(Eds note: This is a story based on real events and told from the viewpoint of the author’s father.)

When I was a kid, nothing used to bother me more than not having a brother and sister to play with. My father would come home every six months. He was a shepherd and had to take the sheep from one place to another. My father was a very hard worker, kind and enjoyed talking to and helping people. I like his attitudes so much; he was my childhood hero. I was always trying to follow his path. I used to attend school as well as help my dad and mom in the daily work. Life was perfect for me; everything was going all right.

Then I became aware that my father had a very difficult sickness that he and my mom were hiding from me. It was a kind of digestive sickness.

I was about 12 years old when I lost my father. In the last days of his life, I spent a lot of time with him. I prayed to Allah to make my father well. My father assured me he would be fine and there was no need to worry, but from the hidden cries of my mother, I knew that my dad wouldn’t get well. I was very upset and worried. He was the only man in my life. One day my father was talking to my mother about his sickness and how serious it was. They both were crying inside the house, and I was crying outside of the house. I tried not to breathe, so they would not know that I was there. Losing my father brought me so much sorrow; he was my comrade and the hero of all my stories. I could see stamina, valour and manhood in him.

After my father passed away, I could feel changes in myself. I became unsociable. I couldn’t attend school anymore, because I was the only child and I felt responsible for my mother, who was also not well herself. I took care of our animals and our house and most of the responsibilities that my father used to have. I had to fill my father’s space for my mother.

Every day when I took our sheep to eat grass, I had to cross in front of our school. I don’t remember a day that I didn’t cry when I saw my school, my teachers and my friends. It brought back memories from my school times. I missed every minute of school and wished I had it back. It was hard to see my friends going to school and I asked God to give me another chance to be able to attend.

When I got older, I got married, and I’ve tried to educate all my children. I made a large effort to send them all to school because I understood what a big gift education is. I worked more than 12 hours a day to afford to send my children to school.

I tried to be the example for my children that my father was for me. I have seven daughters and two sons. I am happy with my life, because I nurtured them like a lion. My children are educated and they are a big help to me. Now I am happy that my daughters and sons can help my country and its future in a way they think is the best for all the Afghans, and I am happy to be in the row of fathers who tried to help out their children.

By Fatima