When I’m Gone | Advice to a son that lasted a lifetime!

We found a truly touching story written by Rafael Zoehler and thought we’d share it with you: Tissues at the ready.
Death is always a surprise. No one expects it. Not even terminal patients think they are going to die in a day or two. In a week, maybe. But only when this particular week is the next week.
We are never ready. It is never the right time. By the time it comes, you will not have done all the things that we wanted to. The end always comes as a surprise, and it’s a tearful moment for widows and abore for the children who don’t really understand what a funeral is (thank goodness).
It was no different with my father. In fact, his death was even more unexpected. He was gone at age 27. The same age that claimed the lives of several famous musicians. He was young. Way too young. My father was not a musician and neither a famous person. Cancer doesn’t pick its victims. He was gone whenI was young, and I learned what a funeral was because of him. I was 8 and a half, old enough to miss him for a lifetime. Had he died before, I wouldn’t have memories. I would feel no pain. But I wouldn’t have a father in mylife. And I had a father.
I had a father who was both firm and fun. Someone who would tell a joke before grounding me. That way, I wouldn’t feel so bad. Someone who kissed me on the forehead beforeI went to sleep. A habit which I passed on to my children. Someone who forced me to support the same football team he supported, and who explained things better than my mother. A father like that is someone to be missed.
He never told me he was going to die. Even when he was lying on a hospital bed with tubes all over him, he didn’t say a word. My father made plans for the next year even though he knew he wouldn’t be around in the next month. Next year, we would go fishing, we would travel, we would visit places we’ve never been. Next year would be an amazing year. We lived the same dream.
I believe‚ actually I’m sure he thought this should bring luck. He was a superstitious man. Thinking about the future was the way he found to keep hope alive. The bastard made me laugh until the very end. He knew about it. He didn’t tell me. He didn’t see me crying.
And suddenly, the next year was over before it even started.
My mother picked me up at school and we went to the hospital. The doctor told the news with all the sensitivity that doctors lose over the years. My mother cried. She did have a tiny bit of hope. As I said before, everyone does. I felt the blow. What does it mean? Wasn’t it just a regular disease, the kind of disease doctors heal with a shot? I hated you, dad. I felt betrayed. I screamed with anger in the hospital, untilI realised my father was not around to ground me. I cried.
Then, my father was once again a father to me. With a shoebox under her arm, a nurse came by to comfort me. The box was full of sealed envelopes, with sentences where the address should be. I couldn’t understand exactly what was going on. The nurse then handed me a letter. The only letter that was out of the box.
“Your dad asked me to give you this letter. He spent the whole week writing these, and he wants you read it. Be strong.” the nurse said, holding me.
The envelope read‚’When I‚’m gone‚’. I opened it.
If youre reading this, I’m dead. I’m sorry. I knew I was going to die.
I didn’t want to tell you what was going to happen, I didn’t want to see you crying. Well, it looks like I‚ve made it. I think that a man who’s about to die has the right to act a little bit selfish.
Well, as you can see, I still have a lot to teach you. After all, you don‚’t know crap about anything. So I wrote these letters for you. You must not open them before the right moment, OK? This is our deal.
I love you. Take care of your mom. You‚’re the man of the house now.
Love, dad.
PS: I didn’t write letters to your mom. She‚’s got my car.
Hemade mestop crying with his bad handwriting. Printing was not easy back then. His ugly writing, whichI barely understood, made mefeel calm. Itmade mesmile. That‚’s how myfather did things. Like the joke before the grounding.
That box became the most important thing inthe world forme. Itold mymother not toopenit. Those letters were mine and noone else could read them. Iknew all the life moments written onthe envelopes byheart. But ittook awhile for these moments tohappen. And Iforgot aboutit.
Seven years later, after wemoved toanew place, Ihad noidea whereI put the box. Icouldn‚’t rememberit. And when wedon‚’t remember something, weusually don‚’t care aboutit. Ifsomething goes lost inyour memory, Itdoesn‚’t mean you lostit. Itsimply doesn‚’t exist anymore. It‚’s like change inthe pockets ofyour trousers.
And soithappened. Myteenage years and mymother‚’s new boyfriend triggered what myfather had anticipated along time before. Mymother had several boyfriends, andI always understoodit. She never married again. Idon‚’t know why, butI like tobelieve that myfather had been the love ofher life. This boyfriend, however, was worthless. Ithought she was humiliating herself bydating him. Hehad norespect for her. She deserved something alot better than aguy she met atabar.
Istill remember the slap she gave meafterI pronounced the word ‚”bar‚”. I‚’ll admit thatI deservedit. Ilearned that over the years. Atthe time, when myskin was still burning from the slap, Iremembered the box and the letters. Iremembered aspecific letter, which read‚’When you have the worst fight ever with your mom.‚’
Iransacked mybedroom looking forit, which earned meanother slap inthe face. Ifound the box inside asuitcase lying ontop ofthe wardrobe. The limbo. Ilooked through the letters, and realized thatI had forgotten toopen ‚’When you have your first kiss‚’. Ihated myself for doing that, andI decided that would bethe next letter I‚’d open. ‚’When you lose your virginty‚’ came right next inthe pack, aletterI was hoping toopen really soon. Eventually Ifound whatI was looking for.
Now apologize toher.
Idon‚’t know why you‚’re fighting andI don‚’t know who‚’s right. But Iknow your mother. Soahumble apology isthe best way toget over this. I‚’m talking about adown-on-your-knees apology.
She‚’s your mother, kid. She loves you more than anything inthis world. Doyou know that she went through natural birth because someone told her that itwould bethe best for you? Have you ever seen awoman giving birth? Doyou need abigger proof oflove than that?
Apologize. She‚’ll forgive you.
Love, dad.
Myfather was not agreat writer, hewas just abank clerk. But his words had agreat impact onme. They were words that carried more wisdom than all ofmy15years ofage atthe time. (That wasn‚’t very hard toachieve, though).
Irushed tomymother‚’s room and opened the door. Iwas crying when she turned her head tolook meinthe eyes. She was also crying. Idon‚’t remember what she yelled atme. Probably something like ‚”What doyou want?” What Ido remember isthatI walked towards her holding the letter myfather wrote. Iheld her inmyarms, while myhands crumpled the old paper. She huggedme, and weboth stood insilence.
Myfather‚’s letter made her laugh afew minutes later. Wemade peace and talked alittle about him. She told meabout some ofhis most eccentric habits, such aseating salami with strawberries. Somehow, Ifelt hewas sitting right next tous. Me, mymother and apiece ofmyfather, apiece heleft forus, onapiece ofpaper. Itfelt good.
Itdidn‚’t take long beforeI read‚’When you lose your virginty‚’:
Congratulations, son.
Don‚’t worry, itgets better with time. Italways sucks the first time. Mine happened with anugly woman…who was also aprostitute.
Mybiggest fear isthat you‚’d ask your mother what virginity isafter reading what‚’s onthe letter.
Love, dad.
Myfather followed methrough myentire life. Hewas withme, even though hewas not nearme. His words did what noone else could: they gave mestrength toovercome countless challenging moments inmylife. Hewould always find away toput asmile onmyface when things looked grim, orclear mymind during those angry moments.
‚’When you get married‚’made mefeel very emotional. But not somuch as‚’When you become afather‚’.
Now you‚’ll understand what real loveis, son. You‚’ll realize how much you love her, but real love issomething you‚’ll feel for this little thing over there. Idon‚’t know ifit‚’s aboy oragirl. I‚’m just acorpse, I‚’m not afortune teller.
Have fun. It‚’s agreat thing. Time isgonna fly now, somake sure you‚’ll bearound. Never miss amoment, they never come back. Change diapers, bathe the baby, bearole model tothis child. Ithink you have what ittakes tobeanamazing father, just likeme.
The most painful letterI read inmyentire life was also the shortest letter myfather wrote. While hewrote those four words, Ibelieve hesuffered just asmuch asI did living through that moment. Ittook awhile, but eventuallyI had toopen‚’When your mother isgone‚’:
She ismine now.
Ajoke. Asad clown hiding his sadness with asmile onhis makeup. Itwas the only letter that didn‚’t make mesmile, butI could see the reason.
Ialways kept the dealI had made with myfather. Inever read letters before their time.
Iwould always wait for the next moment, the next letter. The next lesson myfather would teachme. It‚’s amazing what a27-year-old man can teach toan85-year-old senior likeme.
Now that Iam lying onahospital bed, with tubes inmynose and mythroat thanks tothis damn cancer, Irun myfingers onthe faded paper ofthe only letterI didn‚’t open. The sentence‚’When your time comes‚’isbarely visible onthe envelope.
Idon‚’t want toopenit. I‚’m scared. Idon‚’t want tobelieve that mytime isnear. It‚’s amatter ofhope, you know? Noone believes they‚’re gonna die.
Itake adeep breath, opening the envelope.
Hello, son. Ihope you‚’re anold man now.
You know, this letter was the easiest towrite, and the first Iwrote. Itwas the letter that set mefree from the pain oflosing you. Ithink your mind becomes clearer when you‚’re this close tothe end. It‚’s easier totalk aboutit.
Inmylast days hereI thought about the life Ihad. Ihad abrief life, but avery happy one. Iwas your father and the husband ofyour mother. What else couldI ask for? Itgave mepeace ofmind. Now you dothe same.
Myadvice for you: you don‚’t have tobeafraid
PS: Imiss you

Thanks to Bright Side

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