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Is this really a good idea?


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I have a friend who is in the last stages of terminal cancer. He was my pastor for several years and really helped see me through a lot of tough times inlcuding 2 suicide attempts, a bad marriage, and my son's health issues. He came to be a friend and I always told him he had "healing hugs" because there was just something about being in his presence that made me want to be better, do better, get better. He has touched MANY people even through his cancer and has been a tremendous inspiration to everyone he comes in contact with. In a few weeks or months, earth's loss will be heaven's gain. I have never lost anyone close to me. And, as bad as this may sound, I do not think I will shed a single tear when my father passes, but I don't think the river of tears will stop when this dear man passes.

I was discussing it with a friend today. I have not seen this pastor since March (I now live 2 hours away) but she saw him last week and said he looks really bad and is in a lot of pain. When I told her what a great personal loss his death will be, she strongly urged me to write him a letter expressing to him how much he has inspired me and helped me through the years. She says if I don't I will always regret that I didn't tell him while he was alive. I think she is probably right but just thinking about the things I would want to say to him just breaks my heart again and again. In many ways, I feel God has protected me by not having me nearby to see him deteriorate but, at the same time, it means I don't have many opportunities to share with him the imprint he has left on my life. And, somehow, I worry that he will feel as though I have written him off as dead if I write the letter my friend suggests.

I am wondering what others have done or would do in this situation? Is it really a good idea or am I setting myself for a depression spiral?

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This is a hard one. I think it could be a good idea to write the letter, but I don't know that it will necessarily be the right thing to deliver it. It could be a very right thing if your pastor understands his predicament and is in a space where he can have a very deep and emotional human encounter with you. It would not mean you are writing him off as dead, but it would be acknowledging that he is indeed dying shortly (or that there is the very strong possibility of his imminant death) - not everyone can handle that sort of clarity and honesty, or want to. When my grandmother died, she only wanted to see her children, even though we grandchildren wanted to say goodbye, it wasn't what she wanted, and so we did not get a chance to say goodbye. That was okay because I wanted her to have a smooth passing on her terms as much as possible - I didn't want it to be about me. I think that if your pastor doesn't seem to want this sort of goodbye statement from people he has been close to, it would be a bad idea to impose it, but if he is open to it, it could be very powerful for everyone.

If he isn't open to receiving the letter, it could still be very powerful for you to write it, but I think you need to ask yourself if you are ready and wanting to get in close contact with the voltage of your feelings for this man and the grief you will feel at the thought of his real passing. It is not always a good idea for people to feel everything. Sometimes denial can be a good thing, if you know what I mean. It depends on what will be best for you and only you can know that.

I think this could be a confused posting, and I'm sorry if I'm not making sense, but I hope I've helped offer a perspecive on this.


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Lifeless this is big, my thoughts are with you I hope you can be comfortable with your decision no matter what you decide. I have a similar predicament going on as well. Only I can't get myself to write or talk to a dear friend who is not expected to make it to Christmas. She is 35 and has terminal lung cancer. The news has been a shock to us all.

We were once strangers but brought together when both of us had to be air lifted to the city as we were both about to deliver our first child preterm. Our husbands could not travel with us so we had each other. Since then we have been close as our children and families grown. I have since moved countries but we kept in contact via phone. My family often travels back to Australia to see family and friends, much of our time is spend with this friend and her young family.

I can't bring myself to phone her and ask how she is though. I feel terrible about it. I feel guilty but I want to see her face to face not have thousands of miles between us. I don't know what to do and feel like time in running short.

I have been given updates of her progress from my family who live near her which makes it worse because I know that things are not great.

So lifeless I am so not sure what to do. Sorry that I can't suggest anything helpful but hopefully sharing my story with you will help you feel less alone.

I guess Mark is right in saying that "you need to do whats best for you"

Good luck and best wishes with your decision,


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Well, he is definitely aware that his passing is soon. He has fought this battle for 8 years and there is nothing else they can do for him. He writes messages on a Caring Bridge site to keep everyone updated on his progress and he is very open and honest with everyone about his prognosis and status. From the moment he was diagnosed, he has used his illness as a ministry opportunity to minister to others with cancer or terminal illnesses. So, he is not in denial or unaware of where things stand.

I have always been able to have very open, honest conversations with him. When my son was at his sickest about 2 years ago, this man was very supportive and shared with me his own personal struggles with his illness. So, I do believe he would be receptive to the letter. I think it would be special to him. I have been reading his updates but keep trying to convince myself things aren't as bad as they really are. Until speaking to someone who had seen him recently, I was ok in that blissful ignorance. She says she truly believes he will not be here for Christmas. His family all came in last week (close and extended family) to spend time with him. His immediate family is spending time together at the beach this week. So, I am pretty sure he is saying his goodbyes.

I am just so very afraid of what emotions I would stir up by writing a letter. But, at the same time, I worry that I truly will live a life of regret and guilt if I don't share my thoughts with him.

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