26 answers

My Favorite Aunt Is Dying, Do We Call and Say "Goodbye?"

Hi moms.
My favorite Aunt lives in California, we live in WA. She was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer almost 5 years ago and was told she had a couple of months to live. Well, she tricked everyone and has been with us these past 5 years! (as she said, I have seen two weddings and 4 grandchildren be born!) She was coming up here every 6 months to see our cancer doctors because they are so much better here than where she is from. So, we have been seeing her a lot and have really enjoyed the time with her.
Last week she was feeling really awful and went to her doctor, they did some testing and can see her liver which is just covered in cancer. She has cancer in other parts of her body as well and was told to contact hospice. She has a "shocker" in her chest as well (she has heart failure) which she has turned off because she would rather die of a heart attack then cancer. Either way, it looks like the end is near and I am just heartbroken as is my mother (her sister).
My husband wants to call her and tell her how much he has enjoyed getting to know her but doesn't know if that is the right thing to do. We both don't want her to feel like we are saying "goodbye" , but we can not afford to travel down there, and I am pregnant with my daughter. So, do we call and say "goodbye"? Also, we have decided to give our daughter my Aunts middle name (in Spanish)....do we tell her that as well? I want to honor her because she is so loved, but I don't want her to feel awful since she probably wont be able to see her....It's just so sad. We don't want to hurt feelings, but have never been around anyone who "knew" they were going to die. It's always been a surprise to us when any member of our family has passed.
Help....what do we do?
L.

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Featured Answers

I agree with and love all these beautiful posts. The only thing I would like to add, is if you are concerned you will be unable to find the correct words over the phone to let her know what she means to you (without completely breaking down, I know I probably would, esp while pregnant), maybe you could sent her a letter, a card, that way you can carefully think out everything you would like her to know.

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L.,
When my stepfather was dying, one of my best friends gave me the best piece of advice I have ever gotten--and I thank God I followed it.
I didn't "say goodbye" per se, or discuss death, but rather had a very real and meaningful conversation about what he had meant to me, my husband and my son and what a difference he had made in our lives and how much I (we) loved him. I thanked him for taking such good care of my mother, for taking good care of me, and most recently, taking good care of my son. The conversation brought me comfort and peace in the months following his death (still does and it's been nearly 5 years).
Definitely have a conversation with her and express your feelings for her, happy memories, and special gratitude. It may seems awkward to start the conversation at first, but you will be amazed at the happiness and ease you will feel once it's begun.
She knows she's dying. No need to mention that. It's sad that we don't ALL have these types of conversations before someone is dying.
I'm sorry you're losing such a dear aunt.

6 moms found this helpful

I would not call her to tell her good bye, Instead I would call her and tell her you are missing her, thinking about her and that you love her..

Talk about some of the fun times you all have had, about things she has told you that have stayed with you.. Let her know what you are all up to and what your future plans are.. Tell her your earliest memories of her.

Then call her again in a couple of days and check up with her and always tell her you love her..

5 moms found this helpful

I think its never in bad taste to tell someone how much you love them. Call her and let her know or something a bit more personal if you have a digital camera or borrow a friends and do a video for her then put it on a disc to tell her how much your value the relationship you have had with her during your life.
It will help her tie up loose ends before she passes on. It will also help give you some have some feeling that you did something for her before she passed. I am sorry for what your going thru.

5 moms found this helpful

Listen...
my daddy was in the end stages of his cancer and I couldn't fly to be with him because I had a broken leg. Right up until the end he said he didn't want me to come because he said he was going to get better and he wanted to take me fishing and camping.
I had some of the most wonderful conversations of my life with my dad during that time. We laughed. We cried. We swore our devotion to each other.
I was on the phone at the end and even though he couldn't speak, he could hear me and the last words spoken to him were when his nurse kissed him on the forehead and said, "This is from your Angel". That's what he always called me. He nodded and slipped away right after that.

Don't be afraid that you won't know what to say.
Once a person is gone, you think of all the things you wish you'd thought of.
Talk to her. Call her. Tell her how much she's loved. You don't have to say good-bye. None of us really knows how much time we have so we have to make the most of the time we are given.
It's hard, I know, believe me.....
I wanted to beg my dad not to go, but what he needed from me was to know that my love for him would never change or lessen and as long as I was alive and my kids were alive, he would live on through us.
By all means, talk about your favorite memories and the things that make her so special to you. You'll be glad you did. And what a blessing to know that wherever we go after our time here is done, we got to go knowing how very much we were loved while we were here.
Tell her everything in your heart.
Don't be afraid.

Life is for the living and for heaven's sake....while we're alive, we have to let people know what they mean to us.

My prayers are with you and your family.

Best wishes.

4 moms found this helpful

I too think you should call her. She knows she's dying and although she probably doesn't want to admit it, it sounds as if she's taking everything in stride. She will want to know all the things you have to tell her. I think you can simply just start with saying that you were saddned to hear of the latest test results and you wanted to tell her how much you loved her. No, you don't have to use the word "goodbye" but regardless she will know what the conversation is really about. Besides, she may want to say some things to you as well and this will be a chance for her to talk to you. I'm so sorry for this sad news. I can't imagine being in your position, but tell her everything you can so you have no regrets!

4 moms found this helpful

Call her to tell her how much you love her but don't call her to tell her "goodbye". Let her lead the conversation. If she wants to say goodbye to you at that time, then it would be fine for you to do the same but keep it as light and as positive as you can muster. Also, definitely tell her about how you are planning on naming your daughter after her. I think that would be a really nice thing for her to know right now.

I think that's amazing how your aunt has been able to trick the medical establishment but am sad that it it is coming to an end. I will definitely include you, your aunt and your family in my prayers tonight. Blessings.

4 moms found this helpful

As someone who's been on the receiving end of a cancer diagnosis, too, the only thing I wanted at the end of the day was to spend time with the people important in my life.

Yes, call. Don't script what you're going to say. Just talk to her. Ask her what she needs, how you can spend time with her, what you can do for her over the next few days, weeks, months.

As a cancer patient, you find yourself reassuring other people about your condition to a greater extent than you really receive it yourself. In my case, cancer taught me how much I wanted to live. I'd just had my second child and celebrated a birthday 2 days later. Everyone is different, but the desire and need to feel loved and alive is pretty consistent.

Ask her how she'd like to be remembered and how you can help her accomplish it - and most importantly, don't make it all about the cancer. I just wanted people to make me laugh. It made me feel very alive.

Good luck.

4 moms found this helpful

Yes, L., call her. Have your husband on one line and you on the other. Talk about your memories, things you've done together, what you enjoyed about and with her. If you want, make a list of them to refer to so you don't get tongue-tied.

Ask her how she feels about the hospice people. Has she met them? Let her talk. Tell her about the upcoming birth and the baby's upcoming name. Tell her how proud you are that she fought the fight so well.

Remember this - it might be awkward for you and your husband, but it's what she NEEDS. Loving words from family and friends to remind her that she mattered to people. That she made a difference in people's lives. That she truly isn't alone as she passes to the next life. I've been privileged to have had several conversations like this, though not as many as I would have liked. I just lost a friend (mentor, former business partner) who I talk to once a year, and didn't get around to calling this summer yet. The last time we talked was last summer. I'm so disappointed in myself that I missed that chance to have our yearly talk - his death was quick and all at once. But my aunt and I talked on the phone while she was in the hospital. I was the first person in the family who she opened up to saying that she was going to go ahead and accept hospice. Before that, she wouldn't admit that she had cancer. We were all worried about that. The next day, she died. We felt like her being able to really talk about things let her go in peace.

So don't feel like it might be the wrong thing to do. It isn't. Just don't end the phone call seeming like it's the last time you'll talk.

My best to you and your aunt.

D.

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