A teacher had asked a group of middle school and high school students to pen a letter to their future selves that they’ll be able to read before they graduate.
However, a tragedy prevented one of the assignments from being seen to its completion.
Not knowing what to do with the message that would never be reunited with its author, Redditor svesvesve took to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit and wrote:
“WIBTA (would I be the a**hole) if I don’t give the mother her dead son’s letter?”
The Original Poster (OP) was open to suggestions on how to proceed.
“From the title you can tell what I feel like doing. If you disagree feel free to tell me what the best way to handle this situation is. I am torn.”
“I am an English (as a foreign language) teacher. As long as I can remember I have also been a homeroom teacher which means I had to record attendance, make announcements, help students prepare for various school events and so on.”
“Middle school and high school students study at the same building so it is likely to teach the same students until they graduate. I, however, wasn’t lucky enough to do so.”
“I’ve been a homeroom teacher to two groups of students. Both times at the beginning of the first year of Middle school I asked children to write letters to their future selves and promised to give them back at the graduation ceremony.”
“This year my first group of students recieved their letters and I must say they were extremely happy to get them. It caught them by surprise because six years had passed since they’d written them.”
“Naturally, I’ve found the second batch of letters. They are due in 2022. The problem is that one of the students had died of cancer when he was in the second year of Middle school and I, of course, have his letter too.”
“When his parents found out about the illness they didn’t contact the school or talk to anybody I know about it, never called back when I tried to contact them either.”
“They didn’t want to have to deal with anything that distracted them from being with their son. To be honest, I hope I will never be in their shoes. It must’ve been a horrible time for them.”
“Now that I am holding his letter I’m wondering if I should give it to his mother. She cut all the ties.”
“We live nearby and when she went past me a couple of times she basically ignored me. I don’t feel like she holds a grudge on me or something because there is no reason to.”
“Maybe she is trying to go on with her life and forget the past? There is no doubt that a childs death is a huge blow to any parent.”
“Will this letter make her relive all these horrible events? Will it remind her that he could’ve been holding the letter at his graduation? What does the letter even say? The envelope is sealed.”
“I feel like leaving everything as it is, so will I be the a**hole if I don’t give the mother her dead son’s letter?”
Anonymous strangers on the internet were asked if and where guilt belongs by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
“NAH. I understand your train of thought, but it’s been four years and they can’t possibly avoid all reminder of him for that long.”
“The wound isn’t fresh anymore. I’d want it if I were the mother.”
“Now, if you can’t get in touch with her, that’s very different.” – hopelessautisticnerd
The OP wrote back:
“Thanks for your advice. It’s been two years since he died. He’d graduate in 2022. In any case I’ll find her address. I’m now wondering if I should give it to her now or then, in 2022.”
To which this Redditor suggested for the OP not to hold off any longer.
“I don’t agree. Give it to her now and she can wait til 2022 to open it if she wants to.”
“Leave the choice to her, so she can decide what’s symbolic. It’s going to be a surprise no matter what.” – DrDrakeRamorayEel
Many of the following responses indicated that it would be unethical for the OP to withhold the letter from the mother.
“I agree. If op gives it when they would have graduated, especially if they post it rather give it in person, it would compound the parents’ grief at what would have been an important life marker.”
“By giving it now, the parents have control over when they open it. I would consider photocopying it so it is available on the day.” – hobalotit
When another Redditor asked why the OP should give the grieving mother the letter “out of the blue,” this person responded by conveying what it must be like for someone to lose a child.
“Because when someone dies you do anything you can to save pieces of them to remember because you can’t create any new memories.”
“2 years is not a long time by the way. When you’re grieving it feels like yesterday. You never miss the person less, especially your own child. It’s something you never get over.”
“And it’s not like you ever stop thinking about them. It wouldn’t be out of the blue because you think about that person every day.” – DrDrakeRamorayEel
“I agree, my sister passed away 10 years ago and although it wasn’t recent it’s still a loss in your life.”
“I think the parents should have the letter now. Life is short and something could happen to them in the next two years.” – m_m_mason
“I can think of two reasons to give it now as opposed to when the son’s graduation would be.”
“One, the letter is her son’s, and since he is gone, it is now hers, and it may be upsetting or even hurtful to give it to her in two more years, as she will then realize that OP has been holding this letter from her for 4 years. That can make people irrational when combined with grief.”
“Two, I think she should decide if she wants to wait or not. She may not want to get a surprise reminder in the mail when her son was supposed to be graduating; it may affect her in ways she would not have expected.”
“If OP gives her the letter now, she can decide to wait or maybe she wants to read it now, or maybe she will not feel ready for a few more years, but ultimately, I think that should be up to her, not OP.” – robertsba2011
“Now, absolutely. In my eyes, it would be horribly rough getting it as it is, but to get it when he should have been receiving it, when he should have been graduating with his peers? That would destroy me.” – ADHDofCrafts
“Give her the letter!!”
“She is NOT trying to forget the past, she never can anyways. She just cannot confront the sheer horror and desperation that will come at times when being with someone that was part of happier times.”
“She will relive these horrible moments anyway all the time. But you hold something that will be more dear to her than you can imagine. It’ll make her weep and be in pain alright, but it’ll also be a big treasure to her.” – justmy2centsforyou
This Redditor believes the OP should relieve themself of the burden.
“NTA. What you should do is give this letter to a superior – the principal or whomever.”
“There are potential negative consequences of all courses of action. Most are moral but there might be legal implications if you destroy something that doesn’t belong to you.”
“You don’t want ANY of that responsibility, or to have to defend yourself against angry grieving parents, or to get fired for doing what someone judges (in retrospect) for having done the wrong thing.”
“This is a big responsibility and it should go to the people whose job it is to handle the bigger issues.” – dlogos13
The OP updated the thread thanking Redditors for their unanimous suggestion to hand over the letter now rather than later.
“I’d like to thank everybody for your replies and for being so thoughtful and kind. I’m Sorry that I can’t reply to all the comments.”
“I’ve decided that I’ll send her a letter of my own explaining everything and including her son’s letter. I feel like It’s better to do it now and not wait until 2022 simply because anything can happen in these two years.”
“Your comments made me realize how selfish I was even considering not to give the letter. Once again thank you for helping me become a better person.”
No parent should suffer from the immeasurable pain of losing a child.
Although the mother reading her son’s posthumous words may be extremely difficult, Redditors agreed that the deceased student’s letter belongs in her hands for her to open—if and when—she is ready.