A beloved father’s journal and letters to his children that he wrote while battling cancer were stolen in an Auckland home burglary this week, leaving his daughter, who was yet to read the documents, devastated.
David Ruddle had “the best sense of humour in the world,” his daughter Zannah Pita said.
“He was amazing. He was funny. Always clowning, always a jokester, loved pulling pranks, loved making people laugh. He was so loving,” she said.
“I was a daddy’s girl. I was very close to my father.”
Ruddle died of cancer seven years ago after a long five-year fight. During his battle, he became an avid writer, writing every single day about the journey.
The journal and letters he wrote to his kids were in a safe that was stolen from Pita’s grandmother’s house in Mt Wellington on January 18, along with other less sentimental items: A Kmart scooter, garden gnomes, DVDs.
Pita was saving the journal and letters to read for when she was ready and never thought the opportunity to do so would be taken away from her.
The theft has left her heartbroken.
“I was shattered, I cried. I just cried for hours. I was just broken, I was so broken. I’m still hurt. I’m very hurt,” she said.
The safe also held her father’s death certificate, his watch and other personal items, she said.
“I never ever saw him without that watch. He had it before I can even remember,” she said.
It was Ruddle’s wish that his children read the journal and letters he wrote, Pita said.
“My mum handed [the journal] to me a couple of weeks after my father had passed away and said that one of my dad’s last wishes was that both of his kids read that journal, it was very important to him.”
She remembers opening the journal and flicking to the last page, where that day’s entry was unfinished.
“It was like he was mid-sentence and he hadn’t finished writing the entry that day. When I was to read his journal, I wanted to know what he was writing on that page and what happened that day. Did he get sick?
“That haunts me, that page. For some reason, I keep seeing that last page in my head.”
She has kept other items, including her father’s reading glasses, but they are not as sentimental.
“They are just everyday items, like blankets. Everything that was important, everything that he kept close to him, was in that safe.”
The now 26-year-old was only a teenager when her father died, a period of her life full of sad memories.
She remembers her father being “in and out” of Auckland Hospital and the Mercy Hospice.
“I do remember coming home one time and my father, he just broke down. He looked at me and said ‘I’m dying’.
“I’ll never forget that. I think I was 17. I knew that he was coming to [the] end of time. He just broke down. I didn’t know what to say. I just grabbed him, hugged him and we just cried,” she said.
“I could tell that he was scared at that point when he had told me he was going to die.”
She said she’s mad at herself that she hadn’t read the journal.
“I’ve had all these years. I just wasn’t ready and I never thought that it would ever disappear or go missing. To me, I just had time to read.”
Police said a report about the incident was received and inquiries are being made.
Pita has a message, full of compassion, for whoever stole the safe.
“Don’t be afraid. We’re not mad. We’re not angry. We don’t feel any hate towards you,” she said, her voice quivering.
“But we’d just love if you’d just return the journal, even just pop it in the letterbox. I understand hard times. I know robbing somebody, it’s not right, but everybody goes through s**t, and I know there are reasons why people feel they need to do what they have to, to survive.
“I don’t care about anything [that] has happened. What’s important to me is I just get that journal back. I’m going to die one day and I don’t want to live my whole life not knowing what my dad had to say.”
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