precious you were to him. That’s how much he loved you. That’s how much he loved being your Dad.
The other thing you need to know about him is that he was so very interested in the world. He was curious and had an insatiable hunger to understand not just things but people. He was a terrific listener and had the most enormous compassionate heart for other people’s struggles and perspectives. He wanted to walk a mile in everyone’s shoes and it baffled him that everyone didn’t want to do that too. I don’t mean to make him sound perfect or pious or some impossibly imposing ideal you could never live up to. Ha. He would laugh at the idea of that. Your Dad was as flawed as everyone else; the difference is that unlike most, he was honest about his flaws and open about his struggles. He was bloody funny. He took the piss out of everything, particularly himself. He had the cheekiest smile ever. And he was a great hugger. Big bear hugs that made you feel like everything was OK.
It would tear him apart to think he couldn’t be the one to comfort you through the grief of losing him, your biggest champion.
You know, I can’t stop thinking how pissed off and devastated your Dad would be to have left you, Noush. Everyone keeps saying that. You were the most important person in the world to him and he lived for you, sought to be a better man for you, gave his heart to you and was so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be your Dad every single moment since the day you were born.
There will never be closure for you or any of the many, many people who loved your Dad. The Sam-shaped hole he has left in the world and in the hearts of everyone who knew him is far too enormous and important and memorable to ever close.
But Noush, in that hole, I hope you can find the love that he left for you.
Because just by being born, you made him a better, happier man. You completed him. And he will watch everything you go on to do with love and with pride and somehow, from somewhere, he’ll have your back.
Because that’s the man he was.
If you knew Sam or were somehow helped or affected by his writing and you’d like to write a letter to his daughter, please email [email protected] with “Sam de Brito” in the subject line and we will be sure to pass it on to his family.