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Father and daughter share how they reunited after 40 years apart: 'It's about forgiveness'

A void that Dan Bowers and Cande Coulter felt for decades has been filled thanks to a poignant reunion.
/ Source: TODAY

A father-and-daughter reunion that took 40 years all started with Cande Coulter sending Dan Bowers a letter and hoping for the best.

Coulter and Bowers shared on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna ahead of Father's Day how a box of Bowers' memorabilia left for Coulter by her late mother prompted her to reach out to her father after decades apart.

The mother of three wrote a letter to Bowers in 2014 after sifting through a box of photos and newspaper clippings about his service in the Vietnam War that was left to her after her mother's death in 2011. It also contained an address to reach him.

"I just basically told him where I was living, that I had three children, and I was married and happy," Coulter said. "And with my father going into the Vietnam War, I told him, I said, 'I can't fathom sending my son to war, and how that would affect him once he came home,' and that if you wanted to talk to me, I would love to talk to you."

Dan Bowers and his daughter, Cande Coulter, reunited after 40 years apart when she reached out to him with a letter. TODAY

Coulter, whose story was first shared by the Ames Tribune, had not seen Bowers since she was about 4, when Bowers and her mother divorced. She had grown up in a happy household in Indiana with her mother and stepfather but always felt the void of not having Bowers in her life.

That all changed when she mailed the letter. Four days later, she got a phone call from her father, who said she started "chattering like a chipmunk" after they broke through the initial awkwardness.

"I am very grateful that my dad received the letter with an open heart," she said.

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Bowers then visited Coulter and her family for Thanksgiving in 2014. At 43 years old, Coulter reconnected with her father.

"That was the moment," Bowers said. "And I can still see her. She started walking. First a normal walk, a long hallway. And she started walking faster, then she started running, and she leaped into my arms.

"That's where it's been. Everything's in one aspect. It's like I've never lost her. I've always been with her. People make mistakes."

Bowers and Coulter's mother divorced when she was a child after he struggled following his return from the Vietnam War. TODAY

Bowers had struggled to adjust to life after coming home from the Vietnam War in 1968, prompting the divorce.

"Well, it was, for me, actually, there was always a void, not having Cande around," Bowers said. "But under the circumstances, a lot of things couldn't be avoided."

Coulter's treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1999 gave her more sympathy for what her father endured.

"When you go through something that is just such a small part of your life, and how that small piece just changes the trajectory of how you think, how you feel, on one hand, you're grateful that you're alive," she said. "On the other hand, you still battle with the memories of what you went through.

"For dad, his war for me, it's survivor's guilt. So I think that while our lives are very different, in what we went through, that parallel common thing for us, runs deep."

It took three years after Coulter first saw the box of photos and articles about her father for her to decide to write the letter.

"The box was something that just infuriated me," she said. "I wanted to throw it away, honestly. I asked my husband to throw it away — and he would not — mainly because I was frustrated because they had no answers."

Bowers recently performed his country music set at the business owned by his daughter in Iowa. TODAY

The man who seemed mysterious for so long now shares a common love with his daughter. Bowers is a touring country musician, while Coulter grew up singing in high school and the church.

Their shared love of music converged in a poignant moment when she surprised her father onstage to sing "Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone" at a festival in Macon, Missouri, according to the Ames Tribune.

Coulter then had another heartwarming moment when her father, who is based in Pocahontas, Arkansas, traveled to Story City, Iowa, on June 10 to perform at Simply Mae's Cafe & Boutique. The business is owned by Coulter and her daughter, Jessi.

"Anytime that I've gone to a festival or watch dad play, I often am just kind of in awe that I'm sitting there watching what's playing out in front of me,` because I have memories as a child," Coulter said. "So just to be able to be an adult and have all this back in my life again, it's just a joy to watch."

Bowers is now part of the lives of his daughter, grandchildren and great-children.

"It is about forgiveness," Bowers said. "I had to forgive myself."

"It doesn't matter what we didn't share in the past, but what's more important is what we share from this point forward," Coulter said.

"That's right," Bowers said.