What do you say to a man with less than two days to live?

  • Thread starter Jack21222
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

My grandfather has stage 4 lung cancer, along with Legionnaire's disease. They sent him home from the hospital last week to die more comfortably. I just got word from my mother that doctors now give him less than 48 hours to live. The family is congregating at his house now, I suppose to say their goodbyes.

But I have no idea what to say. Half of everyday speech is predicated on the person you're speaking to living longer than 2 days. When I leave, I can't say "see ya later." Even "hope you feel better" no longer makes sense. A simple "goodbye" seems a little cold.

No small talk works. "Who do you like for the Super bowl?" "Who cares, I'll be dead by then!" "What's for dinner tomorrow night?" "Eat? I'll be dead by then!" Etc...

I'm going to go up there with absolutely nothing to say, but I can't stand there in silence. I just hope I don't make a fool of myself when I do say something.

I'm heading out now.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
FlexGunship
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Best of luck. There's no upside to this situation OTHER THAN the fact that you've been given a chance to see him.

I don't know the man myself, but I've been in a similar situation. In my case, I found that remembering old times is never a waste. It will trigger a few laughs and invite other stories. Don't be afraid to enjoy the time you have left!

I also made a point to ask for some advice. On anything. No matter how trivial. I imagine one of the worst feelings about being on your deathbed is the notion that you actions and thoughts are all done; no longer of consequence. So don't let it be true. Ask for advice on dating, or about something at work, or in life in general.

As you leave, simply say: "Thank you so much for the advice. You'll always be in my heart."
 
  • #3
berkeman
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Nice post, Flex.
 
  • #4
cobalt124
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Hi Jack, not an easy situation to be in. I don't think you have to say anything really, being there is the important thing. If you feel there is anything you need to tell your grandfather, consider telling him, as you may regret not doing so. Just before my mothers death I told her I loved her for the first time. I don't know if she even heard me. Hope I've been a little help.

Best Wishes

John

EDIT: wise words Flex.
 
  • #5
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I was able to talk with my grandfather minutes before they pulled his breathing tube. Talking is not something you should feel pressured to do. Just being there next to him is enough. Hold his hand, put a damp cloth on his forehead etc... What I did talk to my grandfather about was memories. Favorite times we've had and what about him made my childhood special. The last words I said I told him he was a hero, that he won at life, was a success and that I loved him, then kissed him on his forehead.
 
  • #6
'I love you.'
 
  • #7
Evo
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I was able to talk with my grandfather minutes before they pulled his breathing tube. Talking is not something you should feel pressured to do. Just being there next to him is enough. Hold his hand, put a damp cloth on his forehead etc... What I did talk to my grandfather about was memories. Favorite times we've had and what about him made my childhood special. The last words I said I told him he was a hero, that he won at life, was a success and that I loved him, then kissed him on his forehead.
Beautiful and perfect advice.
 
  • #8
drizzle
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FlexGunship and Greg, you're good. But no one really would be helpful more than yourself, you know your grandfather, and you have your feelings, he seems upset from your post so comfort him, talk to him just like you'd do any time you see him. I know that I don't wish to be in such situations, good luck.
 
  • #9
lisab
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When my aunt was told she had just a few months to live, I wrote her a letter. Like others have suggested, it was all about memories of her. Like, how I remember showing her that I could open my eyes underwater - I still have a memory of looking up at her as she stood by the side of the pool. That I was mystified as a kid as to why there was a helicopter in her back yard. (It really was a helicopter, and she lived in a densely populated area - it took up about half her back yard!)

I just recalled all the memories of her that I could think of.

I learned after she died that she was so very happy to receive that letter.
 
  • #10
turbo
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'I love you.'
Yep! My grandfathers were hard, self-made men. I knew they both loved me in their own ways, but I was not able to attend either of them at their death-beds. They were tough, poor guys who were laid low by the Depression and managed to claw back and keep their families together and feed them and keep roofs over their heads. "I love you." would have been all that I wanted to say to either of them near the end.
 
  • #11
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All I can add to "I love you" are the words "thank you".
 
  • #12
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Nothing. Just give him a hug and hold his hand firmly. Chances are he would be unable to articulate any words from pain or from being too sick. You cannot remember a person by their last words when they suffer from such hard sickness.

If you are a religious person, you can go and give worship according to your religion in a temple.
 
  • #13
AlephZero
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You don't have to say anything. What matters is being there. If your feelings are as genuine as they appear from your OP, you won't have to consciously think what is the right thing to do or say, you will just know.

This is a rite of passage that almost everybody goes through, one way or another, unless they die young themselves. This may be "the first time" for you, but it probably won't be the last.
 
  • #14
Drakkith
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I'm 26 and I have yet to experience this. To be honest, it scares the crap out of me. Especially to think about doing this to my dad. Losing him...I don't even want to think about it even though it's going to happen eventually. Better a child buries a parent than a parent buries a child though.
 
  • #15
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I ended up not saying anything, because he's too drugged up to communicate. He did wake up briefly, he seemed to look at me, so I smiled at him, then he closed his eyes again. Hopefully he was aware enough to know I was there.

The hardest part was seeing my mother. She isn't handling it well.

It's hard to believe that only 18 months ago, he was doing flips off of a diving board into my mother's pool... at age 80! He was the toughest S.O.B. I knew. When this man cut off his thumb, he reattached it himself with hydrogen peroxide and a bandage. No doctor was necessary.

When he went to an NFL game about 10 years ago with my mother, the guys behind us were acting rowdy and using foul language, as people at NFL games often do. My grandfather turned around and threatened to pound them unless they settled down and stopped using that language in front of my mother. The rowdy guys backed down from my 70 year old grandfather.

To see him in the bed, helpless, struggling to breathe... it almost doesn't seem real. It's hard to believe.

Anyway, thanks for listening to me. I don't mean to use this forum as a blog, just felt the need to put this down somewhere.
 
  • #16
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I ended up not saying anything, because he's too drugged up to communicate.
If you see him again, talk to him. If he doesn't hear you, you've lost nothing. If he does hear you, tell him you love him. Also, tell him what's going on with your life.
 
  • #17
lisab
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I ended up not saying anything, because he's too drugged up to communicate. He did wake up briefly, he seemed to look at me, so I smiled at him, then he closed his eyes again. Hopefully he was aware enough to know I was there.

The hardest part was seeing my mother. She isn't handling it well.

It's hard to believe that only 18 months ago, he was doing flips off of a diving board into my mother's pool... at age 80! He was the toughest S.O.B. I knew. When this man cut off his thumb, he reattached it himself with hydrogen peroxide and a bandage. No doctor was necessary.

When he went to an NFL game about 10 years ago with my mother, the guys behind us were acting rowdy and using foul language, as people at NFL games often do. My grandfather turned around and threatened to pound them unless they settled down and stopped using that language in front of my mother. The rowdy guys backed down from my 70 year old grandfather.

To see him in the bed, helpless, struggling to breathe... it almost doesn't seem real. It's hard to believe.

Anyway, thanks for listening to me. I don't mean to use this forum as a blog, just felt the need to put this down somewhere.
My thoughts are with you, Jack.
 
  • #18
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Thank you for sharing Jack.
 
  • #19
DevilsAvocado
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I ended up not saying anything, because he's too drugged up to communicate. He did wake up briefly, he seemed to look at me, so I smiled at him, then he closed his eyes again. Hopefully he was aware enough to know I was there.
You have my sympathies and I’m sure that he knew you were there. You love him and you were there, and you did the right thing. You will carry this memory with you for the rest of your life.

I can see that you love your grandfather very much, and this brings back strong memories for me. My grandfather was the same type; big, strong, and worked as a forester. I was only a little boy and I loved and adored him – he did all those exciting things – while the rest went to 'office'. The time we spent together fishing and hunting, I will never forget.

He got older, and me and family moved 600 km away from 'home'. When I was 11 he got very sick and was hospitalized for quite some time. One day they called from the hospital and said that his condition has worsened. Next day we drove all day in an old car to visit him. At first he was extremely weak and pale white, but after awhile when he understood we were all there, he looked 'relieved' and almost 'happy' and could say a few words.

I didn’t know what to say to him, I was only 11, so I was silent, but I sat there and he looked at me. An hour later he got very weak, and my parents told me to leave the room.

Then he died, but he will always be in my heart.
 
  • #20
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Heh, did I originally post this in S&D? I meant to post this directly in General Discussion... I must not have been paying attention. I was distracted.
 
  • #21
Evo
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Heh, did I originally post this in S&D? I meant to post this directly in General Discussion... I must not have been paying attention. I was distracted.
I missed my opportunities to say goodbye to my loved ones at the last. I think maybe that was easier than watching them suffer. My heart goes out to you.
 
  • #22
Heh, did I originally post this in S&D? I meant to post this directly in General Discussion... I must not have been paying attention. I was distracted.
About that... you might find some odd distraction over the next few weeks, or even months. It's normal, as are outbursts of emotion, and a host of other things.

Just take care of yourself and family, and be glad that if he has to go.. at least it was just over a year ago that he was jumping around and lively.

"Asato maa sadgamaya.
Tamaso maa jyotirgamaya.
Mṛityor maa amṛitan gamaya.
Om shaanti shaanti shaanti."
 
  • #23
DevilsAvocado
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"From the unreal, lead us to the Real; from darkness, lead us unto Light; from death, lead us to Immortality. Om peace, peace, peace."
 
  • #24
cobalt124
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Take care Jack2122.
 
  • #25
"From the unreal, lead us to the Real; from darkness, lead us unto Light; from death, lead us to Immortality. Om peace, peace, peace."
You've got it... it's very all-purpose, but never old.
 

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