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.





Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 43 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 42 books, including 10 grief resources. She is Assistant Editor of the Open to Hope website, a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Alliance of Independent Authors, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. She is well acquainted with grief. In 2007 four family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling) and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and healing. She has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at The Compassionate Friends national conference, Bereaved Parents of the USA national conference, and Zoom grief conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy grandmother, great grandmother, author, and speaker please visit

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