Huffington Post is running a great article entitled “Saying Goodbye To A Parent” by Betty Londergan. Many of us won't have the privilege of saying goodbye because many times death can be acute, immediate and sadly… surprising. For the lucky ones, being able to say-your-peace, and receive the same back can be incredibly fulfilling.
My husband was able to experience this with his grandfather many years ago. His “Grandpa Joe”, a WWII veteran was dying of cancer that had spread extensively throughout his body. He had been in and out of the VA in Spokane Washington… On and off chemotherapy… And finally in his late 80's he had had enough. Weeks before he went into the VA (his final visit) my husband and his brother drove up to Spokane to spend some time with Grandpa Joe. It was unlike any other visit they'd ever had. The normally rough-and-tough Joe was extremely frail but still relatively lucid. On this visit, Joe would open up about the war (he rarely if ever spoke of his year of grueling service as a medic in the war overseas), and he even initiated a discussion about what each grandchild had meant to him during his adult life. Grandpa Joe knew this was the last visit he would have with his grandsons. I know that tears were at full flood stage. Each of the boys (then in their 30's) were able to share their favorite memories and thank Grandpa Joe for being such a wonderful grandfather and friend over the years. They also both (literally) said goodbye to Grandpa Joe one last time.
Being able to say goodbye, can be an incredible rewarding and fulfilling experience. In her article, Betty Londergan calls being with a parent while they're leaving this world “the great privilege”, and I must say I totally agree. As a social worker, I'm around families dealing with these issues on a regular basis. Some are good at it, and some not so much. Most people know that in life there are no guarantees, so it's important to take the opportunity to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Tell them you love them while you have the opportunity to do so in this life. It will eliminate (or at least minimize) the “I wish I would have” notions, or the “I should have told them what they meant to me” regrets.
Have you had the “privilege” to say goodbye a loved one before they passed on? How did it go? What would you do differently? -Share your thoughts in the comments below