When I’m Gone. {A Letter}

Via Jill Kottmeier
on Mar 23, 2016
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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.


Relephant Read: 

If I Died Today, I Wanted You To Know.


Author: Jill Kottmeier

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Han Cheng Yeh/Flickr


About 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.


16 Responses to “When I’m Gone. {A Letter}”

  1. Tracie Wilcox says:

    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

  2. Jill Kottmeier says:

    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.

  3. Mary Kay says:

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

  4. Nishita says:

    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.

  5. Jill Kottmeier says:

    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.

  6. Eve Regan says:

    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,


  7. Meredith says:

    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.

  8. Jill Kottmeier says:


    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.

  9. Jill Kottmeier says:

    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.

  10. Eve Schornstein says:

    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

  11. Jaime says:

    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.

  12. Jill says:

    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

  13. Dwight says:

    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.

  14. Jill Kottmeier says:

    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!

  15. Mary says:

    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?

  16. Jill Kottmeier says:

    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..