Advice on Letter to Terminal Aunt

Updated on January 05, 2009
S.S. asks from Madison, WI
12 answers

Hello Mom's,
I have an aunt who growning up my family was fairly close with. She had four boys and although they were in a different state we saw them 5 - 10 times year. My Aunt is now in her mid 60's and found out a week ago she is terminal with brain cancer and has 3 maybe 6 months with therapy. I have not seen them in 5 years and would love to make the trip but I just can not. I want to write a letter and share with her the things she did for me and how they effected my life. I am having a hard time starting the letter and need some advice. I did find out from my father that she is okay. She is talking about what is coming and says she is ready. Thank You

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answers from Milwaukee on

Dear S.,
I went through this not too long ago with an Aunt that I loved dearly (she had stage 4 colon cancer and lived about 6 months after her diagnosis).I had always looked up to her. I did not get to go and see her either as she lived in Florida and we were going through tough financial stuff at the time. I wrote her several letters at different times along with poems and Bible verses to help her through. Just start your letter as you would a phone conversation, and then go from there. The rest will come from your heart. You can always do a rough draft first and then go back and tweak it. I am sure she will appreciate anything you have to say and will hold it close to her heart. If she means so much to you, I am sure you mean just as much to her.....although my very special Aunt is gone now, she lives on in my heart..always. I look forward to seeing her in heaven. She has visited me in my dreams, and that is also special to me.....My heart and prayers are with you....CK



answers from La Crosse on

My father died just last week of cancer only a couple of months after being diagnosed. What I appreciated most from friends and relatives was hearing stories about my dad that I had never heard before...what he was like growing up before he was married and had kids...the things he did for people that they appreciated. Getting them in a letter would be even more meaningful because it is something the family can save and share. I'm sure your aunt and her family would very much appreciate hearing how much she means to you and how knowing her has helped you in your life. People need to know that they have made a positive impact in the lives of others. My sympathies...



answers from Minneapolis on

What a wonderful thing you're doing to be writing to her and letting her know what she's meant to you. She's obviously had a huge influence on you and your life.

When my grandma passed away a few years ago, I wasn't able to make it to her funeral, so I sent a letter to display at the service. It was very brief, less than a page, and just described what she was to me and how I would always remember her. I was quite surprised at the number of people who commented on the letter, and I've always been really glad that I did it.

If it were me, I would probably start off with whatever pops into my head and just keep writing until I found what I wanted to say. Then later I could go back and edit out the things that didn't seem to fit. I think that as you write, you'll start to see what emerges as the message. And if you feel like you're just rambling, don't worry. I know that your message will come across and it will mean the world to her to know the impact she had on you--and that it meant enough for you to go to the trouble of writing to her.


answers from La Crosse on

im so sorry to hear about your aunt! it so hard, i just lost my grandmother a week before christmas and just found out that they aren't giving my grandpa very long. the letter is a wonderful idea. i do like the video idea also so she can see you and your child and hear your voice's. i would start out the letter by telling her how much she means to you and all the wonderful memories you have with her and the family and then go into detail with those. good luck and be sure to reach out for support when you need it.



answers from Lincoln on

Hi S.!
My condolances to you and your aunt's family. I'm really sorry to hear of your aunts cancer.
I've know my best friend for over 20 yrs now. I have been close to her and her family and still call her parents mom and dad.
In March 2006 I went to Kansas (From Virginia, we were living there at the time.) to help "mom" take care of "Dad". He had cancer of the brain too, it started in his lungs and moved to his brain, they found the cancer in Sept of 2005 and he pasted away in March of the next year. After I spent a week there I went home and then two weeks later I had to come back for a family emerancy. Dad die that monday. What I'm try to say is try your hardest to go and see her, tell her in person how you feel. I'm very, very glad I did. The week I was there he did very well, a week later he was on his death bed.
If you just can't go, write everything in your heart you feel for her. I'm not very good putting in words what I feel for people, I'm much better at telling them face to face or by actions.
Good luck to you! and God bless.



answers from Minneapolis on

I'm sorry for you Aunt's illness and your sadness. I'm sure you're having trouble starting the letter because when you are done, you have to accept that she isn't going to be around for much longer.

I would start with an outline of the things and stories you want to tell her. Then, you can fill it in. I won't be easy, and you may not be able to finish it all in one writing, but if you don't do it, you're going to regret it forever.

You could also try taping yourself telling her how you feel. Then she could see you and your child, even if it isn't in person. I would think that would mean alot to her too.

Good luck. Keep trying. I hope you find some peace in writing the letter and your aunt finds some peace in reading it.



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi S.,

If you are looking for practical advice on how to organize the letter, do it chronologically. Start when you were a child, and work your way up to present day. Or, you could do it in order of "importance", starting with the things that had the most impact, and ending with a light-hearted story or funny memory.

Also, I would type up a rough draft, let it sit for a day or two, and then come back and polish it. Then don't obsess over the mechanics--just get it in the mail. ;-)

I think it's wonderful that you are writing the letter, and words will not be able to describe what it will mean to your Aunt. I know this is no consolation now, but try to think of your ability to send her this letter as a gift you've been given. So many of us do not get to say "goodbye" or have final words with our loved ones for one reason or another.

Blessings to you and your family.



answers from Green Bay on

I think you have a good start already from what you mentioned. Write from the heart and use water proof ink. Sorry this is happening to your aunt.



answers from Minneapolis on

That sounds really sweet! I would just write her and say you wish you could be there, but you want to write her and tell her about your memories of her and how she has impacted your life. I think she'll just LOVE it!!



answers from Davenport on

I lost my father and 2 of his 3 siblings to cancer. Our family seems to been riddled with cancer, so I know how very difficult it can be to face the eminant death of a loved one. Straight from the heart, just like you told it to us. just open your heart and let the words come, you will cry, that is your way of knowing it is your heart that is talking!! If you are a religious man, let her know you have her in your prayers!! being there to talk to them in the end is a wonderful thing, but along with the good comes the bad. I wish I could remember my Dad as the big strong stapping hulk of a man that he was, but in my mind all I can see is the body ravaged by cancer, the blank stare at the end, he had cancer throughout his body and in the end it went to his brain. It is not a pretty thing to witness. so don't beat yourself up, just keep a picture of a happy healthy aunt in your mind!!
Good luck and know that you are in my prayers!!



answers from Rochester on

Start the letter like you would to anyone else who isn't know, "Dear Auntie, had time to drop you a line, so thought I'd shoot a letter off to you :) Things are going good for me and my kid, the other day we ...."(fill in the blank with something funny or touching or both) She may be dying, but trust me, she's still craving being treated like one of the gang! then after the happy news you could start the next paragraph with something like "I was thinking the other day about how much you mean to me and how much I have learned from you over the years, and I need to tell you about it." Then start writing from the heart :) You get to this point in the letter, the words should start flowing.

Just write from the heart, try to remember to use present tenses, and don't feel like to have to sugar coat anything. My father died from cancer after a 6 year battle with it, so i know how important it is to say your piece :) And I remember how receptive he was to the maudlin conversations! If your aunt has managed to keep her sense of humor, feel free to write funny things that will make her laugh. We were cracking jokes 'till the last day or two!

Tell her you will miss her, wish her a safe journey home, and tell her you'll see her around the campfire in 50 years or so and you'll bring the marshmallows! (okay, that may only make sense in my family get the drift. When things were tough for us growing up my dad would remind us that in a hundred years we'd be lauging about it around the campfire) I don't know what your relgious beliefs are, so hopefully i'm not crossing a boundary, but i just wanted to let you know it most definately okay to talk honestly about your feelings and what's going on.

Blessed be to you and your family....



answers from Omaha on

Hi S.,
I am so sorry to hear about your aunt, but I think your idea is wonderful and heartfelt. My advice is start writing a rough draft first. Begin with all of the memories you have of her and the things she did for you that have affected your life. Don't worry about it being in any kind of order at this point, you can organize that part later. I am guessing that it will be so genuine and from the heart that even if it doesn't sound like something from Hallmark, it won't make one bit of difference to your aunt. Good luck!


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