It’s an inevitable part of life. You expect it. It’s bound to happen one day.
Yet, no matter how young or old you are, the death of a parent is a difficult, heartbreaking, and tragic ordeal.
My father passed away a few days before Halloween. It feels weird writing it down, feels terrible saying it out loud. It feels like a stranger punched you so hard in the stomach that you fall to the ground. And there are no witnesses or anyone around to help you get back up.
That’s what losing my papa felt like.
No matter how much family or friends try to help and support, it just feels like hurt all over. No words, no food, not even all the tail wagging and cuteness of my two dogs could fill that missing void. At first I felt so hopeless. It felt like I dropped a grain of sand at the beach and I was desperately trying to retrieve it again.
However, during this time of grief and sadness, I’ve also experienced the most goodness, gentleness, and generosity ever. From friends sending heartfelt cards to beautiful flower arrangements, or simply giving me a giant hug, it makes the situation tolerable.
My father was a healthy and active 71 year old. His death was extremely unexpected.
When I received the phone call from my brother at 3am it felt like all the oxygen was drained from my world. I couldn’t do something as simple as changing out of my pajamas.
I couldn’t even cry. My brain was desperately trying to comprehend the news. I arrived at the hospital to my worse fear.
I loved my father with every molecule in my body. To me, he will always be the best man I’ve ever known. He has such a kind heart, a joyful spirit, and a generous loving nature. He has an infectious laugh that made me smile. An insatiable appetite that made him the perfect mealtime companion. And his love for animals is the reason I grew to love dogs, cats, birds, fish, and all living things so much.
He was extremely bright and intelligent. Before retiring, he worked as a chemical engineer for over 40 years. He instilled my great love and fascination for math, especially calculus and trigonometry. He taught me how to play chess, how to check my tire pressure, how to repot plants.
He gave me confidence, he taught me to believe in myself, and he always made me feel like I was worth more than the moon, the stars, and all the planets in the galaxy combined. But most important, he loved my mother more than anything in the world.
My entire life, he never said a mean word or negative comment against my mom. Whenever he spoke of her, it seemed like she could never do anything wrong in his eyes. He set the bar high for the kind of love I expected to find in a husband.
During his lifetime, my dad did everything in his power to always protect my mom, me, and my brother. He provided us with more than we could have ever asked for. He never criticized his children. Instead, he always believed in us, no matter what the circumstance.
My dad was the kind of man that believed girls could do anything boys could do (most of the time, even better). He never discouraged me from following my dreams or heart, even if at times I knew he didn’t approve.
These cinnamon rolls are for my papa. Pretty much every cinnamon roll variation I’ve shared on the blog mentions him in some capacity. (coconut jam cinnamon rolls, chocolate walnut cinnamon rolls, caramel walnut sticky buns) Cinnamon rolls were his favorite.
Every birthday, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I made him cinnamon rolls.
- 1/2 cup warm water, 110 degrees F
- 2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup whole milk, room temp
- 1 large egg
- 1 large yolk
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Cinnamon Sugar Filling:
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 4 Tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- pinch fine sea salt
- Dough: Sprinkle yeast over warm water. Add 1 tsp sugar and stir to combine. Let sit for 5-7 minutes to allow mixture to bubble and activate.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together yeast mixture, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, milk, egg and yolk. Whisk salt into flour. Add 2 cups of flour to mixing bowl. Use the hook attachment to mix dough together. Mix on low speed until flour is incorporated. Add another 1 cup of flour. Continue to knead on low speed, adding softened butter 1 Tbsp at a time. Add remaining cup of flour and knead until the dough is smooth and cleans the sides of the bowl. If dough is too sticky, add additional flour 1 Tbsp at a time until desired consistency is achieved.
- Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rest at room temperature for about an hour until dough has doubled in volume.
- Punch down risen dough. Transfer to a lightly floured working surface. Roll dough into a 20 x 14 inch rectangle. Spread softened butter over dough.
- Cinnamon Sugar Filling: In a bowl, mix together sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon. Distribute cinnamon sugar filling and gently press into dough. Sprinkle sea salt.
- Roll dough into a tight log, starting at the longest side. Slice the log into 12 equal parts. Lightly grease 9 x 12-inch baking pan. Cover pan with plastic wrap and let rolls rest for 30-45 minutes at room temperature to allow rolls to rise.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap and bake rolls for 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top and the internal temperature of the rolls hit 185 degrees F. Allow rolls to rest for 5 minutes to slightly cool.
- Simple Glaze: In bowl, combine powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, orange zest and sea salt. Mix until smooth. If glaze is too thick, add additional milk 1/2 tablespoon at a time. Spread over warm rolls and serve immediately.
My papa and I shared a very comic relationship. We laughed about everything. Most of our photos together involve funny faces. I could talk to him about anything. He never judged nor discouraged me. He was a great listener (even though at times, he couldn’t understand me because I talk rather fast).
He was very involved in planning my wedding for next year. The last conversation I had with him was about my wedding gown. He wanted to be surprised the day he would walk me down the aisle, but I couldn’t help it. I wanted to show him the photo of me in the gown my mom and I picked out. He loved it and said it was exactly the kind of dress he would have chosen for me.
May your soul rest in peace, Papa. I miss you beyond comprehension.
Reader Questions and Reviews
Though I am a stranger to you, my heart goes out to you. I have known this pain, this loss, this helplessness. There are no words that take the edge off, only time blunts the edge, though the hole is always there. Many people offered me kind words after the death of my father. The one sentiment that I will always remember was from a friend who had recently lost her mother. She just looked me in the eye and said, “It sucks.” Accurate and painfully true. I wish you strength as your heart searches for peace.
Thank you, Wendy. I really appreciate it. Your words are like a big hug and I find them very comforting. Thank you xoxo
You write with such courage after facing something I can only imagine to be the most difficult thing to happen. Keep your head high.
Thank you, Marisa
I can tell your father was a beautiful person and you were very fortunate daughter. My heart goes out to you.
Thank you so much, Karen. xoxo
A Beautiful and touching tribute. I lost my father when I was much older than you; You are never old enough to lose a parent. I marvel at the strength and maturity with which you are coping. Prayers.
Thank you, Susan. It feels like no amount of time is ever enough to spend with a loved one.
I’m so sorry about your father, Maryanne. He sounds like he was a wonderful man. We lost my father in law two summers ago and I still think about him almost every day. He lived next door to us and was very much a part of our every day lives. My heart goes out to you. Your delicious cinnamon rolls are a lovely tribute.
Thank you, Michelle. And thank you for sharing about your father-in-law. Some days are better than others, but in time, I know it’ll get better. I wish you a happy Thanksgiving! xoxo
I woke up this morning and felt lightness in my heart. The loving tribute your wrote about Papa was uplifting and true. I have never seen a man who showed so much love for his family in his lifetime. The happy memories he left behind will be our strength to move on. His wish is for us is to be happy when he is gone.
He will be forever in our hearts. Although the love your Papa has given me can not be replaced, your love and EJ’s is enough to fill that void. Thank you Meyan and EJ.
My thoughts are with you – losing a parent is the worst. There’s nothing that will make it better, time just makes the pain further away. Take solace and comfort in your family, and let your friends do whatever they want for you, even if it’s flying in for 10 hours to be with you. It doesn’t really get better, you just learn how to manage. I send you internet hugs.
Thank you Jenn. I really appreciate it. Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving! xoxo
I’m so sorry for your loss. Your words described my memory of losing my father exact. The pain really never goes away. It’s been eight years for me. We have to cherish the amazing memories and be thankful that we were blessed with incredible men as fathers.
Thank you so much for sharing Jannde. I will treasure my memories of my father forever. I wish you a happy Thanksgiving!
Teary eyed as I read this beautiful tribute to your Dad. No wonder he was so proud of you…one has only to read this account of your relationship to peek inside the special world you shared. You are a blessed young lady, and your Mom loved and was loved beyond measure. I just discovered your blog this morning, and will continue to follow you. Through your heartache and tears, I hope that a tincture of time, and the support and prayers of many will bring you comfort. So sorry for this profound loss.
Thank you Deb. I really appreciate you leaving a comment. Some days are better than others. I know in time, it’ll get better. Once again, thank you. I wish you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving! :)
I am so very sorry to hear of your father’s passing. My father passed away a couple of years ago at the same age as your dad, and reading your post made me experience all those emotions all over again. I even posted rolls when I was remembering him on my blog. Your father looks absolutely adorable and I send you hugs and may he rest in peace.
I’m so choked up as I read your tribute to your Dad. My Dad is not like yours – he is not a bad man, by any means, but he lacked the ability to accept me as I am, all through my formative years, and even now, and he isn’t comfortable with his emotions, nor the emotions of others. All that to say, he is my Dad, and I love him.
I am so sorry for your loss – and hope these beautiful thoughts (and your memories) of such a wonderful man, will comfort you in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. You have an amazing gift, having had such an incredible father…. You will always be able to cherish that knowledge – in your mind, your heart, and your soul….
Mary Anne, so sorry for your loss. I too know the pain of losing a father. I’m so glad you had such amazing experiences with him and I could tell that he loved you and your family so very much. Never forget that! Take care and remember I’m here if you ever want to talk!
Thank you so much, Stacey. I really appreciate it. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving! xoxo
My heart aches for you and your family. Your father sounds like a wonderful man and this is such a beautiful tribute to him. Sending you a giant virtual hug!
Oh my goodness! I’m so very, very sorry. My heart is aching for you right now. These cinnamon rolls look amazing. Thank you for sharing one of his favorite recipes with us.
I am so very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful post, he sounds like an incredible dad.
These cinnamon rolls look perfect, I can see why they were his favorite.
My heart breaks for you and your family. I cannot imagine the loss you must be going through. It’s funny, the first thing I thought was “but I just saw you guys eating ramen on snapchat not too long ago.” Even though I didn’t know your father (you and I haven’t even met!), the suddenness of someone passing on is still so full. I am glad you did have a great relationship together and he left you with so many wonderful memories and shaped who you are today. That is something that will always be with you. You and your family are in my thoughts! X
Thank you, Amanda. I appreciate your kind words. hehe, I still remember trying to explain Snapchat to my dad that day I snapped him eating ramen. I wish you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving! xoxo
I am so sorry for your loss.
Oh, Maryanne! I am so very, very sorry about your sweet papa. I’m sending a lot of love to you during this difficult time. This was such a sweet tribute to him. xoxo
Oh Maryanne, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your Papa sounds like he was an amazing man and I have tears in my eyes as I’m reading this post.
I just emailed my Dad to let him know how much I love him.
Sending you and your family lots of love. I’ll be making these rolls for my Dada in honour of your Papa this coming weekend x
Thank you, Amy. I appreciate it very much! xoxo
I remember so clearly you talking about your wonderful dad and how excited you were to show him your dress. This is such a profoundly beautiful post. You’ve been in my thoughts so much this week. Thank you for sharing your heart and I know this made your father incredibly proud. I’m so glad you showed him the dress picture. It must have made him so very happy. thinking of you friend.
Reading this made me cry so much, especially when you talked about your wedding. I lost both my last set of grandparents months before my wedding and my mama helped me a lot with it. But then she passed away 4 months after my grandpa. It was a very rough year and made me sad planning or thinking about our wedding. But then something happened on our wedding day that only makes me believe more than ever our grandparents were there in spirit that day. As the priest talked about our grandparents, the sun suddenly came out through the gloomy skies and lit up the entire church. It was like a sign they were watching us. Life happens and it doesn’t always make sense but just know your father will always be with you and will still be with you on your wedding day. ❤ Prayers to you and your family. He looked like an amazing man and cinnamon rolls are my favorite too. Thank you for sharing your love and memorial to him.
Thank you, Cheryl. I’m sorry to hear about your grandparents. It’s really tough. That’s such a wonderful experience. I believe your grandparents were there watching over you. Of course they wouldn’t want to miss such a special day. :)
I really appreciate your comment. I wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving! xoxo
One of my favorite quotes is by John Wooden, “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” It sounds like your dad was really good at that. He sounds like an amazing man Maryanne, I’m so sorry he is gone for now.
Thank you, Karen! I love that quote. It’s perfect. I wish you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving! xoxo
Oh dear, my heart breaks for you. I am so so sorry to hear tia sad news. I hope remembering him and all the good times make you feel better losing a parent is one of life’s meanest tricks. I just had a chill reading how you found out because that’s exactly how I did too about my dad- a phone call from my sister in the middle of the night. That was the longest night. Do take solace in the fact that he loved you and your family so much!! And hang in there as you plan your wedding…it was one of the hardest things I ever did. Just remember that he wanted you to be happy. Again, I am so sorry for your loss. xo
Thank you for sharing your story, Zainab. I really appreciate it. Some days are harder than others, but we’re pushing through :) Thanks, again! Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving! xoxo
It must have taken you a lot of courage to write this post. I can feel the love and joy between you and your dad.
May the peace of God be with you and your family as you heal from the lost.
Thank you Jen. I appreciate your kind words.
I’m so sorry for your loss. *big hug* I remember you posting a snapchat video with your father not too long ago, so I was so shocked to read this. It is a beautiful post though.
I am very sorry for your loss, Maryanne. I can’t imagine how tough it could be for you. It sounds like your dad was a really sweet man and a wonderful dad. Sending lots of love your way. Take care.
Thank you so much. xoxo I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving :)
Your love for your father shines so brightly. Sounds like he was such a thoughtful, caring man. I’m so sorry for your loss.
So incredibly sorry for your loss. Nothing can ever prepare you for the loss of a loved one but you can hope and know that with time grief fades and only the good memories remain. May he be at peace and may you find peace soon.
Thank you, Ace. I’m taking it day by day. I agree, time will eventually heal the heart. I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, friend! xoxo
Love cinnamon rolls so much!!!
I’m so sorry for your loss. Stay strong!
I came here for the cinnamon rolls, but stayed for the heartwarming story about your father. I am so, so sorry for your loss. My mother passed away almost 8 years ago, and it’s something that still haunts me today. It’s no wonder these cinnamon rolls were his favorite. Look at them! And that photo of the two of you at the end put a big smile on my face. Sending love from the east coast. <3
Thank you for sharing, Coley. I’m sorry about your mother. I hope you are healing. And I wish you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving :) xoxo
I am so, so sorry for the loss of your father. You clearly had an amazing relationship with him. The ones we love never really leave us, and I know your papa is going to be with you, always.
I can see why these are papas favorite! They look delicious and love that orange addition in the frosting! YUM!
i cried reading your post cause i can relate to it so much. my dad also loved my cinnamon rolls, anything i bake are his favorite. my love for baking actually started cause he loves eating freshly baked goods. He also passed away last may ’15. whenever and whatever i bake, a part of him is there . i miss him everyday. im sorry for your loss. i cant wait to give your cinnamon rolls a try. Thank you for sharing this recipe that you father loved!
Thank you for reading the post! I’m sorry about your loss. Whenever I bake these cinnamon rolls, I am reminded of all the happy memories I had with my father. I hope you enjoy the recipe!
A beautiful tribute. You were so lucky to have him, and he to have you.
Thanks so much, Dorothy! It was such a pleasure meeting you last weekend!
Have you tried making this the night before, assemble it to the pan with all the filling and refrigerating , for baking the following day?
This has been my go to cinnamon rolls recipe lately.
I would love to make these for Christmas morning.
Yes! You can roll the dough with the filling. Slice and arrange on the baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge overnight. The following morning, allow the rolls to come to room temperature and then bake as usual.
I found you doing a search for a pan de sal recipe (currently rising). What a transparently beautiful, well written tribute to your Papa. What a great man. You seem to embody his joy for life and pursuit of happiness. My own 79 yr old Papa has dementia and his short term memory continues to degrade, so I face the reality of losing him everyday, in mind, spirit & body, but you have just given me hope. That I too can get through this. Thank you. I cannot put into words the gratitude I feel. xoxo
I’m so glad you found me, Lisette! Thank you so much for trying out the recipe and thank you for commenting with your kind words.
I’m sorry to hear about your Papa. I can’t imagine the pain and loss you may be going through. Just know, you are not alone. There is light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how sad and bleak it may seem right now, in time, you and your family will get through it. xo
Whenever I read this ode to your dad it makes me tear up. My dad died unexpectedly and I was in shock. I miss him very much. He was my wise dear old dad and I often wish he were here so I could ask his advice or talk things over with him. Dad’s are special, I really miss him.
Thank you for reading the post. I really appreciate it. I’m so sorry about your father. I totally understand what you mean. So many times, I wish I could just call him or go stop by his house to ask him questions or tell him good news.
Your heartfelt story reached into my psyche and tears are rolling down my cheeks as I write this. I live with my 88-year-old father and we have a wonderful relationship. Every day is a gift that I cherish. He, too, is the most loving and caring man and has shown me how a good man should be. He and my mom were married for 64 years before we lost mom. The day I lose my dad will be the worst day of my life. I can’t imagine what pain you experienced losing your dad.
I’m always cooking for my dad and trying to make his favourite things. My dad has told me about the delicious cinnamon rolls he tasted on a trip to Alaska. In my search for a good recipe to make for him, I found your recipe and beautiful story. In your honour, and the honour of our fathers, I will make your delicious rolls for my dad. Thank you for sharing your story and recipe, Maryanne! I look so forward to spoiling my dad with these yummy rolls.