1. Burned Into My Brain
I received a computer for Christmas that was previously owned by some old guy. My parents bought it at an estate sale so it was pretty cheap. Anyways, I start looking through the documents and there was a folder named Jessica’s farm… My young mind was not prepared to see hundreds, and I mean HUNDREDS of pictures of this guys wife posing nude on horses. The image of an old, wrinkly lady riding horses is forever burned into my brain.
2. Mother Of The Year
My mother went on my older sister’s computer after she died, and found a letter meant for my sister’s two children which said how horrible my mother was. My sister was pretty angry at life in the final months, and seemed to blame my mom for everything. Needless to say, my mom was devastated.
3. A Year Of Passion
Not on the computer, but my family found a 3-ring binder my grandmother kept. It was full of lusty love letters. We asked one of her best friends about it, and she replied with ‘Oh yeah, I was suppose to burn that’. Apparently, my grandma and this guy had a relationship where they never actually got together, but had lots of phone sex. None of that is quite so bad I guess, unless you start imagining that it was your grandma. She described many details of their talks in her letters and referred to it all as her ‘year of passion’.
4. Bleach Out My Eyes
Good friend of mine had a major stroke and went into a coma, prognosis was not good and the family made plans. Since I was the one that knew about computers, they asked me to go through his stuff and find pictures for his memorial service.
2 laptops and 10 usb sticks later I wanted to bleach out my eyes. My friend was a great guy, but he was morbidly obese. Apparently, he had been renting out escorts and such from online forums. They were far from pretty, and thankfully my friend only appeared in a few pictures, but had his clothes on.
Out of about 10gb worth of images I was able to find 5 suitable for his memorial service.
The toughest part was telling his family that I could only salvage 5 photos. I told them the hard drives were corrupted (yep, I wiped them). No sense in letting them know what I found.
On a positive note, I did adopt his parrot and to this day she keeps calling me by his name.
5. Final Text
My best friend’s machine, the usually cluttered desktop had only one untitled text document. It was his suicide note.
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6. Granpa’s Dignity
I had a dead man’s computer brought in for clean and repair by his granddaughter, as she was going to be using it now he had passed on. In the DVD drive was an adult movie. I can’t remember the title. However, after repairing the computer I kept the dvd in the shop. You know…. To protect gramps’ dignity etc….
17. Absolutely Nothing
When I was 18 I took my older brother’s computer after he died in a car crash. He was the sort of guy that people loved to be around, always laughing, joking. He made people feel good about themselves.
His car had run into a grouping of those cement jersey barriers on a road under construction. No other cars were involved, and there were no signs that he had hit the brakes. He must have dozed off.
While emptying his room in his house we found a set of crumpled papers…they were the unfinished first sentences of suicide notes. But he never left a completed note, and instead chose to throw these drafts away. Maybe he sat down to write a note, decided he didn’t want to die, needed some air, went for a drive, got into an accident? I couldn’t understand how this happy, great guy that I loved could be so unhappy.
I searched his computer for any clues. I was prepared to look in every corner for a clue, an internet history, an AIM log (this was back in the day), a photo, an email, anything. There was nothing. Not just nothing strange…nothing at all. He had already wiped his computer clean, probably anticipating that his little brother would inherit his computer and snoop around. It still doesn’t confirm or deny anything for me. I feel certain that he intended to kill himself. But I’ve never been more upset to find absolutely nothing.
8. Last Thoughts
I was tasked by a friend of a parent to wipe a computer that belonged to his son who committed suicide. I could have just wiped it, but a morbid curiosity and a feeling I was ‘erasing’ the last of this person drove me to first delve into the files. What I found was essentially a diary of the son’s last days, including his very last, which had been typed just minutes before he ended his life.
There was something profound in reading those notes, knowing I am the only one who will ever know his last thoughts. I don’t really regret or wish I hadn’t seen what I did. The last time I shared this experience I was made to feel guilty for invading the dead son’s privacy. I still feel a little guilty for that, but I’m still glad I did so. The kid needed someone to listen to him, and well, even though it was too late, someone did. It’s just a shame it couldn’t have been earlier.
9. Creepy Uncle
So my uncle took loads of pictures, just all the time. We didn’t actually realize the scale of this until I had to look through them all after he died. Turns out we could’ve lost every single picture ever taken of me, my sister, my cousins, and still we’d have a remarkably smooth transition from infant to adult in picture form. That said, we also discovered he liked adult films, and since we didn’t want to accidentally throw away some priceless picture, I had to go through 3 hard drives and a couple hundred USBs and CDs of almost entirely adult films.
I was more impressed with his capacity to find and organize things than anything else.
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10. You’re My Brother
After my dad died we found a bunch of pictures of a kid who looked a lot like my younger brother. After some digging around we found out my dad had an affair with some married lady about 12 years prior. She got pregnant and the boy is being raised by her husband as their son. My understanding of the situation is that the boy has no idea about my dad. My brothers and I discussed whether or not we were going to tell him and we decided it was best to let the kid be raised by his parents without him knowing.
11. Business Trips
The nurses at the hospital gave my cousin his dad’s belongings when his dad passed away, and it included his cell phone. That’s how he found out his dad’s a cheater and a drug addict.
He talked to me about it, and I had to confess I knew about it, but I didn’t want to tell him about it unless he asked me since I didn’t want to ruin his image of his dad. He decided not to tell his mom to leave her with great memories. She never knew since her husband was always ‘busy’ and going on ‘business trips’.
I can’t remember exactly how long they’d been married but they were together for over 2 decades. They met in college and she was out of his league, he was actually younger but lied to her to pretend he was older. They got married eventually, and to be fair, he used to be a great husband, father and uncle for the first few years. Then he started hanging out with the wrong crowd. Kinda weird but I felt that he died years before he actually died. He became paranoid, angry and really disrespectful to women towards the end.
12. No choice But To Forgive
After my father died my mom found explicit emails to other men on his computer. She had her suspicions before and took it in stride, realizing that despite being bisexual (they still had a good love life) that didn’t change how he felt about her and her family. Admirable woman, my mother.
The way she put it to me: ‘Once you realize that despite how much it hurts for you, it hurt ten times more for him, you really have no choice but to forgive’.
13. Listen To The Music
A couple of spring breaks ago, I found a nice little USB bracelet with the University of Hawaii logo on it in the middle of a sidewalk in Maui. I took it back home to the continental US where it has sat on my mirror shelf for two years. During a period of procrastination sometime probably a month ago, I plugged it in just for the hell of it. It had all this Harry Potter music and some waltz music along with some college papers and other things. So for the next two hours I listened to this person’s music and just relaxed. I later decided to try to find who it was. I opened a few more documents. One was a disability form from the university saying how his financial aid had been sent or something like that. I looked up his name on google and found that he had died a month and a half after he dropped that USB drive for me to eventually find.
Finding out that I had just listened to and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful composition of a man who was no longer living made me reflect on how intertwined our impact in this world is as I bawled my eyes out and rocked myself back and forth. Needless to say, the paper that was due the next day was entirely forgotten.
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14. Family Business
When my grandfather passed away, we were going through his computer to save off important things. We mostly saved off genealogy information, but found one very strange item.
My grandfather had written a book/thesis on how much he hated my grandmother. It was about 150 pages long, had a table of contents, and all sorts of hate filled stories and anecdotes. It was titled something like ‘Why Catholics and Southern Baptists Should Never Marry’.
My dad shared it with one of his brothers, and they waited about 5 years before showing it to my grandmother. I think they felt guilty after hearing her lament over missing him so much. So I think they kinda wanted it to be like ‘Mom, stop missing Dad. He was mean, see?’. I’m still not 100% certain that she ever needed to know about that book. One of my family members printed it out and mailed it to all of my aunts and uncles. (My dad is one of 7). It was a huge drama fest for years. It seems to have died down lately though.
15. Don’t Read
Worked as a big city EMT in a pretty violent neighborhood. Responded to a call for an unconscious, girlfriend states she hadn’t heard from her boyfriend… ended up having to sledge the door open, to find him very far dead on the bed, needle still in the arm, baggies of heroin both full and empty as well as used and unused needles littered the floor. Yeah fine whatever I had some experience by then so I was just going through the motions. Picked up his cell phone to look for an emergency contact and saw and made the horrendous mistake of reading the 25 missed texts from his dad about how much he loved him and was worried about him and how he hadn’t heard from him in a couple hours how proud he was of him getting help for his addiction… lots of ‘hey bud’ and ‘hey dude’ thrown in there from him… I thought I was pretty cynical by then but I will always regret the day I looked at that phone. Its the only thing that still bothers me to this day.
16. Hide And Seek
Years and years ago, I was doing programming work for a doctor’s office. One day the office manager, a lady in her late 50’s, pulled me aside and asked me if I’d be willing to go through a computer for her and pull off any financial data or personal photos I could find. The computer belonged to her husband of 20+ years. He had died six months earlier, having dropped dead right in front of her of a massive heart attack. She explained that his savings and retirement account seemed thinner than they should be and she needed help finding the money. I agreed and she left me to spend the next few hours sifting through a dead man’s computer.
With very little effort I found an enormous amount of naked photos of a Thai chick. Initially I figured he had a thing for Thai ladies, except then an older gentleman started showing up in the photos. It was the office manager’s husband. File dates suggested that he had been taking “business” trips to Thailand for years. Worse yet, I did stumble across financial records and a bunch of emails — he had been slowly surreptitiously draining his savings and retirement to funnel to an account jointly held in Thailand between his girlfriend and him. Seems like he was planning on ditching the wife to retire with the girlfriend in Thailand.
I toyed with the idea of hiding it all from her, but ultimately I sat her down and told her what I found after I had compiled it all. She was heartbroken. Later I discovered she had been talking about retiring prior to this, but not anymore. When I write stuff like this I always try to include a lesson, what I learned from the experience but I didn’t learn anything. I only confirmed what I already knew: People are horrible to each other.
17. Yukon Journals
Journal my uncle wrote at the behest of his therapist outlining his habitual rape in a small Yukon mining town where he lived with my grandparents after my dad left for school. Then his run away to Vancouver where his boyfriend pimped him out for drug money and broke his legs when he ran away to live with my dad, mom, me and my siblings in Winnipeg, the guy tracked him down at my parents house where he lived with us for a month ( my uncle was too terrified to tell my dad anything, worried this guy would hurt us kids as we were all under 5).
Then his deep depression even after he finally moved back to Winnipeg for good. Stole money from his job to gamble, then got fired (he told us they laid him off) and finally the reason he killed himself, after months of taking care of our grandfather who was dying of cancer pretty much everywhere my uncle was diagnosed with stomach cancer, I never showed my father any of it.
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18. Gone Fishing
I knew my father had a vibrant internet life. He had been on irc for a long time, maybe starting in like 1996? He had been a regular on one channel for about 10 years, I think he was a mod (or whatever the equivalent was). He talked about his online friends a lot. They seemed like great people and they were very supportive when he got sick.
After he died, I wanted to make sure they knew but I wasn’t sure how to get in touch with them. About six months after he died, I got a Facebook message. The sender said that they were looking for a woman with my same last name who lived in my town, she was a regular in their chat and had cancer and they were worried about her. Approximately my father’s age, with the same kind of dog. The dog picture he sent was not my fathers dog but it looked similar, and a photo of my fathers very distinctive truck. After being in some shock I realized that my father was doing some serious cat fishing. He had posed as this woman for over a decade. Honestly she sounded nicer than my father in a lot of ways. This group of people really loved this woman in their community.
I didn’t know what to tell the guy. I wanted to tell the truth, they deserved closure. But if I lied and said she died it would raise questions (why was there no obituary, etc.). I did not want them to feel betrayed either. After thinking for a few days I told him. He seemed really confused, but honestly not horribly upset. He said that he was sorry for my loss and hoped I would visit the chat sometime. We would keep the secret between us and he would tell the group that she died but not the whole truth. I think this was the best way to handle it but sometimes I regret it. I don’t know what my dad would have wanted.
19. Red Flag
Yeah, my uncle’s laptops. We powered one up, and there were all these weird selfies, taken from overhead with him on his back. He was a gargantuan old shut-in/hoarder, so they looked really weird.
And then there were all these hardcore guy on guy adult videos and stills. This was odd, because he had always been straight, to my knowledge, and kind of a homophobe (yeah, I know: it should have been a red flag).
And then it hit me: he was taking selfies to put himself in the pictures. He was an old man, trying to imagine he was young, beautiful, and able to explore – something he couldn’t have done in 1950’s Texas.
Before he died, he had become fixated on a couple of memories of friends coming on to him at swimming pools, etc. I now understand that he was fantasizing about missed opportunities to have fun.
There was also an account for some kind of meet up site for guys. All old guys. I had to email the site and tell them, ‘this man is dead.’
We don’t have a charger for the other laptop. I don’t know what we’ll find on it.
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20. No Soup For You
My boss died from terminal cancer several years ago. She had told us all she was in remission. She never told us it was back or that it was terminal. She was out sick for a week with what she said was the flu. I texted her and said ‘Hey do you want me to bring you some soup?’ and an hour later I got the call that she was dead.
I cleaned out her computer to get work related files that we needed to pick up where she left off. She only had one file saved to her desktop: a scan of her notes from her last oncology appointment that was just called ‘scan.pdf’ or something generic that basically said it had metastasized and they recommended palliative care. She had also deleted all her appointments off her outlook calendar starting like another week or two out. I guess she knew it was almost time.
It was just a hollow feeling that stuck with me for a long time. I had been really close to her. I understood it was her wishes not to tell anyone but it was such a sucker punch to all of us.
Not a personal computer, but my local library has a set of computers in there and people can get usernames/passwords and use the virtual desktops (given they have a library card). This old guy would use the computer a lot. I wasn’t nosy so I never looked in depth, but he was using a word processor so I assumed he was typing letters or something similar. Anyway, I volunteered there over the summer, and I had to close out inactive library cards, or ones that hadn’t paid dues. Basically this meant I was deleting accounts by logging on to their virtual desktops and cleaning them out.
The old man showed up in the line up. Turns out he died a few months before. I opened up his desktop and went to documents, because curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to see if he had anything some relatives wanted or something.
There was his life, encompassed in two folders. Folder one: Novel. He was writing a memoir of his tales in WWII. Folder Two: Missy. Missy, from what I could collect, was his wife. In it were dozens, if not over a hundred documents of love poems and letters to her. I backed them up on a USB and intended to return them to his wife. I’m sure she would want love letters.
As it were, the wife was dead and he was buried next to her in the cemetery. I was sad, because these were letters to his long-dead wife (she had died in 2004). I gave the files to his son, who read them out loud at the old man’s annual memorial mass as a eulogy and testimony to the love of his wife.