Kim Kardashian knew she married the right guy. How many husbands would think to summon her beloved late father as a birthday gift?
"A special surprise from heaven...It is so lifelike and we watched it over and over, filled with lots [of] tears and emotion," Kim wrote on Instagram, sharing the video that Kanye West put together for his wife's 40th birthday last month featuring a hologram of her dad, Robert Kardashian Sr. Naturally, it was one of those exceptionally lifelike holograms that have become particularly popular in the music world, allowing stars who are no longer with us such as Tupac Shakur and Whitney Houston to quote-unquote perform once again.
"I can't even describe what this meant to me and my sisters, my brother, my mom and closest friends to experience together," Kim continued. "Thank you so much Kanye for this memory that will last a lifetime."
And though this was easily the most technologically dazzling example, this wasn't the first time that Kanye had made sure that Kim's father, who died of esophageal cancer in 2003, was represented. The video montage he put together for Kim's 36th birthday was full of photos and video from her childhood—and he even credited the Kardashian patriarch, as well as his own later mother, Donda West, for watching over the production of his 2016 gospel-inspired album.
"He's still doing deals for controversial Black people from up in heaven," Kanye told Real 92.3 host Big Boy of the father-in-law he never got to meet, a nod to the work for O.J. Simpson's legal defense team that made Robert the first famous Kardashian back in the mid-1990s.
So Kanye gets it.
He gets how important it is for Kim to keep her father alive in her heart and her choices—perhaps none of which invoked him more pointedly than her decision to start working toward becoming a lawyer, wanting to further her pursuit of widespread criminal justice reform. (Not a college graduate, Kim registered with the California State Bar and began a four-year, minimum-18-hour-a-week program, overseen by practicing lawyers, to school her in reading the law.)
Kim told Vogue last year, "My dad had a library, and when you pushed on this wall there was this whole hidden closet room, with all of his O.J. evidence books. On weekends I would always snoop and look through. I was really nosy about the forensics."
"He once said to me," she said, recalling her dad's words, "'I think you'd be great at it. But I also think that it's super stressful and exhausting. So, if you want a stress-free life, maybe don't follow through with law school.' He would've loved it so much, though. He would've been my study partner."
But aside from deciding to follow in his footsteps, Kim has invoked her father often—more than you might remember over the years as she and her siblings went about building brands rooted in fashion and beauty, highlighting both the sweeping drama and everyday minutiae of their lives on Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian dedicated their 2010 book Kardashian Konfidential to their father, writing, "Dad, without you, we know we would not be the women we are today. We know that every blessing in our lives is because you are our angel watching over us. This book is just a glimpse of what you have blessed us with. We know your spirit has guided us through every challenge, highlight and memory we had. We miss you more than we did yesterday and less than we will tomorrow."
They concluded, "We are sisters because of you. We love you, Daddy."
A chapter titled "Robert George Kardashian" (son Rob Kardashian's sock line, Arthur George, utilizes his and his father's middle names) delves into the hole that opened up in their lives when he died and attributes many a family value to the celebrity attorney and business owner—who, they assure, did not leave his kids a fortune to play around with, but rather instilled in all of them the importance of hard work toward a non-material goal.
"He made us understand that the most important thing was to be a good person," recalled the sisters, who are known to regularly interact with their fans online (and even when they clap back, they're remarkably civil, considering some of the stuff the trolls toss their way). "Our dad never talked down to people, no matter who they were or what they did for a living. He always treated people with respect."
Robert and their mom, Kris Jenner, divorced in 1991, not long before she remarried, but they remained close as co-parents—a relationship Kourtney has credited for helping her figure out a way forward with ex-boyfriend Scott Disick as they raise their three children together. (Kris has said that divorcing her first husband is her "one regret," but if she hadn't "then there wouldn't have been Kendall and Kylie," so all worked out as it was supposed to. She called the hologram of her late ex "one of the most incredible things I've ever seen," telling Andy Cohen on his SiriusXM show, "It started and we just all started to cry. It was just so intense. I must have watched it 20 times.")
"Dad made us feel so loved, and set such high standards for us," the Kardashian sisters wrote. "Without his influence in our lives, we can't even imagine what they'd be like today."
He died only eight weeks after being diagnosed with stage four cancer, they recalled, "one of the worst times in our lives."
On her top 10 list of things her dad taught her, Kim, who regularly marks Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day and speaks out on issues pertaining to their ancestral paternal homeland, No. 1 was "never forget your heritage." Along with Kanye and daughter North, Kim made her first trip to Armenia with Khloe in 2015. She and Kourtney were also in attendance when their father was posthumously honored by the Armenian Bar Association at an event in Beverly Hills that year. In 2019 Kim returned with her whole family and had daughter Chicago and sons Saint and Psalm baptized there, plus she and Kourtney dined at the presidential palace with Armenian leader Armen Sarkissian.
No. 2: "Blood is thicker than water, family comes first."
That lesson has certainly been put into practice time and time again.
Kim revealed earlier this year that, when she and Kanye were expecting Psalm, their fourth child, who was born via surrogate like Chicago (Kim carried North and Saint), "a blind medium" went up to the couple while they were vacationing in Bali and told them that they would have another son and he would be Kim's father reincarnated.
"No one knew," she told E! News in February, marveling at the memory. "No one on my crew knew that I had a surrogate that was pregnant with a boy."
And Kim said she has only become more sure since Psalm's birth in May 2019 that the medium got it right.
The SKIMS shapewear founder explained that her nanny took Psalm with her to a baby shower one time while Kim was out of town, and someone at the shower asked the nanny if that was her son. When she said no, Kim recalled, the woman told her, "'Well, I just have to tell you, please tell their mom this is a family member of hers reincarnated.'"
It soon became a bit of a thing.
"Multiple people that had no idea that was my nanny or anything have come up to my baby to say that he's a family member reincarnated," Kim shared. "So my whole family, all the time, thinks it's my dad and is just so emotional and close to him."
Furthermore, Kim said, Psalm is left-handed like his grandpa. "So, all these things happen," she offered. "I don't even know if I believe in reincarnation, but I do now. But I want to believe it!"
And why wouldn't she? Especially when it comes to the man she has repeatedly remembered as "the best dad in the world."
In fact, Kim has been tuned into those otherworldly signals since long before she had her own children, who more often than not carry an assortment of traits from higher up in the family tree.
"I believe there are signs from the spirit world all around us," she told CR Fashion Book in 2018. "When my dad was sick with cancer, we were laying out by his pool and I said, 'If you die, you have to come back in the form of a bird.' We were driving on the freeway right before his funeral and this huge flock of birds flew over the 101. Everyone stopped because it was so crazy looking. I was like, 'There you are.'"
And that remains something she and Kanye share.
"Kanye and I always reference birds," Kim explained. "We seem to see a lot of black crows. Yesterday Kanye took a picture of the two black crows that are always at our house and always together. We always say that they are our parents hanging out together at our house."
But more than ever, Kim is certainly feeling her father watching over her as she strives to become the next lawyer in the family.
On Sept. 30, the anniversary of his death, she wrote on Instagram Story, "Today my dad went to heaven 17 years ago. I really can't believe it's been that long. I miss you so much. I could really use a law school study buddy!"
And now, thanks to her latest birthday gift, she can listen to her father tell her anytime, "Keep doing what you're doing Kimberly. You are a beautiful soul. Know that I am very proud of you and that I am always with you."