Open When I Am Gone
If you are reading this, I am gone. If I am not gone yet and you have opened this, please put it back and wait until I am gone to pick it back up. This is the one dying wish I have for you. If I really am gone, first know that I love you. I have always loved you, and I always will, no matter whether an afterlife exists or not. I won’t give you any sign to look for, any sound to remember me by whenever you hear it. You will do that on your own, I’m sure. Instead, I am leaving you with letters. My time being sick has left me with a lot of hours to fill, and I decided to fill them writing to you. There is a whole box of them in my nightstand, buried under all of the other things that tend to accumulate in nightstands. They all have instructions on them, and I beg you to listen to them. Don’t go over them all at once. Make them last because I could only write so many for you. They are the last gift I leave you.
Open When My Funeral is Over
How was the funeral? I hope it brought you some peace, that you were able to take some level of comfort in the collective grief in the room. I cannot imagine the feeling, but I am glad you were there to see me off. After, I hope you all ate a bunch and talked about me. I hope nobody was afraid to talk ill of the dead, because there was plenty of ill to speak of. Don’t shake your head at that. You know I was no angel. Remember the time we chucked that mailbox into the lake in high school? You felt so bad. I’m sorry to have put you through that back then. I hope I’ve made up for it since.
Remember, no matter what, I love you. I couldn’t tell you that at the funeral, but I wish I could. I wanted to be able to hold you like I did when your grandmother died. I felt like nothing I did could ever help you, but letting you cry onto my shoulder seemed to help a little. I wanted to be that person always.
Please try not to remember me by my funeral. I know that is hard to do. It is the last glimpse, the last goodbye. I always remembered people who died by what their funeral was like. I think it’s natural, but if you can, please push it from your mind. Remember me instead on that last good day of the year, when we got the nurses to let us go out to the park across from the hospital. We threw bread at the ducks, watching them peck each other to get to it. We laughed so hard it hurt, the tears running down your cheeks made me so happy. It was nice to see them for joy instead of sadness. Remember me smiling, strong, chucking bits of bread at honking ducks.
Always with love,
Open When it is Time to Move
I know you are moving. I was awake once when you were on the phone with your mom, talking about how you didn’t want to stay there anymore. I’m sorry I never told you, but I knew you would feel guilty, and there is nothing to feel guilty about. I understand. I wouldn’t want to be there without you either.
I know it’s hard to leave. If you haven’t packed yet, know it’s okay to take your time. Cry over the things you need to cry over. If you’re donating any of my clothes (please donate some of my clothes), it’s okay if that is hard. I get it. Remember the scarf you got me so many years ago that I didn’t want to get rid of even though it was tatty and discolored and I couldn’t wear it anymore? It was so hard to let it go, but it was okay. Love is not things.
Before you go, take a look around. Sit on the window seat where I always had Sunday morning coffee. Look out onto the trees by the street. The third one from the corner is my favorite. It’s branches shoot out in such a perfect way, as if it is trying to reach the windows and streetlamps. It reminds me of you, always reaching for the best possibility. Whenever you were gone on a trip, I would sit at the window and look at the you tree all day. Maybe that’s weird, putting your being onto a tree, but it helped while I waited for you to return. Maybe the next place you live will have a me tree that you can look at when you need to. Or a me bush or me flower or me refrigerator. I give you permission to impress my being onto anything you wish.
Love you forever,
Open When You Miss Me
I wish I could be there to help you to not miss me so badly. Of course, if I could do that, this would be solved. I miss you now, as I write this and you are not here with me. You are at work, I think, or maybe at home, but you aren’t at home much anymore. When you get here, I have a surprise. I’ve gotten one of the nurses to get me some flowers to give you. I’ve managed to get them to allow me to order dinner—just a pizza, but still. We haven’t had a date in so long, and I wanted to try to do something nice. I hope this is a nice memory for you to come back to when you miss me. Think of the pizza, the way you always eat it with ranch and I make fun of you. The way I insist on using a fork even when the crust is really too thick to cut through. Think of the bottle of champagne I managed to get Jamie, my favorite nurse, to sneak in for us, even though it is definitely not allowed.
Cry if you need to, honey. You are always allowed to cry at what makes you sad. You miss me because you love me, and it’s hard to say goodbye to somebody you love. Remember I love you, too.
Open When You Need a Laugh
Here’s a story I never told you. Remember that fifth floor walkup we lived in? The one I complained about every day we lived there until you were ready to pull your hair out? I really hated those stairs. For some reason, I would get to the third floor and see that stupid motivational doormat the Rodriguez’s kept outside their door, and I would just get angry. Instead of Making Each Day Count like the doormat said, I wanted to flop on the floor and make the day go away. I always glared at that stupid doormat until I couldn’t see it anymore. The third floor landing was my stair-climbing kryptonite.
Do you remember that day I came home with a mostly eaten Chipotle burrito in my hand? Probably not. It was years ago. I told you that I had eaten in the restaurant and couldn’t finish, so I brought it home. I sat down at the table and finished the rest, like it was normal. You kept doing whatever you were doing, dishes, I think. I watched you in the kitchen and finished my burrito, contemplating telling you the truth.
Well, here’s the truth. I brought home the Chipotle that day. I was coming home from a walk and was hungry. I saw the Chipotle a couple of blocks from home and stopped. I got us both burritos. I walked the rest of the way home and started climbing. When I hit the third floor, I saw it. Make Each Day Count. I was out of breath and angry about the two flights of stairs left. I glared at the stupid doormat and leaned against a wall. Slowly, I didn’t even know I was doing it, I slid down until I was sitting. The burritos in my hand felt so warm, I decided to take a bite of mine. I unwrapped it, silently mocking the doormat because I was making my day count. I was eating my burrito on the floor of a stairway landing because it tasted good.
I don’t know how it happened. I finished my burrito and started in on yours. The doormat seemed to be challenging me. I kept eating until there was just that little bit left. I suddenly felt guilty. I had gotten us both lunch, and I had eaten it all. I wrapped the nub of burrito back up and stood. I turned to go up the next set of steps, but it felt like the doormat had won. I turned back around and kicked it down the stairs. It flopped over itself until it landed all crumpled on the second-floor landing.
I hope that made you laugh. I laughed when I was writing it, trying to imagine what had gotten into me that day to make me so crazy. I’m still a little miffed that I did make that day count, because I really wanted to spite that doormat, but I was never as angry about the third floor again.
With Love and Burritos,
Open When You Meet Somebody New
We both knew this day would happen. We’ve never talked about it because neither of us want to believe it. Rejecting the idea is somehow like rejecting that I will be, that I am, gone. I don’t know how long it has been that you are holding on to this without opening it. Not too long, I hope. I want you to have somebody you can love and laugh with and cry with. I always wanted that person to be me, but since it can’t be anymore, I want it to be somebody else good. I want you both to be happy.
Please don’t feel guilty about this. It is just part of the experience of loss. You have to learn to love again. Take all the time you need, my love, but don’t shut it out. Let them in. I don’t know if there is an afterlife. If there is, I don’t know if it is one where I can watch over you. If that is how it works, though, know I am standing with you, urging you on. If that’s not how it works, imagine me standing with you as if it is. Either way, I’m happy if you’re happy.
This is the last letter I am writing to you, even if it’s not the last letter you read. My motor skills are fading pretty fast now. I have taken a lot of breaks in the middle of writing this because my hand is too shaky to go on, even though I want nothing more than to write thousands of letters for you. The letters I have written, I’ve lost track of how many now, have been a labor of the last year, once I accepted the inevitable.
Writing these letters has made it easier, somehow. I think that knowing I will still be able to talk to you, even if you can’t talk back, has helped. I am, I hope, counseling you through some of the first moments I can’t be there for. I imagine you reading these letters more than once, when you need them most. It is my last act of love for you, the last thing I have to say goodbye.
Goodbye my forever love,
Published by The Plentitudes. January 2021.