Abigail Spencer Shares Emotional Tribute to Father on 12th Anniversary of Valentine's Day Death

In a heartfelt Instagram post on Tuesday, Abigail Spencer relived the moment her father phoned to say he was "having a heart attack" shortly before his death on Feb. 14, 2011

Abigail Spencer attends the "Grey's Anatomy" Wrap Celebration
Photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Abigail Spencer reflected on her own love and loss this Valentine's Day.

On Tuesday, the Grey's Anatomy star, 41, posted an emotional tribute to her dad Yancy Spencer III on the 12th anniversary of his death.

"Valentine's Day 12 years ago was the most tragically-beautiful, poetically-awful, devastatingly, heart-breaking, soul-opening day of my life," Spencer wrote in a heartfelt post on Instagram. "For those who do not know, my surf legend father Yancy Spencer III at 60 & in perfect health, died of a sudden heart attack while surfing his favorite spot in Malibu: County Line."

Spencer went on to describe how her dad had flown out from her hometown of Gulf Breeze, Florida to her California home ahead of his death to visit her and her then-2-year-old son Roman. At the time she said she was going through "one of the hardest transitions" in her life: "new mother, career shifts, divorce, entering my thirties. Expansion. Contraction. Expansion."

"I had never lost anyone close to me before," she added. "And I had this ongoing fear of losing my father. It was my absolute greatest fear. He was my best friend. We talked every day & had a deep understanding of each other. I look like my mother, but she always says 'you're more like your father.' He taught me to find what you love… and make a whole life of it."

Abigail and Yancy Spencer at Alternative Apparel's Fall 2010 Collection Presentation on March 22, 2010
Alexandra Wyman/WireImage

Spencer then recalled the frantic phone call she received from her dad after he went out to surf the waves telling her, "'Abby…I'm having a heart attack. I'm at County Line. Call 911. I love you. And pray.'"

"I can still hear his voice. He was scared. He knew. I could hear it," she wrote on Instagram. "I fell to the honeycomb Carrara marble floor in my kitchen, my eyes peering into the grey & white kaleidoscope. I could have stayed on the floor forever arrested in my greatest fear… instead I got up & got to work."

Spencer called her friends to watch over Roman while she went off to St. John's Hospital in Oxnard, telling herself, "People survive heart attacks." Sadly, however, her dad passed on Feb. 14, 2011.

Sharing a photo of her father's funeral at Pensacola Beach, where she said "a reported 7,000 people gathered to pay homage to The Duke, the Godfather of Gulf Coast surfing," Spencer noted that his death is still something she grapples with.

"I guess my tears are 'love-tears.' They come & go but they do not knock me out anymore," she shared. "Like the waves, they rise & fall. The modicum of hope I heard in the midst of this chaos was when my dear friend Krista Vernoff who lost her father ten years prior said 'it won't ever go away, but it does get better.' I couldn't understand it at the time… but deeper into the journey… she was right."

She then extended an "invitation" to her 743,000 Instagram followers to partake in "this dance of life" on Valentine's Day, whether they were "on the floor, in pain, sorrow, shame, broken, beaten, bloodied, bruised by all this world has to offer" or "flying high on that gust of jubilation that has caught your tiger by the tail."

Related Video: Abigail Spencer and Costar Kevin McKidd Would 'Burst Into Song' On 'Grey's Anatomy' Set

"I leave you with my father's parting words to me before he left for that fateful surf: 'You're easy to love,'" she closed her post.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Several celebrities extended their sympathies to the actress and praised her words including Olivia Munn who wrote, "Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful."

JoAnna Garcia Swisher also penned a lengthy response to her post saying, "my heart is beating through my chest reading this."

"It feels like you reached into me and (so beautifully) described the epic journey of beauty and despair that comes with the loss of someone so precious…for us, our fathers," she added. "The way in which you describe your dad, I can feel his magic 🌊 he was clearly easy to love and so are you, my friend ❤️"

Related Articles