Once upon a time, there was a kindly old man.
He was surrounded by all sorts of family members, and was widely known and loved for his smile and generosity. He had made a lot of money during his lifetime and was constantly giving it out to his relatives whenever they got into tight situations, and never expected a single penny in return. Those who believed in angels and heaven thought he would have a clear path to the pearly gates as soon as he passed on, and even those who weren't religious were moved by his kindness.
For example, his next door neighbor's little 5-year-old daughter, Suzanna, once forgot to lock the gate to the backyard. Her puppy Spot escaped, and got out into the road in front of her house. A delivery truck that was hurrying down the road didn't see the pup dash in front of his vehicle and accidentally ran over him. Two days later, the kind old man showed up at her doorstep with a new puppy for her.
The old man's oldest daughter Diana was 45 years old, and had a family of her own. The big corporation she worked for went under, and she and her family went into a downward spiral. Their belongings were all repossessed and they were homeless, so the old man took them in until Diana found a new job. He put up the down payment on a new house and car, and allowed Diana to pay him back only after she had taken care of her family.
Finally the day came when the man was on his death bed, with only a few hours to live. His three daughters, two sons, and their families flew from all over the country to visit him and stay in his house to take care of him. His neighbors rushed from their houses to come pay their respects to him.
As the old man felt his time drawing nearer, he called everyone to his bedside. As they huddled around him, their faces illuminated by the candles around his bed, he raised a shaking hand and pointed to Diana, who immediately rushed to his side.
"I have something to tell you, Diana," the kind old man said, "I think you are the most selfish person in the world, for taking advantage of an old man like you did six years ago when you lost your job. That was your own fault. You've always been so selfish!"
Diana, absolutely aghast, drew away in surprise. Everyone around the bed looked at each other nervously. The kind old man had never shown a sign of disease or insanity, so what could have brought this about all of a sudden?
As they watched with growing horror, the old man called each family member to his bedside and named every flaw he had ever seen in them, every shortcoming, every single time they had taken advantage of his kindness. He even called little Suzanna over and told her how careless she had been to leave the gate unlocked, and that it was her fault Spot had gotten run over by the truck. The little girl ran back to her mother and father in tears.
"How could you?!" Suzanna's mother cried, "You've always been so kind! How could you say such horrible things to each and every one of us?! It's been a lie this whole time?!"
There was a murmur of agreement from everyone around the bedside. The old man smiled.
"Yes. It was all a lie. I've secretly hated you all from the second I knew you! You're all selfish, arrogant, filthy wastes of air!"
That was the last straw. With a huff, Suzanna's mother took her daughter's hand and stormed from the room, her husband on her heels. Everyone else glared down at the mean old man and stomped out of the room. Only Diana lingered for a moment, looking back over her shoulder at her father.
"You, Diana, you're the most selfish of them all!" The old man said.
"Father, you've been nothing but kind all these years! It's your fault you'll be alone when you die! No one's going to care that you're gone now!" She said, her eyes filling with angry tears, "I hate you! You should be ashamed of yourself for lying to yourself! I hope Hell has a nice place reserved for you!" And with that, she stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
The old man died in his sleep twenty minutes later.
No one attended the funeral ceremony. The only family that showed up came dressed in shades of white and blue and had only come to sign papers. The old man's headstone was unadorned, simply read his name and the years he had lived, nothing fancy, no decorations. His coffin was the same, and there were no flowers placed on his grave. The obituary in the newspaper simply said his name. Not a single grieving tear was shed for the old man's death.
Finally, two months after the old man had passed away, Diana had the courage to re-enter the house again. She and her siblings needed to divide up the old man's belongings, and they needed to see if there was a last will and testament anywhere in the house, since the old man had never gave them notice of one. She searched through many of his cabinets and drawers, avoiding entering his bedroom for as long as she could, until finally there was nowhere else to look. In the last drawer she checked, the one by his bedside, she found a pile of old family photos, which she set aside as she fought down feelings of disgust. Finally, at the bottom of the old wooden drawer, she found a letter with her name in the old man's handwriting on the front. It looked newer than the photos, implying that it had been written fairly recently. She carefully tore the letter open. A paper reading "Last Will and Testament" fell out, but Diana pushed it aside for a moment, reading the letter first. It read:
I know you will be the first to find this, because I know you so well. In regards to all those horrible things I said to everyone, all I can say is this:
I didn't mean a word of it.
But it must have been such a relief to not have to grieve for an old soul like me.
all my love,
Diana could do nothing but stare at the letter for several minutes, and then finally she broke into tears and sobbed.