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

Updated on September 16, 2010
L.U. asks from Kirkland, WA
26 answers

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) 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?

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answers from Albany on

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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answers from Pittsburgh on

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.

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answers from Philadelphia on

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.

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answers from Austin on

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..

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answers from Kansas City on

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!

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answers from Las Vegas on

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.

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answers from Redding on

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.

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answers from Indianapolis on

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.

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answers from Charlotte on

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.


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answers from Houston on

You call and give her as much love and support as you can, no need to say 'goodbye'. It doesn't matter if it's the end or not for her, she deserves to know she is being thought about, and that she has impacted people's lives. Talk about something lighthearted, bring up fond family memories. Yes, ell her that her legacy will be passed down through her name to your daughter. That can really bring her some peace.

When my father died, only 3 of his 6 siblings cared to contact him, because they just 'didn't know what to say'. This was absolutely heartbreaking to him, knowing his family felt too uncomfortable to talk to him.

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answers from Los Angeles on

yes call her - my mother died in 2006 and she knew she was going to die - she loved to see her loved ones and true friends to say goodbye - if you can't go to visit at least call, it will be difficult, and you won't really know what to say - but telling her she is your fave aunt, and you are going to name your daughter after her will tickle her I would bet, and give her some peace and happiness

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answers from Kalamazoo on

Yes, call her. Another good option is to write her a very loving and meaningful letter. In a letter you (and hubby) can really say everything that you want to say without the powerful interuption of tears choking your voice. Also, maybe a DVD message from the both of you to mail along with the letter or just record you reading her the letter. Then follow up with a phone call.

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answers from San Francisco on

Call her and have a wonderful conversation. Then sit down and write her a letter in which you say everything you want to that means good bye. You don't have to use the word goodbye. The thing about a letter is that she can just absorb the love in it and not feel pressure to respond. Folks who are terminally ill often feel they should comfort the loved ones left behind and for some this is very difficult to do. A letter allows her read it (or hear it if she is too ill to read it) and to to respond (or not if it is too difficult for her) after she has processed it. It gives her a lot of love but also a bit of control. I know this process because it is what I did when my best friend died of cancer 8 years ago. I also asked her to choose a boy and girl name for my next child. I was trying to get pregnant when she was fading away. I found out I was pregnant 3 hours after she died and used the name she chose (Theodore--gift from God) as my son's middle name. I have gained so much comfort from please do tell her that your child will have her name. Although my son never met my friend, we have let him know that they share a very special connection. He even talks about the time they shared together in heaven before he was born.

I am so very sorry for your family's loss. I really, really hate cancer.

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answers from Missoula on

I think you should call her. This is a difficult situation, and sometimes we do nothing because we don't know the "right" thing or are afraid of doing/saying something wrong, but I think that you will regret it for a long time if you don't call her.
You don't have to say goodbye, but you can let your aunt know how much she means to you, how much you love her, and that you are naming your daughter after her. I'm sure she will be touched, and probably a at least a little emotional, but I can't imagine how you might hurt her feelings. Just be sincere.
Good luck to you and I'm sorry about your aunt's declining health.

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answers from Little Rock on

Yes, Call her and tell her goodbye, we love you, you have meant so much to us, enjoyed getting to know you, naming daughter after you, etc. You never know it might add a few more days to her life.

I remember my husbands uncle calling us and asking for a right to ER. We really though we were loosing him. He was also eat up with cancer and had been given a very short time to live. I was expecting our first and my husband was so afraid that we were going to loose him that day, that he told his uncle that we were expecting and that he had not yet told his dad and told him to keep it a secret. He seemed to rally immediately. My my FIL got to the hospital and walked into the room, my husbands uncle shouted out the news and was so excited that he new before the future grandfather. He lived a few months longer than expected, but did die before my oldest was born. My husband to the day thinks that the big "SECRET" is was what kept him alive a little longer.

Telling her that you are naming your daughter after her might just give her something more to live for even if she doesn't quite make it for the birth of your baby.

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answers from Portland on

Consider how you might feel if you miss this opportunity to let her know how much she has meant to you. Then, by all means, call her. Dying people can be very lonely, because everybody is suddenly afraid to talk to them. Let her know about your naming plans. Acknowledge that you feel awkward and are afraid to say the wrong thing. That's just human, and from her present perspective, she will probably understand and help you with your awkwardness.

Too much goes unsaid when a loved one faces death. How refreshing it is to break through that barrier of fear, because it blocks so much love and beauty. And it is also a fear of our own deaths that keep us from facing death forthrightly in another person. Anyway, your aunt obviously knows she's facing death, and she sounds quite frank and courageous about it. That doesn't mean her need for human contact has stopped – if anything, it will be even more meaningful to her.

A friend of mine held a memorial service for herself when she turned 60. All attendees addressed the temporary nature of life, the certainty of death, and told her what they would be likely to say at her funeral. It was wonderful for her. I think your aunt could have a similar experience. And you won't feel terrible regret about what you didn't say in time.

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answers from St. Louis on

Call her. Im sure she would love to hear all of this. I would. I dont think, when shes gone, you will have regretted telling her your feelings. I am so sorry to hear about your sadness and I will say a prayer for your family.

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answers from Detroit on

she is your favorite aunt so you should call her. You don't have to say goodbye as you both know you will probably not talk again so I think it's probably just understood.
What you can do is just call to say you love her and basically just to hear her voice without getting into any long or emotional good byes. I've known a few people who were really sick and I did not think that they actually knew they were going to dye or maybe they did but it was not something they talked about. I think they probably just trying to get through the day. I sort of believe that by the time it actually is a reality that most people have made piece with the fact they are not going to make it. At least that is how I would want to be.
You can just talk and let the conversation take itself in the direction its going to go.

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answers from Atlanta on

I would DEFINITELY call her and just talk. You don't have to actually say, "Goodbye" or even bring it up. She will probably bring it up in some manner, and you can go from there. Just tell you missed seeing her and wanted to call and check on her. Tell her you wish you could visit her, but that you are with her in spirit. Let your husband talk to her and tell her he misses her too. I would go ahead and tell her the name you've decided on. Let her know that she's meant enough to you that you want to give your new baby her name. It may be uncomfortable at times and you all may cry -or not -but one thing is for sure -if you call her, you will NOT regret it, and you'll bring some happiness to a dying woman. If you do NOT call her, you will probably regret it all your life, and she may wonder why you never contact her. I'm sorry she's dying, but I'm glad she got to live much longer than anticipated.

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answers from Rochester on

I would call her. Its better to say good bye then not. Also, telling her that you are giving your daughter her middle name will be a great thing to say and do. That way, she will live on in your child.
You will regret not saying good bye when the time comes.

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answers from Detroit on

How wonderful that she got all that "extra" time with her loved ones. I think you are in the priviledged situation of being able to tell your aunt exactly how you feel about her before it is too late.
I have had dear family members pass and that has been my main regret, never having told them how much they meant to me, how much I Ioved them.
I think you should definitely tell her how you all feel and that you will be honoring her memory by naming your daughter after her. I am sure this will bring her some much needed comfort.

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answers from Chicago on

When my Nana was sick and going to pass away.. she actually asked me to pray for her to die as she was ready. Your Aunt knows the end is near, and I think it is wonderful all the time you have had with her. You should let her know that you had a wonderful time with her and will truly miss her.

I am sorry for your loss.

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answers from Seattle on

call! you dont have to call to say good bye, you can call b/c you miss spending time with her and havent seen her in a while. while you're talking, definitely tell her about your daughter's name, and how much she has brought into you and your husband's life.

you could also write her a letter. i wrote a letter to a dear great aunt (who lived far away) who gave me (mostly monetary) gifts over the course of my life. it wasnt to thank her for the money (which i did every time anyway) it was to tell her what it meant to me was much more than the money value. it had given me freedom, choices and experiences (as well as emergency savings) i wouldnt have had otherwise. my great aunt never said anything about it, but my aunt told me after she had passed that that letter meant the world to her.



answers from Seattle on

Call. You don't have to make it a good bye call, but tell her about the name of your daugther, tell her how much you love her, tell her you miss her and wish you could be there. Never pass up an opprotunity to talk to someone and always say the things you want to say. Because once they are not here anymore, you will be sad that you didn't.
She would love to hear from you and your family. Pick up the phone now.



answers from Washington DC on

I think the worst thing you could do is act like it's not going to happen. It's going to happen and she knows it. Maybe the best thing to do is to write her a letter and tell her everything you want to tell her. This way you can carefully choose your words so you can get your message across without sounding insensitive.

I'm sorry for your impending loss, but I do believe that knowing in advance is a gift. I would give anything to have known my brother would die five minutes before it happened. There is so much I would have said to him.



answers from Seattle on

Yes, yes, call her, tell her about your daughter's name, tell her you love her, tell her everything on your mind before it's too late!

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