I recently had an interview with BBC Radio’s The Why Factor as part of their story about why people write farewell letters. Thank you to my local public radio station, KJZZ Phoenix, for allowing me to use their studio for the interview. That story should be available to listen to live on Friday, October 14 at 9:30 PM (UTC) or 2:30 PM local Arizona time. Here is a link to listen: BBC World Service – The Why Factor. As part of that story, Mike Williams is hosting a Facebook Live chat/interview Thursday, October 13 at 4:00 PM (UTC) or 9:00 AM for my Arizona friends. I believe we will be covering how to write your own letter, read excerpts from letters and–here’s where you come in–take questions from people who post them on the Facebook site. If you would like to ask a question in real time, please go to: Facebook BBC Stories. I look forward to hearing from you! Of course, you can always ask you questions via this site as well.
I’m a fan of The Moth Radio Hour. If you ever have a chance to see a live Moth performance, you should treat yourself. However, most of the time I only get to listen on the radio. Today I heard episode 1412 which included a story by humorist Tom Bodett.
In the narrative, Tom talks about a letter his father gave him and how it changed the course of his life. During The Moth Radio Extra interview in which Producer Maggie Cino discusses the focus of Tom’s story, Mr. Bodett says of the letter, “My dad did this one really important thing for me, and maybe that’s enough.”
I have been encouraging people to write to each other because we never know how our words of kindness, encouragement, revelation, or perspective may change the lives of others. Our letters do matter. And they do change lives. Even if they are only our own.
Go to this link to hear the entire interview, (but please focus on minutes 3-6 where Tom Bodett talks specifically about the letter his dad wrote to him): Moth Radio Extra: Tom Bodett Full Interview. To hear the whole story about Tom Bodett’s fears of his father’s judgment of him after being accidentally electrocuted, the letter Tom’s dad wrote to him and the surprise he had reading the content of the letter, please click here: Tom Bodett – Inside Passage – The Moth Radio Hour.
And, as always, if you need help writing your own letter, click on the tab above: How To Write Your Own Letter. I am hoping you will send your letter to me to post here and share with others.
A lot of young people have just graduated from high school or college and are headed off into the big world–whether it’s on to work or college or the military or marriage and family or other adventures life brings. But with a wave of wistful nostalgia, many parents think back on their little children astounded that they have grown into amazing young adults so fast. And while most parents are saddened to see their children fly the nest, we are also happy because that is the way of life.
One such mother shared a letter with me that she wrote to her daughter upon graduation. The letter itself is beautiful and full of loving detail, but the daughter’s response was sweet as well–giving her mother a hug. I believe this letter from mother to daughter may have more impact on the child as she grows into a young woman and, perhaps, has children of her own.
And the beauty of a letter is that it can be cherished and re-read over and over finding new meaning and importance in the words as the reader changes with time and experience.
Here is the letter:
My dear daughter:
Words cannot begin to describe how proud I am of you. When we decided to bring our second child into the world we didn’t do this lightly. As parents, we want a perfect world for our kids, but know this is not reality. You have become a very giving, caring, awesome young lady and this world will be so much better off with you in it. You can make this world a better place!
You have always been brave and a leader. In preschool, your teacher told me after playtime you had no problem telling the other kids that “This goes here and put that there.” Your braveness was evident with you never being bashful to ask for things. For example, when you were three years old at McDonald’s you would go ask the cashier to exchange your toy if it wasn’t the one you had wanted.
I learn from you every day. I find myself coming to you for advice often, and you always have it! You are an amazing, caring person who always looks out for the little guy.
College starts in a few months, and it will be an exciting new chapter in your life. It will be an opportunity to explore who you are and discover what you want to be. Success is not measured by the money you make but by the goodness you do for others.
Pursue your dreams, look to God for guidance and enjoy life my sweet daughter!
I love you with all my heart,
I hope you feel encouraged to write a letter to your child or loved one. If you would like to share you letter, please contact me at Letters@LastGoodbyeLetters.com
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.