Ideas for when your loved one doesn’t have long to live

We at the library hope that you will never need to read this blog, but for those who are facing the death of a loved one, we hope this will help in a small way. We have some books in our collection that can help provide a little bit of solace in this difficult time, and others that can help you create treasured memories of your loved one.

Here are some ideas from someone who’s been there.

  • Record an interview with your loved one. You can ask things like, what is one treasured memory you have of your mom, what is one reason you love your wife, what is your favorite book, artist, or song? What would you teach your 18 year old self if you could go back in time? What are three attributes you hope people remember you for? Try to get them to laugh, you’ll want to hear that over and over someday. We have books at the Library that can provide some great information on oral histories. You can refer to Oral History by Ken Howarth to get started.
    Once you’re finished, put that recording somewhere where you will never lose it, like your own YouTube channel. You can find plenty of recording apps. Do this before your loved one is too sick to talk long.
  •  Have them write out several years’ worth of birthday cards, mothers’ day cards, graduation cards, Christmas cards etc. for various family members. You can then send the cards from your loved one to his/her loved ones for years to come.
  • Take the time to sit down and write a letter to your loved one and tell them all the reasons you love them and what they mean to you. If you have any promises to make, here is a good place to put them (for example, I promise to take your kids hunting every year).
  • Take out that phone and record your loved one. This may seem uncomfortable, like you’re only recording them because you think they will die soon, but at some point in the future, you will wish with your whole being that you had done this. You will need to see their face and hear their voice. Record them hugging, kissing and holding their loved ones. You can even record your loved one singing Happy Birthday, and listen to it every year.
  • There are various websites that will turn handwriting into jewelry or pocket watches. Have your loved one write out short messages to family members that can later be turned into a keepsake. Even after their death, you can cut out words from letters or other samples of their handwriting and patch together a message…hey! At least it’s their handwriting!
  • Use up every bit of vacation time or PTO that you possibly can. You will never get these days back. Take lots of pictures of them with various family members.
  • If your loved one has kids, make a list together of advice or lessons they would like to give their kids, and record it. You can play these when they become appropriate. Some topics might be, how to shave, dating etiquette, driving a stick shift, or the importance of studying for a test. You could even record them just reading a children’s book. Their child will thank you.
  • Make a quilt of your loved ones’ clothes, have it quilted into a pattern of something they loved (like fishing, or ballet, or cooking). We have a book titled T-Shirt Quilts by Linda Causee that provides instruction on turning old t-shirts into a beautiful blanket you can keep forever.
  • Do little things for them to show how much you love them. Massage their feet, read to them, climb onto the bed and snuggle. Don’t hold back, love on them all you can while you can.

This list may help you to come up with more of your own ideas. Talk it over with your family and brainstorm ideas that will help each person through this time. Don’t push your idea on another family member, kids especially may not be able to handle watching a video of their parent for a long time. From all of us at the library, we’re sorry for your loss.

For some good books on the topic, check out:

It’s Okay to Laugh by Norma McInerny Purmort, call number: BOCD 616.99 PUR (book on CD)

Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips by Kris Carr, call number: 616.994 CAR

Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): a Practical Perspective on Death and Dying by Sallie Tisdale, call number (on order…you can put this on hold)