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If You Have the Chance To Say Good-bye Take it

Updated on December 17, 2009

As difficult as it is to watch a loved one slowly deteriorate due to a terminal illness, it does provide one time to make the adjustment to the inevitable.

Not so with the untimely sudden death, such as occurs from a heart-attack, stroke, aneurysm, or the like. By the time you find out your loved one suffered an injury, they may have already passed away.

However, if you find yourself in the position of having time to prepare for the passing of someone you care about, I hope you remember to say good-bye, no matter how painful it is for you to do so.


Too Late For Regrets

Once someone you love has died, it is too late for, “I should haves”, or “I wish I had remembered to”. Your opportunity was regrettably squandered, to the detriment of your friend or family member and to yourself. 

You will not have to live with that often unshakable regret, if you prepare in advance for the good-bye your dying one deserves.

Fight the Tendency to Pull Back and Distance Yourself

It is totally understandable to feel the instinct to pull back when you realize your beloved one is near the end of their life. Death is never pleasant to watch, and of course it is a painful reminder of our own mortality. But actually, that is when they may need you the most. Rarely does someone relish the thought of dying alone with no final contact with those who have been a part of their life for so many years.

Sometimes to justify not reaching out to our terminally ill friends, we tell ourselves it is just too hard to watch them suffer and waste away. “I want to remember them as they were”, we say. Well as difficult as it may be for you to watch your friend wither away, just think of how hard it is to BE the one actually dying. Pain may be incredible at times. You are constantly aware that your life is coming to an end. If you were in their place, would you not need and want your friends to actively support you, rather than pull back and observe you from a safe distance?

Timely visits or phone calls, is the key. Perhaps discerning when the pain is at its most tolerable level would enable you to feel more comfortable calling or visiting and it would allow your visitor to enjoy your interaction as well.


When Saying Good-bye Is Not Possible

As was my experience with my mom, sometimes the deterioration happens so suddenly, your loved one passes from critical condition to terminal in just a matter of hours.

I quickly found myself in the horrible position of not only finding out her death was imminent, but also in a mad dash to get to my dear mother before she was pronounced dead.

It took maybe 30-45 minutes from the time my husband and little sister told me my mom had a blood infection that would take her life at any time, to digest the news, suffer shock, break down in tears, and then pull myself together to scramble back to the hospital to see her for the final time.

We arrived at the hospital and as soon as we stepped out of the elevator, a code was in effect. Buzzers were going off, nurses and doctors were scrambling. I remember feeling paralyzed with fear, afraid to see what was happening and whether my mom was still alive. As we made our way down the hallway, we could see they were all rushing into the room my mom was in. She was in cardiac arrest for the second time. There would be one more arrest before she quietly passed away.

After they successfully started my mom’s heart that second time, her doctor left her side and approached us as we watched from the outside of her room. The doctor started peppering us with the end of life questions we were not prepared to answer. This was especially true for my sister who was my mom’s medical proxy. With hardly enough time to accept my mom’s imminent death, she was being asked what she wanted them to do if my mom‘s heart arrested again. She was expected to tell them whether they should keep trying or let my mom go. She was unprepared and unwilling to do so.

The disbelief and emotional toll, finally caught up to my baby sister and she told us all she did not expect to have to decide such things. I watched her eyes fill with tears. I started to console her and suddenly she began to collapse to the floor. I was startled and unsure of what was happening to her, I began calling her by name thinking she may have fainted, I was holding her up and my husband was doing the same, requesting the nurses get a chair for her. When we sat her down, she put her hand in her head and began to sob.

I guess the big sister in me kicked in. I asked her if she wanted me to give the final instructions, which she agreed to. It is truly horrifying to tell strangers to let your mom pass away, the next time her heart fails.

I did it by thinking of my mom and what was best for her. I didn’t want her heart shocked over and over again in a futile attempt to preserve her life. Unbeknownst to anyone else, my mom’s feet were accidentally uncovered while they resuscitated her. I saw blackened feet from her toes to her ankles. I remember thinking if she survived her feet would have to be amputated, as they looked completely dead to me. I felt this was further proof that her time had come.

In between the two final cardiac arrests we said good-bye to my mom.

I didn’t know if it was even possible for my mom to hear me. We had been told beforehand that her pupils were fixed and dilated, and a machine was keeping her heart pumping. When I saw my mom her eyes were opened part way, but she was not moving or blinking her eyes in any way. In my head, I believed she was already gone, but my heart wanted to say something reassuring to her, just in case she was still able to hear voices.

I told my mom it was ok to go, not to worry about us because we would take care of one another, that we would see her again, mentioning our specific religious beliefs regarding death and resurrection and I ended with, “I love you, Ocean” I was determined not to cry or sound upset, feeling it would not send a comforting message to my mom, if she could in fact hear me talking to her.

It wasn’t about me at that moment, I kept telling myself, it was about helping my mom pass away with a bit of security. It wasn’t until the very end and the final I love you that my voice finally cracked and my emotions tried to spill out. I quickly went to the other side of the room, so that she wouldn’t hear me, and my husband and I cried in each other’s arms. My husband had already said good-bye and my sister was the last to say good-bye before my mom arrested for the third and final time.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I had an opportunity to say a proper farewell to my mom. Had I known the infection they told us about on Friday would take her life on Sunday, I would have made sure I had a final talk with her to express my love and affection and to thank her for being a great mom. We don’t always get those opportunities though, death cannot always be predicted in advance, and at times the body fails swiftly and completely with just hours to prepare, if that.


Remember Saying Good-bye Need Not Be Depressing

If you have advance notice of someone’s terminal illness and if you will feel a great sense of loss once they are gone, make it your business to call them or visit them, so that they realize you care. Tell them you are glad you have such a good friend. You don’t have to speak in the past tense, as though they are already gone. Tell them what you love about them now. Share a fond memory or a funny story. Just let them know they are special to you.

If you are closer than a friend and have an intimate relationship, try to find the perfect opportunity to make your loved one smile. Draw on all the special moments you shared and use something from those occasions when their life force is ebbing away. Think of how good it will feel to know you made that person’s pain diminish just a little toward the end of life.

Remember, if you have a special connection, you will spark a reaction from your loved one, even if death is just hours away. The important thing is to make that connection and to do it for them. When death is that close it is not about us - it is about our loved ones.

Many medical professionals say hearing is often the last of the senses to go. So even if someone has stopped speaking, they can hear words of comfort spoken by close family and friends. They can even gather strength from phone calls, as they can hear a voice even if they are unable to respond.

From here on out I hope we all use our opportunity to say good-bye if we are fortunate enough to have it. It is truly a final gift to share with someone we love.

"No Air" by Jordin Sparks

This song, No Air, speaks to how I have felt many times since my mom passed away.

When I was first told my mom was going to pass away, it literally felt as if all the air in my body had been sucked out and I was in constant inhale mode unable to breathe. I wondered how I would go on. A feeling I am sure many others shared upon losing a loved one.


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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Jen's Solitude..THANK YOU so much for the lovely remark about mother. I am so biased that it's laughable. Most people are biased as they have the best mother anywhere. And they are true. I am so ashamed of my life when it comes to serving others, loving God and my neighbor as myself, for my mom saw her real mother buried when my mom was only 3. She had a childhood of abuse by her step-mom, hard work, and out of all this, survived my dad, her enemies, and loved Jesus as much as if He were sitting with her in her quaint little house. And who knows? Maybe He was. I can only wish that I had half of her character and selfless attitude. Thank you so much for understanding. I love you for that. God bless you richly. KENNETH

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 6 years ago from Delaware

      Kenneth it is great to meet you. Thanks so much for your lovely comment. And since you were with your mom during her last moments I think you were emotionally strong when it mattered most! Sorry you've experienced the terrible pain involved in losing a loving mother, she sounds like she was a wonderful person.

      Your rural town sounds wonderful I always enjoy watching Andy Griffith re-runs. :)

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Dear Jen, GREAT read. Wonderful advice. Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting. NOT funny. I was the last one to be near my mom in her last breaths. Scared is not the word. I am not an emotionally-strong man. But I whispered to soul that I loved her and thanked her for her life of sacrifice and devotion to God. She cannot be touched by me or anyone in our family. For mother, serving was second nature. Easy. NO grumbling. I cannot say that about me. Thank YOU so much for touching me with this hub. I, with your permission, want to be your fan and follower, if thats okay. Highest Regards. May God bless you. Kenneth Avery, from a rural town, Hamilton, in northwest Alabama that reminds people of Mayberry, that sweet little town on the Andy Griffith Show. Peace.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Internetwriter since you are close to your mom I have no doubt you know how difficult it has been for me. I'm glad you still have your mom's company and that she knows how much you love her. Thank you so much for your heartfelt comment, I sincerely appreciate it!

    • Internetwriter62 profile image

      Internetwriter62 8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      That was a very moving hub with a very true message. I never cry when I read a hub, but I had tears in my eyes when I read about your mother's death, scenes like that make me cry. I am very close to my mom, so I could never imagine the pain you must have felt. It is hard to be brave when you are going through pain to. I agree with you, it is important to tell someone you love and care for them when you have the chance. Beautiful hub, I love the way you write.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      MFB I am always sorry to read about someone who has experienced loss many times. I too have had gone through this terrible ordeal more times than I care to recall. Of course losing my mom has been the most painful. I look forward to the time when death is no more it keeps me enduring the losses as temporary sufferings. I hope we both get a reprieve from losing loved ones. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment!

    • MFB III profile image

      MFB III 8 years ago from United States

      I have many relatives who passed to the great beyond before I could reachthem , time, distance and the almighty dollar prevented me from saying goodbye. But I always made the funerals and I truly believe we are granted a few days after death on this earth, to see all the folks who come to say goodbye and to know our true life's worth, before we go to our just rewards. In some cases I am sure there are many who would have rather they had skipped their own funeral, due to the dismal turnout, or the lack of requiems but I believe it is part of our passing....~~~Great hub Jen!~~~MFB III

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      I'm glad you enjoyed it DjBryle, thanks for your comment!

    • DjBryle profile image

      DjBryle 8 years ago from Somewhere in the LINES of your MIND, and HOPEFULLY at the RIPPLES of your HEART. =)

      Thanks for sharing this hub Jen, it brings so much comfort. Take care and God bless!

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Oh fishtiger58, thanks for posting your comment through your tears. We never do forget do we? Glad you were with them both though and got to tell them what was in your heart.

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 8 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      Incredibly touching Jen. I can't see what I am typing through my tears. Brings me back to when my parents died. I was with them both and whether they heard me or not I professed my undying love for them. I miss them both so much.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      I am also glad you were with your son during his final days, wisdombound, and that you held his hand. I have no doubt he was at peace, even more so with his beloved mother by his side.

      Thanks for reading my hub and for your comment!

    • wisdombound1970 profile image

      wisdombound1970 8 years ago from Mesa ,Arizona

      Thank you Jen for sharing your story.very heartwarming... when I think about the death of my own son.... in a way I appreciate the fact that we were told of the amount of time he had left because it gave us the opportunity to spend as much time together as possible .I don't know how I would have dealt with a sudden first I did not want him to pass away at home because I was afraid. but I am so glad that I decided to allow him to spend his final days at home.and I held his hand as he took his final breath.and I felt that he was at peace. thanks again for a touching hub.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Thank you LizzyBoo, You are quite special to have formed such a bond with your landlady's mother. I am sure you made her last days much easier with your loving friendship and I am glad you have warm memories of her that stay with you.

      Thanks for sharing that wonderful experience with me!

    • LizzyBoo profile image

      LizzyBoo 8 years ago from Czech Republic

      Dear Jen, such a lovely and inspiring hub. Let me share with you my story. When I lived in UK my landlady had a mother. I loved her so much. She had a cancer. At the latest stage of her ilness I had to look after her. We become a real friends. When she died I felt like half of my heart gone away. I will never forget her. She was trully amazing. Thank you for touching hub like this. There is never enough such great articles as you produce. You are amazing soul! Lizzy

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Tragic to read about your dad Ethel. My father died when I was a teenager too, but he was in the hospital. I did say good-bye to him, as the ambulance took him from our home and I remember him saying good-bye back to me. Of course I had no inkling he would not return.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Death is never easy for anyone. I think choosing to not resuscitate someone a second time is the kind choice. Otherwise you are asking them to die twice at least.

      My Dad died at home when I was a teenager and yet we still never got to say goodbye.

      Take care

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Oh My! I am truly sorry we share a common loss, Money Glitch. Thank you for your comforting comment and for telling me about your dear mother.

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 8 years ago from Texas

      I'm so sorry for your loss. I had to shed a few tears because this is almost identical to my story a few short years ago with my mom, who had a massive heart attack on her birthday! There never seems to be enough time to say goodbye. I also agree with mistyhorizon's comments as well.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I totally agree Jen, we never ever stop missing them and if you are like me I still talk out loud to them when I feel a need to be close to them. I am sure they hear me and look out for me.

    • Hammers13 profile image

      Hammers13 8 years ago from Adelaide City, South Australia.

      Thankyou Jen for your thoughtful hub, that has brought a feeling of compassion for me. Fortunately it seems clear, that we all meet up again at some stage. I have not had any one close to me pass away yet but it was strange enough experiencing the loss of an Auntie several years ago.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Hi Mistyhorizon2003, What tragedy you have suffered. Your poor husband passed away so soon after being diagnosed! We share a similarity in that many close family members have passed away in both our cases. Whether its one or several the pain is the same, with the greatest reserved for those who shared our everyday lives. I am so sorry for your many losses, it is truly hard to deal with and I'm sure you agree we never stop missing them.

      Thanks so much for including your experience.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Oh Jen, sitting here with tears pouring down my cheeks I know exactly where you are coming from. My first Hubby died from Bowel Cancer at 48 in 2001 only 2 weeks after being diagnosed. It was a horrible time and I watched him waste away in front of my eyes. I was holding his hand when he died at home, but I will never forget the trauma of that time, or my own inability to breathe when it finally happened. This is not the first time I have experienced such losses, and my Mum's Brother (my Uncle), was a similar experience to your own, but we got to the hospital several minutes after he had died, terribly sad as he lived in our household so was a huge part of our family. My real Father died before we could even leave home to head to the hospital (after years and years of ill health).

      Sometimes I think these people are meant to go when they do, and we will all learn something from both their's and our own experiences, and hopefully we will put these experiences to good use later on in order to help others going through the same or similar events.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Oh Jan, I'm speechless and heart-broken all at once. You are amazing to be thinking of how to make this easier on those who love you. I will be sending you a e-mail in a bit. Please take good care of yourself and know that you are in my thoughts. (((Jan)))

    • JanTutor profile image

      Jan Thompson 8 years ago from London, England

      Bless you Jen - unfortunately it's my illness that is terminal - Death usually occurs within 3 years of onset - I've been ill for 16 months. I remain positive (that I'll be cured regardless of the prognosis), but I'm not scared of dying - I just feel immense sadness for those I'll leave behind. I've taken on board this lovely piece of writing ... My goodbyes will be as hearty as my hello's.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Jan, I feel your strong emotions and if you are going through the process of losing someone right now, please know my heart truly goes out to you. If you need support, please drop me a line.

      Sending a virtual hug to you right now.


    • JanTutor profile image

      Jan Thompson 8 years ago from London, England

      Oh gosh Jen - this hub is so relevant to me ... the tears flowing as I read are for my loved ones, not myself - I've accepted the inevitable. Jen I wish you were here - just for a minute - just for a hug - we don't need words.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Wow Connie, what a similarity we share as far as the same day of death and the fact that your husband and my mom were on breathing aids before they passed.

      My husband was the last one to have a meaninful conversation with my mom. He lovingly fanned her because the C-pap was making her so hot. She couldn't talk with the mask on but she was actively nodding when he asked her questions. That was on a Saturday, by Sunday afternoon she was totally unresponsive.

      I am glad your husband felt your loving attention and devotion. I am sure it made the inevitable easier for him to deal with, even though that final conversation wasn't possible.

    • Connie Smith profile image

      Connie Smith 8 years ago from Tampa Bay, Florida

      This is so true, Jen. A similar thing happened with my husband as he had to be put on a C-pap to breathe after my late nite visit on Friday night and he also passed away on the following Sunday. We never got to really have a final conversation together that was meaningful, though of course, I was able to speak to him until close to the end. Still, not quite the same. There are, of course, so many things I would do differently, but just like everything else in life, hindsight is 20/20. I comfort myself with knowing that he knew how much I loved him and also that I believe that he looks over me.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      I appreciate your comment gramsmith, it truly is from my heart. Thank you for noticing and for leaving your comment.

    • gramsmith profile image

      gramsmith 8 years ago

      You have written an amazing article.Very lovable and teaching heart post.Thanks Jen.........

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Thank you so much Tom, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom Rubenoff 8 years ago from United States

      Touching and wise article, Jen. Thank you

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Dale, thanks so much for sharing your conversation with your dad. I am so glad you were able to share that special time with him. You are right, about the therapeutic benefit of sharing my experiences as well. I have been unable to "talk" about it because there was too much sadness, but finally I able to do so and glad there are good memories mixed in with the sad ones.

      Best Wishes to you to, thanks so much for your comment.

    • Dale Mazurek profile image

      Dale Mazurek 8 years ago from Canada

      This is trully a touching hub.

      I was given a second chance with my dad after I watched him die and then be brought back only to lose him four months later.

      My father wasn't terminal. I talked to him the evening before he died and I am grateful we had that conversation.

      Many of the things you write about hit home for me.

      I am glad you hubbed about it. I know hubbing about my father getting sick and then passing was one of the biggest comforts I could experience.

      Best wishes



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