I’m a planner.
Actually if I am truly honest, I am more of a slowly recovering control freak. I am the kind of person who even thinks about trying to control their own funeral. Yes, I know that is slightly twisted, but I guess my ability to laugh at the funny parts of death (and yes, you can find humor in death) is what has kept me sane after years of ER and oncology nursing.
So it should come as no surprise that for years I have been thinking about writing “goodbye letters.” You know, the ones I am talking about. The ones that get opened if you walk out of your house one day to go to work and end up never coming back.
Those personalized heartfelt letters written to your loved ones telling them what you loved about them, what they meant to you and what you wish for them for the future now that you’re not there in person anymore to tell them.
Yet something has been holding me back. It’s probably mostly laziness coupled with so many demands on my time. Or it could be the fact that it’s hard to deal with your own mortality, and I know how physically draining it would be to write them. I am not quite sure what it is stopping me.
Or at least I didn’t until I had a talk with the husband of a patient of mine who passed on. He came to say goodbye to us about a week after his wife was buried, to close the circle. His wife had been a courageously strong, yet soft, woman who was not afraid of death. She knew she was dying, and it took less than a year.
He told me how she had thought about leaving letters for their three kids and himself and in the end decided that she wouldn’t leave them with that burden. She didn’t want any of them at any point in their lives living according to her will or her dying requests. She wouldn’t be there to point out to them if they were interpreting what she had written wrong.
That was the first time I ever thought of “goodbye letters” as being a burden instead of being a gift of love. It made me think. And think. And think some more.
And now days later, I’m still not sure about what I think.
My personality is one that wants to soothe all hurts. It’s so hard of me to think of not leaving words behind to comfort and give strength to those I love. But maybe that’s still the control freak part of me talking. Maybe the right thing is not to leave words that have a potential to cause guilt or grief no matter how unintended it may be.
What I do know is that my patient was courageous for letting go. Courageous for leaving this world and trusting her kids and loved ones to live their lives to the fullest in the way they felt was best. As a mother I know how hard it is to let go of that control and let your kids steer their own lives and that’s with me around. To think that I would relinquish my last bit of guidance before death and not give them any tips, that sounds way more courageous than I am. Or maybe not.
What do you think?
Is it better to leave behind letters for loved ones in case you die, or is it selfish?
This has been an original post to World Moms Blog by Susie Newday of Israel. You can find her positive thoughts on her blog, New Day, New Lesson.
Photo credit to the author.