When I’m Gone. {A Letter}


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Han Cheng Yeh/Flickr

In honor of Alexa Rodheim Culter:


When I’m gone and the minutes turn into hours, and the hours turn into days, the heaviness inside your heart may seem too much to bear.

I know you will long to hear my voice sing the songs that I loved, see my face, sit beside me, tell me you love me, hear my laugh, or just have those simple conversations we once had.

I know that it probably hurts more than anything else ever has, and you feel like you just cannot go on.

I am sorry I had to go, but my body just couldn’t do it anymore. There is nothing more that I wanted than to spend a lifetime with all of you. I fought with every ounce of my being because of the love we all share. What I want you to understand is that even though all of that physical stuff is gone from sight, our love will never cease to exist. The love that we share is what will carry you through. Our ties, our bond, and our love cannot be severed.

Love is the most powerful force on Earth and transcends all…even death.

Life will be different when I’m gone; you won’t like it and you may want to fight it. You will want to scream out loud in agony, but when you pick yourself back up off the floor, like I expect you to, remember that love. Let that love emanate through your body. I am there, our love is there, I am just gone from sight.

You all are aware that I always had high expectations of myself and I have even higher expectations of you now that I am gone. When every cell in your being wants to give up and wallow because the sadness and pain are unbearable, I want you to take some time and allow yourself that, but then I need you to put two feet on the ground for me. When you cannot do it for yourself, do it for me. I no longer have that privilege.

You are going to want the world to stop turning, and you will want to holler at all of the people continuing their lives while you are stuck in this vast array of darkness, but when it is dark, I want you to wake up and watch the sun rise. Each day, when you feel like you cannot put one foot in front of the other, watch the sun slowly rise through the clouds and know that I am still there with you. When night falls and the sorrow rears its ugly head, go outside and look up at the stars and the moon and realize the intricacies of the universe and speak to me, I am there.

With the change of every season, think of me and find a way to honor my spirit. As the Spring showers start falling, the birds start singing, and the magnolia trees start blooming, take a moment to take it all in and appreciate the beauty. During the Summer, enjoy the warmth of the sun on your face, the flowers, the fresh cut grass, the insanely beautiful summer storms and rainbows. I will be in each of these things. As Fall begins to come around the corner…enjoy the crisp air, and as you watch the leaves fall from the trees, realize that this death will soon give way to a rebirth to life. When the snow starts falling for the first time, go outside and let the snowflakes fall on your tongue, and enjoy each moment.

We are always connected, you just need to find a way to keep that connection…it may be through a ladybug, or a butterfly, or a song, or a beautiful sunset, or some crazy thing we did together, but it is there, and it will always be there. You now have the opportunity to expand your heart into something you didn’t know existed; I have no doubt in your ability to do so.

Most importantly, I need you all to live your lives with strength and love…two qualities that I showed as I lived my life. I need you all to live boldly, with passion and determination. I expect you to love with everything inside of your soul, unapologetically. Love is all we have to give of ourselves, and love is what is going to carry you through this unbearable pain. So when I am gone, love big, love fully with every piece of your heart, and don’t leave anything ever left unsaid.

Speak my name often, tell my story, and teach everyone who comes into your path. Close your eyes and open your spirit and you will feel me beside you…guiding you every step of the way. You all gave me the best life a girl could ask for.


Author: Jill Kottmeier

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Han Cheng Yeh/Flickr


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pjpierce6 Feb 27, 2019 3:13am

This beautiful piece helps Healing happen for those of us left behind

Shez W Feb 18, 2019 4:39am

So touching and beautiful!

mollieoster Feb 4, 2019 8:05am

I work with death and dying, this is such a great perspective. Such a loving way for the survivors to carry on the legacy of someone they have lost

    anonymous Feb 4, 2019 6:15pm

    Thank you. In addition to having to say goodbye to too many people, I also work in the field.

crazedgranna Feb 4, 2019 7:20am

Absolutely beautiful!
Thank you!

    anonymous Feb 4, 2019 6:16pm

    Thank you. It’s my favorite piece i have written. -Jill

Wanda LeBlanc Feb 2, 2019 3:54pm

I absolutely love this beautiful masterpiece of love and life. Thank you for sharing your gift. It comes at the most appropriate time in my life.

    anonymous Feb 4, 2019 6:17pm

    Thank you for your sweet words. I’m so happy this touched you at the perfect time.

campbelllinda.lc7 Feb 2, 2019 8:01am


julie sterner Jan 31, 2019 3:20pm

This is so beautiful- Thank you for sharing with us- A gift!

    anonymous Feb 4, 2019 6:19pm

    You are so very welcome. ~Jill

anonymous Mar 30, 2016 6:47am

Thank you for this beautiful letter. I woke up especially heavy hearted today – missing my daughter Bella (died of cancer 12/6/15 age 12) more than I could bear. Then I came upon your piece posted on facebook and I felt like she was sending me a message. It is so hard to keep a broken heart open but definitely what she wanted me to do.
Do you have a website or a blog I could follow?

    anonymous Mar 30, 2016 10:28am

    Thank you for sharing with me about Bella. I can only imagine how heavy your heart is right now as your body must be aching to just hold her one more time. I think the hardest thing to do is to keep an open heart when it is so broken. I have no doubt that is what she would want. I also find that in the depths of despair and brokenness if you open it up, it can receive even more love…especially from Bella. I am so glad my words touched you this morning. I believe it is a sign from her to keep getting out of bed in the morning…for her and for you. This is actually my first piece I have written! I have been thinking of starting some sort of blog/website, so maybe you are MY sign! My email is [email protected]. I would love to connect with you..

anonymous Mar 27, 2016 7:39pm

Thank you for this amazing piece. I lost my wife of 43 years to cancer this past October 2015. It hurts so bad I can’t stand it.

Every day for 43 years I woke up wanting to do something for her. I wanted so bad to take her place. Thank you for your gift.

    anonymous Mar 28, 2016 8:17am

    I can only imagine what it is like to have to say goodbye to your love of 43 years. I am sure the pain is still so deep and raw. It sounds like you were her gift. I am happy that my words were able to reach you. Until you two meet again, sending love your way!

anonymous Mar 27, 2016 11:10am

You have an incredible, beautiful soul. It is amazing how after all the heartbreak and loss you have been though you still find a way to heal and inspire others.

anonymous Mar 26, 2016 7:26am

Thank you for writing this letter. My little brother died almost 2 years ago, and reading this was like hearing him talking directly to me. I could hear his voice in this letter, and it completely personifies everything he was.

I am sorry for the loss you endured that created this letter, but thank you for writing it and sharing it with the world. You never know how your words can affect others until you write them. Thank you.

    anonymous Mar 26, 2016 12:50pm

    Thank you for your kind words about my friend. I am so sorry about your brother. I too have lost my brother 6 years ago. Something we can never prepare for…saying goodbye to a sibling. I am thankful my words spoke to you. It is crazy that a strangers words can make an impact on someone’s life. Sending love.

anonymous Mar 26, 2016 6:13am

Hi Jill,

Thank you so much for this Beautiful Letter. My Mom just died on March 9th, and a friend of mine just left this for me on my FB page to read. She thought it might help me. I of course, am crying after reading it, because I heard my Mom reading it to me because this is what she would want me to do. Of course my pain is a little raw right now, and my rational brain knows these words to be true, but my emotional heart may take a little more time to respond. How Ironic that you are a Nurse, I am too. I work in Critical Care. I was fortunate enough to have my Mom, spend her last few weeks in my unit being cared for by my amazing team, and then her very last day, the Hospice Team came and cared for her as well. You are obviously where you belong. Thank you,


    anonymous Mar 26, 2016 12:43pm


    Gosh your grief has to be so raw right now. I am glad my words were able to touch your heart. We nurses are kindred spirits. How awesome that your team was able to care for your mom in her last days. Bittersweet I am sure. It takes so much time for your heart to catch up with your brain. Just give yourself some grace as a this is a long journey that never truly ends. Sending peace and love.

      anonymous Mar 26, 2016 10:36pm

      Hi Jill,

      Yes, Raw would be the correct word. My Dad only died 10 months ago so I wasn't over his death yet when this happened. Having my Mom on my own unit was both awesome and bittersweet as you say, I think it put a lot of pressure on them too, they were amazing but they grew so close to her too and when she died it just was so emotional for everyone, but that's what makes Nurses so special… Thank you again, xoxo

        anonymous Mar 27, 2016 6:03pm

        Oh Eve, that is heartbreaking and way to much for one heart to bear. I can only imagine what it is like to lose both parents…xoxox

anonymous Mar 25, 2016 3:31pm

Nishita…I am so sorry about your aunt. I am glad you enjoyed reading this thinking this is what she would have wanted to say. Sending peace and love to your family.

anonymous Mar 25, 2016 1:13pm

Your words truly personified my husband’s aunt who just passed away from cancer. It is amazing what you said. Because I completely believe she would’ve said the same to all her loved ones if she had the chance. Thank you.

anonymous Mar 25, 2016 12:49pm

Beautiful words,Jill. What an incredible soul you are. Thank you for your amazing reflection

anonymous Mar 25, 2016 12:13pm

Thank you so much Tracie…she was truly one of a kind. I would like to believe that anyone who has died would like to say these words to those they love.

anonymous Mar 23, 2016 5:12pm

Simply amazing, Jill. Thoughts and prayers to all of Alexa’s family, friends and students. I wish I was lucky enough to have known her. Xoxo

Lesley Vance Kane Feb 12, 2018 2:50am

Thank you for publishing this beautiful letter. My husband lost his long battle with cancer over a year ago. We had talked about him writing "legacy" letters/notes to the girls, but ran out of time. As he told me, I know we will be okay and get through this, but the wilderness will be a long journey. I want to share these words with them to help them along the way.

Fred J Reiutz Feb 12, 2018 1:35am

Oh man. This one made me cry. We're in the process of losing a loved one. My mother. There is so much in here that I was able to identify with. I feel fortunate that we get to be here for her in her last moments in life. This will help with the rest of our lives that we don't get to share with her physically.

Debbie Cislo Aug 18, 2017 12:45am

Wow! Frank just talked to me! 2 1/2 years is a long time waiting for a sign!

Candace Coppeak Aug 16, 2017 8:12pm

I just found this and I wasn't going to read it but something just told me to. I've struggled with my Nanny's passing and my mental illnesses got worse because of it. I felt as though my Nanny wrote it for me. This has helped me find peace and motivation to start living life without fear! What a beautiful letter you wrote!

Marcela Alejandra Lopez Apr 25, 2017 10:07pm

Me hiciste llorar Silvia

Madie Trinidad Jan 19, 2017 7:12pm

I wanted to read this over and over that I had to post it on my wall, because I feel like my Dad is talking to me everytime I read this, and it gives me comfort.�

Kelli Anne Benton Nov 17, 2016 1:21am

Perfectly written, thank you.

Suzy van Eijs Nov 15, 2016 8:43pm

This made me cry... Painfully beautifull.

Katja Germaine Walder Nov 15, 2016 4:13pm

Hi Jill My mom died July 15, 2016.....and i am battling with her passing....I miss her so much and i came across this on a friends FB timeline...and for me too it sounded like my mom was readng it to me, as I read...so....i hope you don't mind but I have saved it, to read at my mothers memorial in December. Thank you for this.....it has brought a little peace to my broken heart.

Jill Kottmeier Sep 9, 2016 12:31am

Thank you for your kind words. My opinion. Write it!!! Don't hesitate. Someone one day would love to read it!

George R Keim Jun 12, 2016 7:21pm

Thank you Lisa

Jonathan Sherlock Jun 12, 2016 1:59pm

Thank you so much for this fragment of unadulturated beauty. A month ago, as i eas pondering our fragile mortality, i had an idea to write a similar type of letter-poem, and store it away someplace safe to be opened and read if the universe decideds that it is my time to go.

Jill Kottmeier May 16, 2016 2:20pm

Absolutely...I needed to read my own words on teh 14th too as it was the 6th anniversary of my brother dying. I am glad my words touched you and made you think what would Samantha do...hold her close to your heart!

Pam Vanaman May 14, 2016 10:27am

Beautiful words and I so needed to hear these as a reminder of "what would Samantha do?" It's very close to five years that my Daughter has been gone. I will be sharing this article with the other grieving Mom's I know. That's what we do, that's how we survive, helping each other. Thank you.

Jill Kottmeier Apr 27, 2016 11:10am

You're very welcome!

Paul Antonio Javier Apr 27, 2016 10:15am

awesome.thank you so much..

Jill Kottmeier Apr 27, 2016 12:56am

Marie Mazza nurses are kindred spirits for sure! It's hard to know exactly until first hand or close to that experience. I hope that one day your sadness can be filled will happy memories of your baby girl. Sending love!

Marie Mazza Apr 26, 2016 11:00pm

Jill Kathleen Om and Prem...thank you for responding....we are all in this together, yes?The kindred spirits of Nurses intertwine around the globe...I am retired...Trauma , C.C., I have been present for others whose children have died, but, now I know I really didn't know just what happens , Body, Mind and Spirit, when your child leaves this plane...Blessings Peace and Joy to you and Prayers of Comfort for all who Suffer this ....indescribable anguish...Much Love and Gratitude....

Jill Kottmeier Apr 26, 2016 5:09pm

Agreed...helpful...but the saddness is still there...

Jill Kottmeier Apr 26, 2016 5:08pm

Marie, I am so deeply saddened that your daughter in no longer with you. The pain is unbearable I am sure. Try to keep connecting with her because there is no doubt she is still there with you...sending lots of love to you. PS...she is beautiful!

Jill Kottmeier Apr 26, 2016 5:05pm

Thank you so much for your kind words!

Luciano Mazza Apr 24, 2016 8:50pm

..this helps me ..but my heart sighs with unending sadness

Marie Mazza Apr 24, 2016 1:53pm

Abundant gratitude for this. My daughter left this "world" a few months ago, young,and full of plans and possibilities.Her transition was very unexpected. We are great friends and something of enormous energy in me went with her. Every day I sit and re-connect with that part, but, because of that, I/we as a family are so lost.It is only because of Mother Earth and the universe that there is any relief...this will be shared, Namaste, Love and Light..the picture on the timeline is her...

Rajeev Shah Apr 23, 2016 11:08am

This is so awesome, I felt really good while reading this, it felt like listening a song. Words are collected so well that they run so smoothly while reading. Thank u for this all. Simply awesome

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Jill Kottmeier

Jill Kottmeier is, first a foremost, a mom to two amazing teenagers, and she is nurse. Her passion in her profession is bereavement, and it has led her to many incredible things in life. She has a passion for nature, healing, yoga, and life. She prides herself in giving to others, living a life of love, and opening her heart to anyone willing to come inside.