Tiana Sheehan was only 9 years old when her mom passed away after a two-year battle with lung cancer.
“She was the best, she would make up a lullaby and sing to me every night,” Sheehan, now 23, tells PEOPLE. “When she got sick, my dad took her to every chemo treatments each week.
“And when she died, my dad took up our lullaby tradition.”
To thank her dad, Glenn Sheehan, for raising her with “a lot of love” as a single parent, Sheehan posted a heartwarming message to him on Facebook, which was then picked up by the social media page Love What Matters.
“I wanted my dad to know how much I appreciate him. I wanted to brag on him, so I took to Facebook,” says Sheehan, a photographer in Lexington, Kentucky. “I never thought in a million years that so many people would see and share it — or that it would resonate with so many people. Single parents rock! They deserve all the praise in the world. It’s not single moms or single dads, single PARENTS are superheroes!
In the thank you note, Sheehan writes: “Today at Meijer, I walked up to select my shaving cream and overheard a mother talking to her daughter about shaving her legs. It was her first time shopping for razors, and her mom was explaining what kind of razor she needed, how to shave her legs, etc. I felt that little punch in the gut that I normally feel when I see a mom and daughter doing mom and daughter things. I can’t help it. You’d think after 14 years without mine, seeing someone with their mom wouldn’t make me sad or jealous, but it just does. This time, however, I couldn’t help but giggle. I was transported back to a similar moment I shared with my Dad. I’ll never forget the look on my dad’s face when I told him I wanted to shave my legs. It was the summer after mom died and some of the girls I went to summer camp with started teasing me about my hairy legs. I remember coming up to dad and being so embarrassed to ask him for help, but man, did he handle it like a champ! For a moment he put his head down; and then he turned the TV off, took me into the bathroom, gave me a new blade on his razor, gave me his shaving cream, and taught me how to shave my legs.”
“Single dads don’t get the credit they deserve; especially mine and all dads who are left playing both roles,” continues Sheehan in the post. “There was never a time in my childhood where I truly thought I was missing out on anything. My dad was so good at fulfilling both roles and making sure my childhood was as normal as possible; that there was never a time I thought Life or God had screwed me over. My dad handled everything: periods, shaving, broken hearts, catty girlfriends–you name it and my dad took it like a champ.
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“Dad, I know I haven’t said it enough, so here’s a big public THANK YOU for never, ever, ever being too much of a man to be my mom. Thank you for never being too embarrassed to do the girl stuff you had to do, thank you for never making it embarrassing for me to ask you for help. Growing up without a mom is obviously something no one ever wants, but growing up with you was the best. I love you, Dad!”
Sheehan says her father, who works at Olive Garden in Bowling Green Kentucky, was touched by the note.
“I told him, ‘We made it, Dad. All those times we didn’t know how we would. We did.,’ ” she says. “I could tell he got a little choked up, but he laughed a little and said ‘We sure did, kid.’
“He really is the best. I’m really lucky.”