Writing to a Friend in Hospice

Because I was out of town for several weekends, I missed several Sunday church services. When I returned to church, I saw a friend of mine. She had lost so much weight she barely looked like herself and was wearing a cap to conceal her bare head. “Oh my gosh, she has cancer,” I thought to myself.

The next Sunday my friend sought me out. She gave me a CD, a recording of the lay church service I had given several weeks ago. “This is for you,” she said with a smile. Her gesture surprised and touched me. “Thanks so much,” I mumbled, at a loss for words. Now I realize my friend was tying up loose ends before she moved to hospice.

Two weeks later, our minister told the congregation my friend was dying. “She doesn’t want any visitors,” the minister began. “However, she would love to receive cards from you.” Willing as I was to send a card, a get-well card wouldn’t be appropriate, and there were no cards for a person dying in hospice. Finally, I spotted a “thinking of you” card and bought it.

The card had a line drawing of a smiling woman on the front. Inside there were only two words, “with love,” with plenty of white space for my message. What could I write? Though I’ve been a writer for decades I couldn’t seem find the words I needed.

Somehow, I had to honor my friend’s life and all she had done for others. This was turning out to be of the greatest writing challenges of my life. I wrote two drafts on the computer and neither was right. One draft was too long and the other was too short. Since I didn’t know if my friend was still lucid, or heavily medicated, I opted for four short sentences.

“During your life, you have helped many others, probably more than you know,” I wrote. “Thank you for all you have done for the church. I enjoyed all of our conversations and appreciate your friendship and help.” My note ended with the words, “Thank you for being you.”

This Sunday morning, before the service began, another friend tapped me on the shoulder. “I’ve been sitting with Mary Beth,” she explained. “She is very confused and so frail she can’t open cards. I open them and summarize what they say. When Mary Beth learned one of the cards was from you, she smiled and her entire face lit up.”

This story cheered and saddened me. Clearly, my friend’s life was drawing to a close, and I hoped she understood the deep feelings behind my simple words.

Are you thinking about sending a card to a friend in hospice? If so, please choose a suitable or blank card. Keep your message short and close with the most important sentence. Whatever you choose to write, don’t worry about your handwriting, and write from the heart.

Now I realize my last sentence, “Thank you for being you,” said all I needed to say.





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Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson, BS, MA has been an independent journalist for more than 35+ years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the MN Coalition for Death Education and Support. Hodgson writes for www.ezinearticles.com and has earned top status. A prolific author, she is the author of hundreds of articles and 31 books. All of her writing comes from experience and heer recent books focus on grief recovery: * Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss * The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul * 101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey: Words of Comfort, Words of Hope * Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life * Writing to Recover Journal (with 100 writing prompts) * Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, Lois Krahn, MD, co-author In 2007, after her daughter's death and former son-in-law's death, she became a GRG, grandparent raising grandchildren. Her latest book, Help! I'm Raising My Grandkids: Grandparents Adapting to Life's Surprise, came from this experience. In addition to writing books, Hodgson is a columnist for "Caregiving in America" magazine and Assistant Editor of ADEC Connects, the electronic newsletter of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. A popular speaker, Hodgson has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer's, hospice, and grief conferences. She has appeared on more than 160 talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations/programs, including CNN. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors and other directories. She lives in Rochester, MN with her husband and twin grandchildren. Please visit www.harriethodgson.com for more information about this busy author and grandmother. Books by Harriet Hodgson The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul, available from Centering Corporation, www.centering.org and Amazon, www.amazon.com 101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey: Words of Comfort, Words of Hope, available from Amazon, www.amazon.com Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life, available from Centering Corporation, www.centering.org and Amazon, www.amazon.com Writing to Recover Journal, available from Centering Corporation, www.centering.org and Amazon. Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, Lois Krahn, MD, Co-Author, available from Amazon, www.amazon.com


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  • KirstenNB says:

    I received word yesterday that a former co-worker is in hospice and I have been struggling with the appropriate words to share. A year ago when he was in the hospital, I shared my Get Well wishes. Today, I am posting a card sharing my Thank you for being you memories, highlighting his wonderful contributions in nursing education.
    Much thanks for your words of advice on this delicate topic!