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stevenb's avatar

Have you ever had someone you love call you to tell you goodbye, because they are dying tonight?

Asked by stevenb (3727 points ) January 16th, 2009

My stepfather, who had a stroke and went blind last year, called me tonight. I answered the phone not thinking anything out of the ordinary. My mother said, very shakily and sad, “Bob wants to talk to you, to say goodbye.”

I was a bit stunned.

We then had about a fifteen minute or so conversation saying goodbye to each other. It was the hardest thing I think I have ever done in my life. He has always been a bit of a gruff person, but also one of the most honestly kind and wonderful people I have ever known. I simply told him how thankful I was to have known him, thanked him for all of his wisdom and sharing while I was living with him, and told him that he has always been a great man that I have looked up to.

Have any of you ever had to go through this? How did you handle it. I am still a bit shocked.

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34 Answers

chelseababyy's avatar

I haven’t, and my prayers are with you tonight. I have however, gotten one of those.. “Your grandma died today” calls. It was horrible, I was 3000 miles away, couldn’t even make it to the funeral. I broke down for a while. Felt like everything was just wrong in life. But after a while, I started to realize there was nothing I could do. Then I just remembered that she was in a better place and would always be watching down on me.

augustlan's avatar

I’m so sorry Steven. I’m glad you two had a chance to say goodbye. <hugs>

stevenb's avatar

Thank you so much. I am glad for the chance also. I am flying to Wyoming in the morning to give my mom some support. I’m just at such a loss now. I haven’t had anyone really important die since I was six or seven. I guess I’ve been lucky.

cak's avatar

I just went through something 2 weeks ago. I lost my father and we did have the chance to talk to him, before he was completely non-responsive. It was so bittersweet. The morning of the day that he died, my husband and I were with him, I told him again how much I love him and how thankful I am that he raised me. I thanked him for being there for me and for all the times that he and I just took time together.

I am so thankful that I had that time and then later in the day, when his vitals were dropping and we stayed with him. It was horribly sad and still is, but be so thankful that you did have that time. Had I missed those moments, I don’t think I could ever get past it.

I am very sorry for you and your family. I’m glad you were able to speak to him.

PupnTaco's avatar

Wow, that’s so sad. But on the other hand, you were able to talk to each other and make your feelings known.

How does he know he’s dying tonight?

Jeruba's avatar

Your story is gripping and heart-rending, @stevenb, and I am imagining what feelings must be rushing through you right now. I offer you my sympathy.

At the same time I can’t help thinking that you were incredibly lucky to have that opportunity. I knew when I was seeing my father for the last time—I knew when I left for the airport that the next thing to call me back would be his funeral. Twenty-five years later, I can still remember the sight of him waving forlornly from the door. I did not have the strength, the maturity, or the courage to say a true good-bye to him, and I have never stopped regretting that. If only someone had prompted me with a word; but I was on my own and did not know what to do.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I’m sorry. I know you’re hurting right now. I’m glad for you, though, that you both got to share your feelings for each other. You will be happy later that you were able to do so.

When I think back on the death of someone who was very close to me, I am glad that I got to tell her I loved her before she died.

stevenb's avatar

@pup, the doctors sent him home saying there is nothing they could do, and to be with his family. They said late this evening at the latest he would pass.

Sakata's avatar

Ok, I’m an asshole and even I think that’s all pretty fucked up. You actually got to talk to him to say goodbye… amazing & lucky. I honestly feel for you and think that anything you said during that 15 minute conversation was the right thing.

My grandmother was in the hospital for a few days and I visited her when I could (could’ve should’ve been a bit more). I got the call about her death while I was at work. I was devastated. I will probably spend the rest of my life wishing I would’ve had 15 minutes to talk to her before she died.

You should consider yourself lucky. Most people will never get the opportunity you had. Unfortunately everything will eventually hit you and the grief will set in, but you will always have that positive moment to look back on.

susanc's avatar

A chance to say goodbye? Brave, disorienting, strong, something to be grateful for? I don’t know. I don’t think there’s any way to make “goodbye” bearable.

cookieman's avatar

Being able to say goodbye is the most horrible, gut wrenching , amazingly beautiful opportunity you will ever have. I have found it (one too many times) to be a soup of emotions just waiting to boil over.

It is the worst gift you will ever receive – but a gift nonetheless.

I’m truly sorry for your loss.

bythebay's avatar

@stevenb: Maybe the things you said to him gave him some peace and a knowledge that he was valued. I’m sorry for your pain.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@stevenb, I’m so sorry for your loss.

My dad was chronically ill with emphysema for a number of years, and the medications began to take their toll psychologically. He would call me long distance and talk about how his quality of life had eroded so badly, and that he would never get better. One day I got a call in the middle of the day, and he talked about personal stuff. When he said good-bye, I knew it was the last time I was going to hear his voice. It was really gut-wrenching. That afternoon, he called a neighbor to come over in an hour, went out in the side yard (so my stepmother wouldn’t have to deal with clean-up or memories inside the house) and shot himself in the chest.

The phone call was the hardest part. We both knew what was going to happen, but neither really wanted to talk about death itself. It was the saddest and hardest conversation that I ever had. Wow. I just realized that he was 58 when he died, and had been that ill for almost 10 years. It did make me cognizant of the need to tell people they’re important to you while you can, and it forced me to focus on what I thought happened when you die. The interesting thing is that both my stepmother and I thought we “saw” him on the same day, and he looked healthy. That was extremely comforting (no, I don’t believe in ghosts). Being able to think of the person being freed from their body and being their inner self is helpful.

sbrannon's avatar

I think that it is a great thing for him to have called to say goodbye. It is a closure. It also gave you a chance to say goodbye as well, and allowed you to have your own closure. Now, you can move on with good memories, and not have the stress of “I should have….”

Russifer's avatar

@stevenb I’m so sorry for your loss Steven.

I never had anything like that, but a few years ago my brother and I went down to Florida to visit our grandparents. It was a great weekend and we all had a lot of fun. My grandma and I had this funny moment where she called me a “punk” because I put gel in my hair. It was extra funny because my grandma was never one to even make a slight joke like that towards someone, and I felt like we connected at that moment. On the last day, our grandparents drove us to the airport to go home. We said goodbye in the airport. My grandma hugged me and said “My little punk…”. At that moment, I knew that was the last time I was going to see her. I don’t know why or how I knew it. I said goodbye, and as we were walking away, I just kept looking back at her, knowing that was it. On their way back from the airport, they were in a car accident and she died.

So even though I never had the chance to say goodbye truly, that one moment I had with her in the airport always makes me smile. But I still miss her a ton.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

Steven, I’m so very sorry for your loss. At least you got to talk to him. I talked to my mom the night before she died. She told me to pick out whatever music I wanted for the funeral, that she knew it’d be pretty. It was gut wrenching. I knew it’d be the last time I talked to her, & it was.

asmonet's avatar

About two weeks before my father died when I was twelve he got in contact with us to ‘say goodbye’ but more to make amends and explain himself. I never knew him, he lived twenty minutes away from me my entire life and never even sent a card. I only met him twice, when I was four and again at this meeting. I never liked him, never even cared for him at all. But I saw a sick man and I was compassionate. I gave him a hug for his sake, listened to him and left a few hours later. I remember being very aware even during the conversation that this was the last time I would see him. I honestly don’t remember anything he said. I remember how he looked, and getting a sense he was desperate, lonely and had many regrets. I felt blank afterward, thoughts wouldn’t form. It was a strange feeling. Neither bad nor good. I put it out of my mind then.

Two weeks later we got a call that he had died. I never felt it, and I still wonder why or if it’s normal.

When people call to say goodbye, you can’t predict how it’s going to go. I think you did an amazing thing by showing your love for him and allowing him to see the impact his life made, that’s why I hugged my father. Different situation but showing those that are close to death compassion and love can set them at ease. You did him a tremendous service and I’m sure he knows and appreciates that.

I wish you and your family all the best, and I’ll keep you in my thoughts.

stevenb's avatar

Thank you everyone. I really appreciate your answers and you thoughts.

chyna's avatar

Yes, amazingly, that just happened to me yesterday. My best friend’s mother was just diagnosed with bone cancer, liver cancer, a growth on her throat that is closing her airway. They have literaly given her hours to live. I went to see her yesterday to say goodby. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The worst part is that she is awake, coherent and so it is hard to believe this is the end. Wait, maybe there is a mistake… but there isn’t.

laureth's avatar

My grandparents partially raised me and we were very close until after I lived on my own, then they moved up North. We called each other on the phone after that, but I’d let a lot of time elapse since the last call so one day (in 2000) I decided to call up my grandma and see how she was doing.

“Fine, except my kidneys have stopped,” she said. I was all like, “What do you mean? Why didn’t you call to say something?” but you know that generation, they don’t want to cause a fuss. So I called both my jobs and said I wasn’t going to be in this week, threw some clothes in a grocery bag and drove 5 hours to go stay with them. She’d just had breast cancer and the new, experimental chemotherapy she was trying did in her kidneys.

So I got to stay there with her and my grandpa for the last week of her life. We did a lot of talking – even funny stuff. We talked about the afterlife (is there one? etc.) and I told her that if she wanted to hang out and watch over me, that would be OK. “How long do you want me to do that?” she asked. Later on, she gave me the 1940’s Singer sewing machine that she bought with their wedding money. “Are you sure?” I asked. She said, “Well, I’m not going to be using it anymore.” The last thing she wanted to eat was coleslaw from Kentucky Fried Chicken.

When the pain got too bad, the hospice nurses gave her morphine and she mostly slept a lot after that, and she wasn’t lucid enough to talk so we just stayed there by her. When she finally died, I’d already had to go back home a few hours before, but their dog knew what was going on somehow and went to the kitchen to get my aunt and led her back to my grandma’s room, so she didn’t die alone.

I realize this is a little more than a phone call story, but it still has that feel to it. If I hadn’t randomly decided to call them up to chat, I never would have had this last week with my grandma.

@stevenb, my heart goes out to you and your family. It’s good to have a chance to say goodbye.

stevenb's avatar

I appreciate all of you sharing this with me. It does help. I’m in Denver now, on my way to help my mom as much as I can. I am amazed at the strength of character of all of you who shared your stories with me. Thank you all so much. You are all helping me immensely. Thanks again.
I still don’t know how I will be able to function after I see my moms poor sad face. I can’t take that. At all.

cdwccrn's avatar

I will pray God will give you and your family strength and peace.

PupnTaco's avatar

@stevenb: hang in there :(

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@Steven, you WILL handle it. You’ll somehow find the strength to handle it all. Your mom needs you now. You will find a way to reach down into the depths of your heart & you’ll find the right words. And if the words don’t come, that’s okay, too. Just a warm embrace with her & she’ll have all she needs right there. That sometimes works better than talking anyway. I bet you’re stronger than you think. May God bless you & your family through these next few days.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@stevenb, you will give, and receive, what you need. Your stepfather was in your and your mother’s lives for a purpose, and death does not end that purpose, because the memory and the effect remains. Hang in there.

susanc's avatar

crying

stevenb's avatar

Thank you all again, so much. That was the hardest thing I have ever done. He was in and out of lucidity. The things he said…... Wow. He kept saying he was seeing his dad and all of his old friends from the army. Then he would blow and tell us he was choking on smoke. On and on and on he went. He was reciting the bible, thanking everone, talking to Jesus, then yelling at the dog. We sat up all night to watch over him. He was so very afraid to leave my mom. It was the most painful and gutwrenching thing. My mom is so much stronger than I ever knew. She held him, talked to him, comforted him, and was there for him. The sadness in her eyes is so awefull, but then there is the small happiness of him not being in pain and confusion anymore. I have never been so moved by selfless compassion and love. He had been in that state for four days before he called me, and then made it to that next morning. I did get to see him, so my luck was with me. On top of caring for him, with his going blind a year ago, she also cares for my sisters autistic son that lives with her, and then works all day from 4:30 am till 3:30 pm. She is so amzing to me. She never complains and just deals and moves on. I love my mom so much and have never been more proud of her or more sad for her. Thank you again everyone! You all have helped me immensely this weekend.

chyna's avatar

@stevenb You are quite amazing yourself.

asmonet's avatar

Those sound like some wonderful things she might like to hear about herself right about now. I’d consider sharing some of that with her.

PupnTaco's avatar

Good job SB.

stevenb's avatar

@ asmonet, I was actually brave enough to tell her that before I left. She was very suprised, but by the tears, very happy to hear it also. I have always tried to be honest and open with everybody I know, but I am also quiet and softspoken. This time I had to tell her, basically because I was so touched and impressed by her.

Thanks Dave and chyna. :)

asmonet's avatar

@stevenb: Good for you. :)

I mean that with all sincerity.

90s_kid's avatar

I am a bit late, But I feel so sad!
I am praying for him.

stevenb's avatar

Thanks 90s kid. Everyone else here also. I was so happy and pleasantly suprised by all of your honesty and caring. Thank you all so much.

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