Why wouldn't you take the chance to say goodbye?

I’d put this in the Pit but I’m not mad enough yet…just puzzled.

Lillith Fair and I are going to a sort of pre-funeral today. One of the older women from our church has recently (like a month ago) been diagnosed with cancer, and she doesn’t have much time left. She and her husband were planning on a big celebration next summer for their 50th anniversary, but since it is unlikely she will be alive then, they decided to have a small open house for the celebration of the beginning of their 50th year of marriage, while she is still strong enough and at home. I see it as a chance to say goodbye to her friends and aquaintances, and while we were not close, I feel I should at least put in an appearance. I expect it to be an upbeat, emotional time…she has always been a bit of a pistol, and I don’t think she’d be doing this if she didn’t feel up to it.

So I mentioned to my mom, who is her age, that I was going, and she said that several of the other women from their women’s group…people who have been much closer friends with her…said they weren’t going to go because they want to remember her as she was a month ago, healthy and feisty. She has lost a lot of weight she couldn’t afford to lose and is quite frail now, and they don’t want to remember her like this.

I am so disappointed in them, and I told my mother so. This is their opportunity to give her a kiss and a hug while she can still feel it, and they don’t want to go. They’ll all be there for her funeral, but they won’t go help her celebrate her life before it ends. These are all women in their 70’s and 80’s who have been through tons of rough stuff in their lifetimes, but they “don’t want to remember her like this”. She’s not disfigured, or deformed, just thinner and frailer.

I’m 47 now, but back in 1991, one of my best friends from high school died suddenly from a brain tumor a month after we had seen her at a Christmas party where she had complained about being unwell for several weeks. If we had known at that moment that her days were numbered in weeks rather than decades, that party would have been a celebration of all she had meant to us, and all the unresolved problems the two of us had could have been erased. I think she would have gone to her end knowing without a doubt that she had been loved, and would be missed, and that would have been a comfort to her. When I think of the multitudes who came to her funeral sobbing, I have always wished they could have been with us that last party, listening to her wisecracks and sharing her stories.

Would you take the opportunity to say goodbye, not at a hospital bedside, but in at atmosphere of celebration? Or would you cling to your memories and ignore someone in their final days, just to preserve some picture in your mind?

Your friend’s idea seems fine to me. Unusual, but a lovely idea.

I can sort of see why people don’t want to face attending the xmas celebration but ONLY “sort of”… Goodness, if the ill lady herself can face this,a nd wants it, surely they ought to go.

I bet if more people kne approximately when they were gong to go shuffling off mortal coils, then that sort of “celebration of life” would be a lot more common.

I trust the lady remains well enough to enjoy it, and I hope enough people DO attend.


Ed White was called the “Johnny Carson of Quartz Hill High School”. He was a biology teacher that made an already-interesting class a heck of a lot of fun. Great sense of humour, and a great teacher. When he was diagnosed with in inoperable brain tumor, past and present students held a “roast” for him at a local hotel. The place was packed. We shared anecdotes, including the time a tank full of frogs escaped on a Friday afternoon and were found, dead and dried, on Monday morning, and had a nice dinner.

Mr. White was wearing an English-style driving cap over his shaven head. Upon reaching the lectern he said, “I’d just like to show everyone my $25,000 haircut,” and removed his cap. Funny guy.

It was sad that he was terminal, but it was good to get together to let him know how well-respected he was among his students. And it was good to throw him a party when he was still healthy enough to enjoy it and participate in it.

Plenty of people are utterly terrified of death. Don’t want to be near anything that’ll make them confront their own mortality. I don’t condone it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t what was keeping a lot of people away. Plus I imagine there’ll be the old “what do you say at a time like this” problem - only in a situation where they might think that if they make a mistake, it’ll be even worse than saying the wrong thing to a bereaved relative after the fact.

Personally I think everybody should go. Be good for all concerned.

Is this for real? I just can’t believe that they are worried about how they want to remember her. A friend is dying, and they can only think of themselves? If I had a friend who I knew was dying, I would do anything to show her how much she was loved in this world.

My grandmother was ill, but was not considered terminal. My daughter had just been born, but we postponed when we’d visit my grandmother until she was “better” (concerned about germs and a newborn). My grandmother died suddenly, never having had the joy of seeing her great-granddaughter except in a picture. I do regret it, but at least my grandmother knew we wanted to be with her. To throw my own “celebration of life” party and have people not show up? Just makes me cry.

Oh, definately go to this…for yourself and for this friend. She is trying to take some control of this passage and she wants people to be there with her. I salute her. I hope I have the grace to act like this if the situation presents. Maybe if enough people respond positively to your post you can share them with your mom and convince her to go also. It is something she might regret not doing later.

We’re both a little concerned about what exactly to say to this woman, but her husband is going to be around for a long while yet, in choir and in church, so it seems disrespectful to him also not to go. And I’m not worried about convincing my mom, but it’s the other ladies who are much closer to this poor woman I’m annoyed with.

I’ve just returned, and we were a little surprised! The event had been billed as an open house (2-4, not a minute before or a minute after, please!) but it was a full-fledged anniversary party with a renewal of vows, all the relatives, friends from two churches and the hair salon and elsewhere with a barbershop quartet to serenade , the wedding march and a tent and balloons and flowers and a bridal arch, several wedding cakes, a photo montage and not a tear to be seen! Okay, I did tear up a little during their “til death do us part” part, but it was quite a lively time. And several of the ladies from “the widows’ row” did show up, though not the one my mom had mentioned specifically. In looking around the crowd I realized that our church could start a “widowers’ row” too, because we have lost quite a few women to cancer in the past year. It was a gorgeous day, and I wish I could have eaten something because the food was good, too. And the party was still in full swing when we left at four, with the “bride” still looking great and the “groom” blushing when his daughter started banging on a glass and he had to smooch his beloved! May they enjoy the time they have left together.


:smiley: :slight_smile:

Glad it was so good.

:slight_smile: There’s a lesson here I’m thinking.

What a classy lady.

That sounds wonderful. Sounds like there was so much going on that one or two faces wouldn’t be missed. I’m glad it turned out that way.

And sorry that I can’t help this:

I can just see their little dried bodies arranged as if they were at the last supper.

I kind of understand how some of them might feel. One of my favorite uncles died of cancer many years ago, and while none of us regret visiting him in the hospital and sharing his limited time, there’s a selfish part of all of us that wishes we hadn’t seen him like that and didn’t have to remember that part of his life. He was so thin, and so pale, and in so much pain in the end that he wasn’t even the same person, really. I was young enough that Mom and Dad didn’t take me to the hospital very often, and they didn’t make me go to the funereal, and I’m glad of that. The less I saw of that frail, skinny man coughing up blood and not saying much, the easier it is for me to shove those memories aside and remember the man we loved–the tanned guy sitting on top of a roof wearing a ratty t-shirt that said “No Sweat” and bitching about his toolbelt rubbing him, the guy who showed me how to make cat toys out of cigarette packages and paper bags and taught my brother how to play the guitar, the guy who always had a wise-ass comment about pretty much everything.

Of course, the lady in question isn’t in nearly the sort of shape George was in, but I could see how some of them might see it as the start of the slippery slope.

I’m glad it all went well but I can understand older peoples hesistation. I saw it in my Grandma, she was the last of her siblings, cousins and most of her friends. Each new death took a little something out of her. Reinforced her own mortality.

People of that age know death is not far away, even if they are not sick themselves. Maybe your mum and her friends would have rather have visited for a cup of tea then a formal “pre-funeral”.

I don’t think they were snubbing her just feeling it could be them.

I’m glad this lady had what seems like a wonderful ocassion :slight_smile:

Actually, for anyone who was uncomfortable with what to say to a dying person, this was a much better situation. With so many people there, you really only had time for a few quick words, mostly “Happy Anniversary Year!” and “what a lovely corsage!” and “so good to see you” before someone else came along to greet her. And then after the ceremony, she was surrounded by family and very close friends, so us marginal people could just eat and talk and pass babies around.

And the most amusing thing (to my warped little mind) was the Day-Glo green tag on her wheelchair that said “Return To Stock”. Distracted me all through the emotional bits of the renewal of vows. (During which, by the way, our minister had everyone laughing and participating)