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Words Do Pack Meaning
You’ve seen other people do it, and you probably do it, too, as you stand in front of a rack of greeting cards: You grab a card that looks promising, quickly scan the inscription and, more times than not, jam it back in the rack. Finding the “right” pre-written greeting card isn’t easy, so it’s no wonder you’re struck with a case of writer’s block about writing to someone in hospice care.
You’re thoughtful and wise to want to choose your words carefully. But you should say what’s in your heart and express yourself in a genuine way, too, as only you can. And sometimes this means taking chances. Before you raise a pen, let the people who have the best perspective – hospice care workers – impart some helpful advice about writing to a terminally ill friend or loved one. Then, if you need it, follow some more pointed advice to imbue your note or letter with love, concern and authenticity.
Understand the Terrain of Hospice
Don’t procrastinate. There is nothing disingenuous about this advice. Despite the foreboding nature of hospice, many people put off communicating with a friend or loved one, assuming they will have time tomorrow or the day after. With hospice, time is running out, and you don’t want to live with the regret of unexpressed sentiments.
Aim for the truth, but don’t overlook the value of a white lie. It’s been said that “the truth can set you free.” But to someone dying in hospice, it can also shatter a compromised heart. A great example: a mother who has anguished over two feuding children would probably appreciate knowing, in her final days, that they are trying to reconcile. You may be stretching the truth; maybe you’re trying to reconcile only in your dreams. But the words could bring peace to a mother – and, by extension, to you after she’s gone.
Split a difficult communique into several messages. Deploy some “reverse psychology” on your own writer’s block, especially if you’re struggling to write one expansive, emotionally-charged or “make the peace” letter. Express your affection in one letter, forgiveness in another letter and knowledge of lessons learned in another. Segregating your emotions also could help to segregate your thoughts. (Just be sure to send the letters in one bundle.)
Strive to reassure. People nearing the end often need to know that their lives were full of meaning and purpose. Be specific in how your friend or family member served as a role model, helped you solve a vexing problem or make a life-altering decision. Purposeful words will help you avoid cliches and empty platitudes, which will ring hollow.
Don’t shy away from humor. In fact, reminiscing about a humorous incident in your past may be just the elixir your loved one will appreciate most – and one that will lift the cloud of your writer’s block.
Pointers to Sharpen Your Pen
It can be difficult – sometimes impossible – to say everything you want to another human being who is facing the end of life. The sheer enormity of the passing can feel overwhelming. If your eyes are clouded with tears, here are some final sentiments that could serve you well:
- “Thank you for making my life happier, which you did every day we were together .”
- “I’ve never known anyone quite like you – and I know I never will.” “I love you – and I’ll always miss you.” “I will always carry you and the memories we shared in my heart.”
Prayers for Hope and Healing is officially spreading its wings to fly this week!
As I’ve talked with people about the experiences that shaped this book, I’m reminded that my life journey has been vastly unique. Many hours have been spent in the hospital, from the time I was four years old watching my sister battle cancer, to the year-and-a-half spent dealing with my own health issues, to the months watching my sister wait for a heart transplant, to the recent medical crisis of my son.
The hospital is such a strange place that brings both fear and peace, angst and hope. If you know someone in the hospital, you may struggle to recognize what they need. You want to help but don’t know how. Maybe you’re planning to visit them, but you don’t want to show up empty-handed.
Each person’s needs are different, but here are some gift ideas that can be especially meaningful for someone in the hospital. Some of these work best for a long-term stay, while others can be helpful for shorter stays too.
Whether you want to cheer up a friend or simply let them know you care, allow these ideas to be a springboard of comfort and hope.
- Eye mask for better sleep
- Comfortable slippers
- Lap pillow with a hard surface for writing or setting a book on top
- Sugar-free gum or mints
- Quality shampoo, conditioner, and body soap in travel-size containers
- Box of ultra-soft Kleenex
- Therapeutic lotion (nothing overly scented!)
- Crossword puzzle book
- Coloring cards and colored pencils (These cards are some of my favorites.)
- iTunes gift card so they can download music or a new game on their phone
- Healthy snacks
- Travel Yahtzee or another game that can be played alone or with someone else
- A novel or collection of short stories
- A copy of Prayers for Hope and Healing
If you want to include a card of encouragement with your gift, I offer two free printable cards at this link.
Thanks for celebrating Release Day with me, and happy gift-giving! 🙂
*photos by Jana at Twigy Posts