I have a long time friend who was dying of cancer. In fact, she passed away just this morning. She was doing better and we thought she would pull through, but two weeks ago she took a drastic turn for the worst. I stopped by to visit her several times. I brought over food. I sent positive text messages to her and her husband. But really, at the beginning of all this I thought to myself, “what can I do for my friend?”
In spite of this blog, it took me a while to think about writing her a letter. When I did think of writing her, I was nervous. My friend is so brilliant and introspective, and thoughtful and dynamic. I wasn’t sure what to write. Just as many of you are unsure. But I followed my steps about how to write a letter and I did it. And, the last step–giving it to your loved one–was hard. Because my letter wasn’t really very good. It didn’t say anything earth-shaking. It seemed so inadequate.
But the point is that I DID write the letter and I DID give it to her. My friend read it when I left the room; when I returned and as I was leaving she said, “thank you.” That was enough.
I’m glad I didn’t wait to write the letter and deliver it. The next time I saw my friend, even though she was to live a while longer, she would not have been capable of reading my letter because she was too weak. Someone could have read it to her, but then she would miss making her observation to me, “I especially like the letterhead.” (I had typed it on business stationery!) And I would’ve missed that last loving, sassy remark from my friend.
I’m glad I didn’t wait to write the letter and deliver it. Now I feel a peace knowing that she knew for certain how important she is/was to me, how she inspired me.
I’m glad I didn’t wait to write the letter and deliver it. One never knows what tomorrow will bring.
I encourage you to write a letter to your loved one. To your mother for Mother’s Day. To your son who is graduating. To your daughter who is leaving your family and starting her own.
I will share my letter (as bush-league as it is) in a later post.
This letter came in and had to be translated. I hope the translation does justice to the original sentiment. It certainly makes me feel the special bond this grandmother and her grandson share and the pain she feels knowing that she has early onset dementia.
Mi nieto Tomás,
Mi pequeño niño dulce. My sweet little child.
I am going away. I will still be with you but I won’t know it. And you won’t know the real me because I am going away in my mind. It makes me very sad to know that I won’t be around to watch my little grandson grow up and become a man. It makes me very sad to know that you won’t know the person that I am and you will only remember me as a shell of who I really am.
I love to dance. I love to sing, but even though I can’t sing very well, that doesn’t stop me. I love to work in my garden. Chayote is my favorite, but I like tomatoes and chilies and the smell of the dirt. Do you remember when you were even smaller than you are now when we grew carrots from the tops? Or singing “bate bate chocolate” as we cooked?
Bate bate chocolate,
Con arroz y con tomate
Uno, dos, tres, CHO!
Uno, dos, tres, CO!
Uno, dos, tres, LA!
Uno, dos, tres TE!
Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!
We had fun together, you and I. Teasing Abuelo when he couldn’t find us playing escondidas. You always make me smile. I know that won’t change.
I know you will grow up to be a good man. Today you are kind and happy and thoughtful. You are gentle with your baby sister. You love your family. Nurture these things and you will live a happy life.
There’s no walking away from destiny and this is mine. Just know I love you with all my heart.
Janie contacted me about how to write her own Goodbye Letter. She followed the outline provided here and wrote a beautiful letter to her father. She wrote it around Father’s Day, but just now was willing to share it. Thank you for your courage, Janie. Your letter will inspire others to do the same.
My first memory of you was when you were flying me on your feet. You are laying on the shag carpet on your back and you are wiggling your bare toes under my belly as your legs fly me around. You are holding my sides with your hands and they feel tight on me. You are laughing and I am laughing and Jilly is crying because she wants a turn.
Then I remember you and mom fighting. I remember you yelling and slamming the screen door. You wanted to be alone, but I tried to go outside and sit next to you. You would let me sit next to you if I didn’t talk. Mom would yell at me to come inside after a while and I did because I was afraid not to. I hated you and mom fighting.
When you moved out and said goodbye it was hard. I knew why you and mom were getting divorced. I knew your drinking had gotten bad and that you didn’t work all the time and that mom didn’t love you any more. But I didn’t care. I didn’t want you to leave because I still loved you.
For a while Jilly and I had two houses. You always said we were lucky because we had two houses to live in and most kids only have one. But then you didn’t have your house and then we stopped visiting and you stopped calling. But I still loved you.
Now my last memory of you is when mom called me at Jilly and Tom’s house and she told me you passed away. She sounded so tired, but she wasn’t crying. I guess I was too stunned to cry, too. I wish I could just cry and cry, but I can’t get it all out. I knew this would happen. In my heart I knew one day the drinking would get you. But I always hoped you would get the better of it. I guess I was wrong.
I will miss you. Even though I haven’t seen you in a while, I know I will miss you. I will hold you close to my heart. I will remember the daddy that used to fly me on his feet. I will forget the hard times and remember the good times.
It’s Father’s Day and I want you to know that I still love you.
Chaplain JTC, III with AllCare Hospice in Tulsa, Oklahoma ministers to those in their last days of life. He allowed me to share this article about writing to heal with you. It talks about guilt, regret, forgiveness, gratitude and acceptance. Here’s a link to the Chaplain’s story:
Should you choose to write a letter and would like to share it with others in order to help them, please feel free to submit it to: Letters@LastGoodbyeLetters.com.
I’m having a hard time writing a letter to my dying father. My step father raised me and my step father passed several years ago. I don’t know what to say to my father. My step mother refuses to let me see him for any closure. I am just lost for words.
This inquiry came to me a while ago and I thought my response might help others in a similar situation:
1. Open the letter with why you feel you want to write to your father even though your relationship hasn’t been that close. Tell him why it’s important for you to tell him these things and that you are hoping he sees the letter as an expression of love, not of blame or guilt (assuming that is true).
2. Do you have any memories of your father? Since your step-father raised you, you may not. If you do, then sit quietly and make a list of the memories you have. If you don’t have memories, make a list of things/times/emotions you would like to share with a father.
3. Look over your list and pick a couple of items. Then, write a couple of sentences about how thinking about those memories you have/wish you had make you feel. Closer to him as a father? Did it impact you in some way going forward in life? Something that you have never shared with any one else? Make you feel nurtured?
4. Close your letter with anything that you feel has been left unsaid. You might want to mention that you know he may never read the letter because of your step-mother’s protectiveness. If you want… add a list of adjectives that come to mind when you think of your father.
Finally, I think that it’s most important for YOU to write the letter. Do you have someone that can read the letter to your father for you since your step-mother is keeping you from seeing him? If you have no choice left, I would send it to your step-mother and hope that she will read it to your father. Sometimes you just don’t know the impact of your actions, and you have to trust that you did the best you could in a given situation and trust that the Universe will figure a way for your father to know your feelings.
I’ll say a prayer for you and your father. If you would like to share your letter with me, I would be honored!
This letter was given to me by a friend suffering from breast cancer. It’s amazing how women identify with their hair.
Dear Lovely Tresses:
It’s time to say goodbye. You have always served me well.
I am a plain person with no outstanding skills or qualities except for you.
I am short. You are oh so long.
I am nondescript and dumpy. You are luxurious and glamorous.
People never comment on my clothes, but they always comment on you.
No one remembers what I do or say, but they remember you.
My grandkids love to play with you. I love when they comb you and style you and spend time with me because of you. You have brought me closer to them. You have made them think of me and tell their friends about me.
But now I have to cut you off. I want to cut you off before you fall out on your own. I will miss you. My family will miss you. I wonder what will happen without you. I know I have cancer, but I’m sadder to loose you. What if I scare my grandkids without you? What if people don’t talk to me because I don’t have you with me?
I will save you and have you framed in five little frames so that I can give one to each grandchild to remember you. I know you will be back one day, but it will be many, many years from now.
Now my next goodbye will be to cancer!
I came across this story by Jim Stingl from the Milwaukee County Journal Sentinel and felt it was something to share with you. Very touching.
These women didn’t have to write goodbye letters to each other–they’d been writing their whole lives, so I’m sure, nothing was left unsaid.
As Christmas arrives, we remember to give thanks for our friendships.
I guess we all grieve in different ways. This person wrote a letter to Robin Williams whom, I assume, he never met in person. Writing a letter to someone you don’t know personally didn’t cross my mind before today. But this letter, hopefully, helped ease the pain in the author’s heart:
You made me laugh. You brought joy into people’s lives. You were so upbeat. You were a genius. I’m so sad that you left us. There was so much more you could give to the world. I’m so sad to know that that you were sad when all you did was to make others happy.
I’m sending you this letter in my heart. I wish I sent it to you before you felt like you had nothing left. You gave so much. We will miss you.
I encourage you to write a letter to a loved one today! If you’d like me to share it with others, please send it to me at letters@LastGoodbyeLetters.com.
This came my way and, after cleaning up the punctuation and a word or two, I’m posting it for you. I don’t understand all of it because, apparently, I’m not cool. But the gist is plain to see for everyone: Don’t allow yourself to be a target. Love yourself even if you think no one else does. You are a person of value. Let’s say a prayer for all the Angels in the world:
It’s time to lace it up dude. You are cool. You’re beautiful. You’re not fat. You’re not cray cray. I know you. You’re clean, chido. No molly. No weed. No more caguamas.
Next time they come at you, turn around dude. Swerve. All you need to prove is to yourself. You don’t need to fight back. You don’t need to cut to feel anything. You’re the bigger man dude.
I’m down with you. And that’s the only thing that matters. F@*# those other guys. No hay bronca. Orale!
I received this letter today and I wondered if I should post it. It isn’t all flowery and nice, but it is reality. And there is definitely love in it. I thought I should post it so that others who are primary care givers for loved ones with dementia will see that it’s OK to feel scared, mad and alone. Read on:
Dear, dear Mom,
As I sit here looking at you napping in your chair, I realize that you’ve been gone from me for such a long time. I miss you. I miss that we used to have such stimulating conversations with Dad. I miss that you used to smile and laugh at my jokes. I miss you taking care of me. I miss your intellect, your insight and your bright spirit.
Now, I’m taking care of you. And it’s hard. And I’m tired. Sometimes I want to go to sleep and not wake up. You are healthy, except your mind is gone. My friends and sister all tell me to think of myself and place you in a home. Do you know that I’ve called several, been on the list to get you in and when the phone call comes that says there’s room for you, I just can’t do it. They’ve stopped calling me because they know I can’t place you. You’re my mom.
Sometimes I’m so angry with you and Dad for leaving me in this situation. I guess I don’t know what else you could’ve done, but I’m still resentful. And I’m scared. I can’t lift you without help from Hospice workers. There’s so much I can’t do. I just try to hold on to any little bit of normalcy. It’s so wonderful for me to get an hour to go to the grocery store by myself. I feel free. And I feel bad that I feel free.
I’m thankful that you know me a little bit still. That’s a little bit that I can hold on to of the old you.
I love you, Mom. And I’m saying goodbye now even though you can’t read this letter. I just want you to know that you are so special to me. Even like you are today. Even though it’s hard.
I love you.
If you would like to share your goodbye letter with others, please e-mail it to me at: Letters@LastGoodbyeLetters.com