Eventually, even our most beloved must leave us behind. What happens when we suddenly have to clean up what they left behind? Sometimes, people find cash or cute notes, giving them one last memory to hold onto. Other times, people find secrets that might just change their life for the worse.
Here are 11 stories of those who discovered something they never wanted to know about their dearly departed. All stories have been edited for clarity.
"My family is Irish/Australian. My grandfather was an olive-skinned, charming Englishman who married an Australian bar maid - my grandmother. After the death of my grandpa, we found a letter and Republic of India passport in one of his jackets. It was a full confession that he had hidden the fact that he was Indian - and not English - from my grandma and our family. Not only that, he also had another family back in India. This was especially shocking considering how white my skin is, and people still don't believe the story when I tell it. Still amazes me that he successfully hid the secret for almost 50 years, and literally brought it to his grave."
"After I came home from a 4 month underway on a submarine, things were weird between my wife and I. Fast forward a bit, I came home from a weekend out and found her body in the spare bedroom.
Over the next few days cleaning out the house, I found countless amounts of substances and paraphernalia I couldn't even identify. I found a ton of weird notes, scratchings, and just scraps of paper that all had to do with substance use.
When cleaning up her electronic mess, computers, phone, online accounts, etc. I found out she was a lifelong cheater. Which went several layers deep. She was in a very serious relationship with her 'best friend' which, honestly I more or less knew about. But always sort of figured it was emotional, not physical. In addition to being with her BFF, she had also seen many other people over the years. When the person you've dated since high school, and been married to for nearly 2 decades, is a complete stranger, it's really not something you can describe."
"My mom and I had to clean out my aunt's room. She died at 52.
She never married, no kids, and had weight issues. That being said, she treated my brother and I like her own. We were all really close.
We found an unmarked book on her nightstand which ended up being a journal. The first page said, 'I hate the way I look. I hate that I'm not married. I hate that I don't have kids.'
We closed it and tossed it. I'm guessing it was one of those weird self help plans where you write your thoughts out. Didn't make it any easier. You have no idea how much I wish I never saw that book."
"My grandpa was in the CIA and helped oversee the beginning of the sky marshal program. I found a box with a legitimate red top secret stamp across it... so of course I opened it!
It had a bunch of what my 15 year old self would call 'boring papers' but something did catch my eye
One of the things I found was a pamphlet. The cover showed a highly detailed schematic of a 747 jet. The title read something like: '747: Weak Zones'
My dad somehow called someone from the FBI who came over, took one look, and then called someone else. He waited with us until someone who didn't work for the FBI, but had clearance over this stuff, arrived.
The first guy proceeded to leave while the other man asked us where everything was. We showed him the boxes. After looking, he took the boxes, loaded them in his car and drove away.
A week later, the house was robbed and a lot of my grandparents special things were taken including several large file cabinets
I've always thought it must've been the government doing a clean sweep."
"I found out that my mother had been lying to me for years about numerous things - the biggest of them was who my brother's father is.
I had always just thought that it was my dad. She had never told me any different until I was about 13. I can't even recall how it came up, but she told me that my brother's father was actually our close family friend. I was shocked to say the least, but I believed her because they did kind of resemble each other and I was young so I didn't even care that much.
Well, when she died, I was cleaning out her filing cabinet and found the results of the paternity test that she had done on our close family friend. It plainly stated that he was not my brother's dad.
It was pretty obvious that he had never seen these results because I also found receipts written for both our family friend and my dad. Our family friend was paying $800 a month in child support, and my dad was paying $300 per child. She was lying to them both, saying they were both my brother's dad, to get money out of them.
So many more truths were uncovered from this finding because I talked to them both and found out just how many lies my mom was feeding me. I can't tell you how much it hurt. It's been six years since I found out a lot of the truth and I still wonder how much more of my life was just a figment of my mother's imagination."
"My grandmother passed after a blood clot incident. She had several conditions that no doubt led up to this. For example, her medical team decided not to treat her cancer because they figured she would die before it would spread.
My father, uncle, and my sisters were left to clean out her things from her apartment. She had a lot of old, expired food such as ketchup that had gone completely black. We also found things from when she was well and social, like her quilting and handmade soaps, which were beautiful. She has a quilt that had the names of all of our family, but the names were sewn in the individuals' handwriting style.
However, one day it was just my dad and me going through her bedside table. We found her journal. Toward the end, all of the entries were about how lonely she was, how she only got to see her grandchildren twice a year, and how her own children never saw her unless they needed something. She said she wanted to die. My dad threw it away so his brother would never have to see it."
"I cleaned out my cousin's room after his death and painted and re-decorated it because he was living with my mom and she couldn't bear to see his room. While I wasn't the one that found it, he was holding his cell phone when he died and the person that found him saw a string of texts that we knew led up to his death. The texts were from his girlfriend with instructions on how to use substances. My cousin had been clean for a year at the time of his death. His final text was, 'I think I’m gonna die.'
She didn't even try to call 911."
"My mom died from a long battle with lung failure. She had briefly moved in with extended family in another state with a better climate, where she was improving. The plan was for the rest of the family to join her in a year or so. Within two weeks, my brother almost died from a brain infection which required numerous surgeries. She moved back to help care for him, rapidly deteriorated herself, and died. I found some of her diaries and flipped through them to find the entry from the previous year about my brother. Morbid curiosity, I just wanted to read her thoughts. Her entry from the night before brother's near-fatal illness said that my father saw a demonic presence in the house, and it frightened him. It was a black humanoid shape, emanating evil and menace. It was in his room, then left, he didn't know where it went. The next day my brother almost died in a freak medical occurrence that doctors still can't explain the cause of, and the resulting chain of events killed my mother. Standing in the basement with that diary, I was stunned. We'd seen something similar years earlier, and now it was back. I felt like something had cursed us, and wanted to kill us. I was terrified.
Ultimately I didn't talk to my dad about it, or mention it to any of my siblings. I hid that particular diary."
"My dad died 15 years ago and to this day, my feelings towards him are very complicated. I always knew my dad was a bit secretive and kept a lot to himself, but I didn't realize how much until he died. When he died, we found several surprising things.
1. He had several hidden bank accounts and insurance policies we were unaware of. Why? Who knows. He did have a lot of financial things set up for my mom incase something happened to him. So, that was a good thing. She had no idea about everything that he had set aside for her. He actually made sure my mom would be well cared for.
2. There was also evidence of his long time affair with another woman, including audio tapes he had recorded for her and had yet to send that expressed his undying love for her. Listening to them was devastating and something I still can't tell my mom about. I was torn about sending the tapes to this woman because they were intended for her. I ended up destroying them. No good could come from them."
"When my brother died, he didn't leave a note or anything, but he was an aspiring musician and we found his song lyrics. I never would have guessed he was in such a dark place to write those kinds of things. I was up all that night with those words stuck in my head, he seemed so hopeless for everything else but he always hid it from us. Later on, I went back in his room by myself just to take it all in, I found a somewhat hidden notebook with even more, including something he'd written about feeling sorry for how this would affect my sister and somewhat blaming my Mom for how he felt. I debated for hours if I should tear out that page or not because I knew it would hurt my mom terribly just to see what he thought of her when she saw him in such a good light, as such a sweet and loving son.
However, what really hurt the most though was after seeing what he wrote about my sister, I looked for something, anything he might have written about me or left for me. There was nothing, I searched for so long because I just wanted some kind of last words to hold on to, something to show he thought of me but never found anything."
"I had a cousin who committed suicide at 12 years old. This was a kid that was always a bit of a loner and kind of a book worm but also seemed smarter than other kids and was very mature for his age. Always very polite but quiet and would spend more time watching than participating in anything. There certainly didn't seem like there was anything that would cause him to end how own life. His family seemed close and normal. It did turn out that he was bullied quite a bit at school. I guess it was because he never fought back. About 3 months after his death, both his parents started to suggest to my parents that I should be the one to go through his room. I was 18 at the time and since my cousin and I weren't that close, I guess his parents thought I would have an easier time with it.
I agreed to do it.
I started separating all his stuff. Clothes, toys, books, keepsakes that I though his parents might want to save, etc. As I got deeper into his closet I suspected might actually find a stash and sure enough, there in the back under a bunch of old books in the bottom of a box I found a smaller, flatter box that was magazine sized. SCORE!
Not so much. There were no magazines. There was however lots of loose papers, a sketchbook and some Polaroids. This was in the 90's so there was no such things as internet smut for a family of religious people that didn't own a computer. Nor were digital cameras a thing. But there were instant cameras and my cousin had one.
I started to go through the papers which were all drawings and sketches. I think at first my mind wasn't processing what I was looking at. It took me a bit before I realized what my cousin had been drawing. It was all drawings of bloody scenes. Some detailed some just gory. Nasty stuff. Anyone and anything was there. Sometimes there was occult-like stuff but not very often. I do remember a few pages all in a row that had the words 'Am I the devil?' written in it over and over.
At this point I did NOT want to look a the photos but I did anyway. My cousin had apparently escalated beyond just drawing pictures. I am almost in tears again just thinking about it and this was over 20 years ago.
I never told his parents or anyone else about it. It wasn't out of any sense of decency. I just wanted to forget about what I had seen or at least pretend I hadn't found it for my own sake. So I let everyone continue to think it was the bullying that pushed him over the edge. It may well have been but I wonder if part of it was because he saw what he was becoming and decided to stop himself before things got worse."
"My dad's grandmother was a huge hoarder. When she died, he had to go clear out the house, which was no easy task. My dad always tells us about how you couldn't even see the walls of the house because of the amount of stuff she had lying around, and how she looked so tiny walking around in the little hallways she managed to make in between all kinds of objects.
After several days of trying to clear out the house, my dad finally made it to her bedroom. It was completely filled with all kinds of things, ranging from like 20 kinds of brooms to several harps she had bought during her long trips to Europe. He found all kinds of surprising stuff, but the one that ended up being the craziest one was a letter.
He found it in her bedside table, and it caught his attention because of the wax seal and what was written on the envelope 'To be opened by my daughter, only after my death'. My dad called his mom immediately, since she was his grandmother's only daughter. After getting her permission, he opened the envelope and found a letter and a birth certificate.
In the letter, his grandmother explained how she was never able to have children, and how ashamed she and her husband always felt. She always wanted to have a child, so they decided to take a very long trip through Europe, from which they would come back with a baby. This baby was my dad's mom, who always looked a bit different from her family as she was white and had blue eyes. They found her in an orphanage run by some nuns in the north of France and immediately fell in love with her. Adoption was a big taboo at the time, so no one ever knew about it. The story they told was that she had gotten pregnant during their trip and had given birth to the baby in Europe. They brought her back to Mexico and registered her as a new born, even though she was already several years old.
My grandmother lived all her life thinking she was her parent's biological daughter. At 45, through a letter, she found out that she was adopted, that she was actually older than what she always thought and that she was actually French, not Mexican."
"My father was a successful business man who was originally from Detroit. He grew up in a dangerous and low-income neighborhood, but he was able to get into a good school and complete an engineering degree. Eventually he owned his own machine shop and things were going well. After 2008's crash, the stress got to him.
Shortly after I left for college, my mother forced my father to check in to rehab for his crippling addiction to drinking. He made it a few weeks sober, but relapsed. This happened two more times. My mother divorced him and he holed up in an apartment for a few months before ultimately drinking himself to death.
I cleaned out his apartment and found significant amounts of his rehab literature. I was happier not knowing details, but I did not want to throw out any paperwork that was significant for settling the estate. While combing through, I found a worksheet where he wrote a timeline of his relationship with substances and drink. I found out that he smoked a few times as a 13 year old boy, he started smoking other substances at age 11, and by the time he was 14, he was smoking daily and drinking on weekends. I was stunned; it certainly explained a lot, but I was much happier not knowing. I can't imagine growing up in an environment where parents would be oblivious or apathetic to that."
"After my paternal grandmother died, it took us about 4 months for anyone to be up to cleaning out her house. My grandma was an organized pack rat. In her buffet in her kitchen, she had drawers full of old pharmacy bags folded neatly at put away. My dad told me it was likely a hold over from the depression where you save everything to use again.
Anyway, I came across the old family Bible. One of those big deals where they record births and deaths and it was like finding some huge treasure because she NEVER let us touch it or look through it, she kept it packed away. I was looking through it, absorbing names of her family because while the woman loved to talk about her family (her husband and four boys), she never talked about her other family. She never talked about her parents or siblings or childhood. Nothing. Even my dad knew very little about her family before she married.
So I was flipping through the Bible and tucked between some pages was what looked like a bill of sale or receipt of some kind. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a bill of sale/receipt. For my grandmother. Her father had sold her, sold her, to my grandfathers brother. I don't even remember for how much, I was just in a state of shock. I knew that she had been taken in to help care for my grandfather's dying wife, but I had no idea she was sold. I mean... I don't know. This happened probably in the 30's, early 40's in the rural South but still. It changed how I felt about my grandfather and his family. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it."