Peter contacted me last week wondering how to start a letter to his ex-wife to tell her that he was dying and to express what their relationship had meant to him. Although there is a link at the top of the Last Goodbye Letters homepage on How To Write Your Own Letter, I thought it would be good to share my response to Peter. I hope this response helps others write letters.
Photo courtesy of Paleontour and everystockphoto.com
I’m so sorry to hear about your health. Facing mortality is something we all must do, but when it comes time to get real about that, I can only imagine the gamut of emotions that must be a turmoil for you.
Here’s what you do:
- First, know that you don’t have to write down EVERYTHING in your letter. That’s probably impossible.
- Second, don’t try to write the entire letter from start to finish without first making some notes.
- How to make notes: Write down words and phrases like: sorry, stupid, freedom, love, scared, make amends, need to laugh, etc. Write down words / stories you have of the person that are particularly memorable to you.
- Write the letter from your notes.
- Start with why you wanted to write the letter in the first place. For example, “It’s hard for me to put this into writing, but I wanted you to know that I’m dying from _______________.”
- How does writing the letter make you feel? For example, “I’m scared that I might die without you knowing the reasons behind my actions. Writing this letter is as much for me as it is for you.”
- Then start writing down the reasons WHY you wrote the words or phrases from point #3.
- End your letter with why you felt it was important to write. For example, “We made a lot of memories together—both good and bad—but I thought you deserved to know how I acted the way I did. I think you do know why I left but I didn’t want you to guess, I wanted to tell you this from my heart.”
I’m sorry for the reason you have to write your letter(s). I think it will be a healing experience for you. Don’t worry about how it ends up. Don’t worry about how your ex-wife (or anyone else) responds to the letter. The important thing is that you write it.
If you would like to host a letter writing workshop, let us know via the Contact Us! form and we can send you a workshop outline.
And, as always, if you would like to share your letter with others to inspire them to write, please send it to us at: Letters@LastGoodbyeLetters.com.
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.”
Mailbox photo courtesy of Martin Dufort and EveryStockPhoto.com
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.
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:
Photo by Zion and courtesy of MorgueFile.
Starting the writing process isn’t hard–just decide to begin.
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 wrote a letter to my mother a couple of Mother’s Days ago and I wanted to share her reaction after reading it. Fortunately for me, she left me a voice message and I can listen to her happy response over and over–especially when I’m feeling a little blue, it picks me up to know how easy it was to make her smile.
Here’s what she said:
Hi, Susan, this is your mom! I got your letter. I just picked it up from the post office and I just had to call you and tell you thank you! Thank you! Thank you! It absolutely made my heart swell so big. It’s a beautiful, beautiful letter and I’m going to keep it forever and ever and ever! Oh… (laughs) It’s just special. It’s just special! So… I just wanted to let you know. You take care. I love you, love you, love you! You can tell I’m thrilled. And that’s it. I just wanted to tell you thanks, I loved it. You take care. Love you very much, Sweetheart.
The ladies of the family hug Mom!
FYI, I followed my own advice in my post on How To Write Your Own Last Goodbye Letter. I just sat quietly for a time and thought of scenarios in my life where my mother played a key roll. Before long, I wasn’t staring at a blank page any more–it was filled up with words!
I’m not expecting my mom to depart this world any time soon, but why wait to write a letter? Share the love for Mother’s Day! You can tuck it into a greeting card!
In my post dated March 14, I reported how my friend felt bad because he kept putting off doing things with friends because ‘there’s always tomorrow,’ and then, sadly, sometimes missed the opportunity. One such opportunity was to take a dear friend to eat at a favorite restaurant one and-a-half hours from home. And, guess what? We did it!
The drive was beautiful, the company was fun and our friend Helen ate at her favorite Mexican restaurant in the state of Arizona!
Steve and I felt happy that we could spend time with our friend and make her day very memorable. Helen, in turn, was so very thankful that we took time out of our day just for her… to make her feel special.
That was worth it.
Susan, Helen and Steve at a favorite restaurant.
Even if Steve DID spill salsa all over our table! That just made it more memorable!
My gentle suggestion: Don’t let yourself become too busy to spend time with someone important. It’s good for the soul!
I have a friend who has told me this story a couple of times:
He has older friends that he thinks he’ll take to lunch, or go visit, or do something fun with, but–although his intensions are good–the time to do these things just never seems to materialize. He told me recently that it makes him sad because he lets time slip away and then, sadly, the opportunity no longer exists. He told me that he should learn from his mistakes, but he hasn’t yet.
We have an older friend in common whom he wants to take to lunch at one of her favorite restaurants outside of town. I’m going to do my best to ‘help him learn from his mistakes’ and set up a time that I will ALSO go with him. Maybe we’ll break the cycle, as they say.
Make the time to take a coffee break with a friend!
Photo courtesy of Frerieke and everystockphoto.com and Flickr.com
I am always advocating writing letters to loved ones to let them know your feelings…it’s healthy for you AND the recipient. Maybe it’s not always a letter, maybe it’s a visit that will do the trick.
I hope you learn from my friend’s mistakes. I’ll report back on the lunch visit!
I have to admit. I’m embarrassed. I’ve been encouraging others to write goodbye letters to loved ones when they move away, get deployed, get married, move out of the house, or are close to the end of life. But I let an opportunity slip by.
My elderly friend was moving out of state to a senior care facility. She is a dear member of our family and I knew that I’d miss seeing her and chatting about things that I only read about in history books, but she actually lived through. I tried to think about what to write to her in a letter. Older people especially, I think, appreciate the written word.
I just stared at the page.
Photo courtesy of stock.xchng. Photographer: brokenarts
I even knew where to begin to write because I wrote a workshop on how to write a goodbye letter. And right here on this blog I post tips on how to write your own letter!
I think I used the excuse of being too busy and making personal visits a priority over writing the letter. But I will say, I regret not writing that letter. I don’t want to have regrets in life. Maybe I was too shy to give a letter to my friend in person. Maybe I was afraid I’d cry.
In fact, I can still write her the letter and mail it. I may not be brave, but I can still use the old-fashioned US Postal Service and know that when she reads my letter, my friend will feel special and feel loved.
Don’t have regrets of your own. Write a letter to a loved one. And, if you feel so inclined, please share it with me for my Last Goodbye Letters project. I need all the contributions I can get!
No one will dispute that the loss of Nicholas Ivie, the Border Patrol agent who was shot in the line of duty in the early hours of October 2, is a tragedy. From all accounts he was a well loved and respected man. He left behind an honorable legacy. While many are investigating the circumstances of his death, others are looking out after the well-being of his family. That leaves me wondering if Nicholas ever wrote a goodbye letter to his wife, his baby, his parents…
Of course he wouldn’t have known it was a last goodbye letter. But that’s the point. We hear all the time to:
Love Letter Circa 2003. Photo courtesy of Staralee and everystockphoto.com
- Seize the day.
- Live today like it’s your last.
- Always kiss your loved ones goodbye.
Why don’t we add another item to the list:
You never know when it’ll be your last opportunity to tell others how special they are to you.
If you’d like tips on how to write a love letter, check out my post, How To Write Your Own Last Goodbye Letter. If you would like to submit your letter for consideration in the printed book I’m compiling, please contact me by clicking on the CONTACT link at the bottom right of this page.
Happy weekend! I started my weekend last night at dinner with friends. My friend suggested that let people know that the Last Goodbye Letters tagline was too narrow because it mentions ‘children to parents’ when the project has expanded to lots of different kinds of goodbyes. Who wants to give me suggestions for revised taglines? Share this with your friends so I get more suggestions!
The Olympics are pretty inspiring, but I’ve gotten some inspiring letters recently as contributions for Last Goodbye Letters. One of them, from a sister to her brother, inspires us to move on positively. She says, “With the writing of these words I say goodbye to you. Not goodbye to your memory, but goodbye to the pain of losing the physical you. I love you very, very much.” Tell your friends to write a letter to a loved one!