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What to say to terminally ill person you dislike
Old 02-28-2009, 02:21 AM   #1
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What to say to terminally ill person you dislike

Sadly, my step mother has terminal cancer and has recently become very ill and so is coming home prematurely from an attempt at one last winter of snowbirding in AZ. It really is unfortunate, and I wish the best for her, but the truth is I've never been terribly fond of the lady, nor are very many other folks. She also has always had a definite low key disdain for myself and my siblings. Everyone, including her, has kept their feelings cloaked behind fake smiles for Dad's sake. It hasn't always been easy but get togethers are rather infrequent and she has (apart from a couple of near breakups that I know of) somehow kept Dad content for 25 years.

I've no doubt that upon their return, unless she flatly refuses to see us, my dad will arrange it so that I'll have a time to say goodbye to her. He really is blind to the feelings of both sides. Where the heck do I go with that? What could I possibly say? All I envision is lots of stammering and staring at my shoes. Any advice is appreciated.
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Old 02-28-2009, 02:51 AM   #2
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My advice is to keep in mind that you are doing this for your dad. There is no reason to say things that are true but focus on the fact that she did keep your dad happy. You could talk about trips that they took together or other common things that were happy. That way you will be helping your dad by keeping him engaged. You could ask her if there is anything you could bring her or the like. I know someone who wished for lobster. That way you can leave the room to get it.

Good luck.
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Old 02-28-2009, 04:31 AM   #3
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Keep it in the present. Ask her how she feels. Tell her you admire her courage and bravery. Its a hard thing to face.
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Old 02-28-2009, 08:52 AM   #4
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Also, say thank you for having kept your dad happy for all these years. That is quite and accomplishment and perhaps in your heart you can honestly say that you wish you had been able to be closer through the years, and will do what you can to assist in the coming weeks and months if not directly for her then for your father.

Try and be the bigger person so at the end you do not have to carry guilt or regrets.
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:33 AM   #5
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Try and be the bigger person so at the end you do not have to carry guilt or regrets.
What she said.....
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Old 02-28-2009, 10:27 AM   #6
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People being kept alive in the last stages of terminal illnesses are so miserable, you will find yourself feeling the same pity and sorrow as you would if the person had not been mean to you.

I have been in that position with terminally ill people who had caused me much pain when they were healthy. Their wasted faces, weak voices, lack of attention span due to pain-killing drugs, and the tubes and machines [one man was a prisoner of one of those metal "haloes," screwed into his skull to keep his broken neck from killing him outright] wrung my heart and I forgot about the mean things they'd done and said. It just seemed petty beside their suffering.

It's never easy to start talking to someone you have nothing in common with. The other responders to your post have given the best ideas for what to actually say. Hearing from you that you know she made your dad happy, might mean more to her than you know. She might have something to say in response that will surprise you. Your dad will love you for it, too, and know he raised a child with a generous heart.

Good luck.
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Old 02-28-2009, 10:42 AM   #7
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Hell, I would tell everybody "I don't do terminally ill people - and especially ones I don't like." Then I'd get back to the slopes and enjoy your own life snowboarding. Life is too short for trivialities such as dying people. That's what I told my family. I don't do funerals - and I don't want anybody hovering over me when my time on earth has reached the end.

Don't worry, sounds like the rest of your family will say all of mandatory niceties so the old lady can go to the grave with grace and style.
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Old 02-28-2009, 10:47 AM   #8
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Hell, I would tell everybody "I don't do terminally ill people - and especially ones I don't like." Then I'd get back to the slopes and enjoy your own life snowboarding. Life is too short for trivialities such as dying people. That's what I told my family.
No wonder you left the country...
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Old 02-28-2009, 11:23 AM   #9
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Will you be alone with her, or will your dad be with you?

It would certainly help if he were there IMO. I think this would give you the strength to find kind words to say to her (about her and your dad's dedication to one another). If he is there, I believe the words will come from your heart and they will both feel it.
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Old 02-28-2009, 12:50 PM   #10
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Sadly, my step mother has terminal cancer and has recently become very ill and so is coming home prematurely from an attempt at one last winter of snowbirding in AZ. It really is unfortunate, and I wish the best for her, but the truth is I've never been terribly fond of the lady, nor are very many other folks. She also has always had a definite low key disdain for myself and my siblings. Everyone, including her, has kept their feelings cloaked behind fake smiles for Dad's sake. It hasn't always been easy but get togethers are rather infrequent and she has (apart from a couple of near breakups that I know of) somehow kept Dad content for 25 years.

I've no doubt that upon their return, unless she flatly refuses to see us, my dad will arrange it so that I'll have a time to say goodbye to her. He really is blind to the feelings of both sides. Where the heck do I go with that? What could I possibly say? All I envision is lots of stammering and staring at my shoes. Any advice is appreciated.
Gotta buck it up one last time. One way to overcome the stammering is to let HER talk. You could always say: "I know we haven't seen eye-to-eye most fo the time, but I know you have made Dad very happy".......
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Old 02-28-2009, 02:22 PM   #11
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I don't think you really have to say much just be there for support and maybe bring some flowers .
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Old 02-28-2009, 03:40 PM   #12
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It hasn't always been easy but get togethers are rather infrequent and she has (apart from a couple of near breakups that I know of) somehow kept Dad content for 25 years.
She and your dad have been together a long time. Paying your respects to your step mom and finding some kind words will mean a lot to your dad. After so many years with her, he will need some love and understanding after she passes.
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Old 02-28-2009, 05:01 PM   #13
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Also, say thank you for having kept your dad happy for all these years. That is quite and accomplishment and perhaps in your heart you can honestly say that you wish you had been able to be closer through the years, and will do what you can to assist in the coming weeks and months if not directly for her then for your father.

Try and be the bigger person so at the end you do not have to carry guilt or regrets.
I agree. If for some reason she takes one last shot at you, just say it's time for me to say goodbye. And then go have a beer.
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Old 02-28-2009, 05:19 PM   #14
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Grizz, sorry to hear this, it's always difficult. Since get-togethers have always been infrequent, she and your dad may want to limit access. I had an old friend whose wife said he wasn't up to visitors most of the time and she would let us know when he was; we missed the one call she made, but it was nice to know we were invited. Maybe you could bring a friend or sibling along?
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Old 02-28-2009, 05:46 PM   #15
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Thanks all. I can use much of the advice.
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Old 02-28-2009, 06:05 PM   #16
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When you go, assuming she is up to talking, keep it in the present. I wouldn't thank her for anything, but would ask if there is anything I could do to make her more comfortable. I wouldn't want to see a wild animal suffer, much less my dad's wife. Take flowers, be cordial and remember this is for your father, and I am sure you want to make it as easy for him as possible.
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Old 03-01-2009, 09:49 AM   #17
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Hell, I would tell everybody "I don't do terminally ill people - and especially ones I don't like." Then I'd get back to the slopes and enjoy your own life snowboarding. Life is too short for trivialities such as dying people. That's what I told my family.
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No wonder you left the country...
No, actually, I think it comes after I left the country and began seeing so many people die that could have survived with bare minimum of health care - which wasn't available to them. It comes from traveling through countries where child birth is still the number one killer of women. And it comes from knowing how many young men and defenseless families are killed because war is still the method prominent method that human beings choose to settle their differences.

I mourn for the people who die before they were able to live a full life; not for the who were born in a country that kept then safe - where they could live a full life and die a natural death in bed. They are the lucky ones.
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Old 03-01-2009, 03:14 PM   #18
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Just talk to her. About anything - the weather, Obama, baseball. Whatever she likes. It's not the subject that matters, it's the talking.

Dying is a very lonely thing and simple human contact at the end makes a world of difference.
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Old 03-01-2009, 10:52 PM   #19
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Thanks all. I can use much of the advice.
She might have read Gene O'Kelly's "Chasing Daylight" and she might have a plan to say goodbye, perhaps even air things out. Gene was the CEO of KPMG before his death, he was hypercompetitive, and he carried out his "dying plan" just as aggressively as his life plan. Sort of a "best... death... EVER!" hagiography, and no doubt read by many terminally ill people.

You might want to read that book in preparation, perhaps enlightenment on the perspective of the terminally ill, and maybe even for your own self-defense.

I think despite however she behaves, you're going to end up feeling sad for all the time she's wasted on being mean. And visiting might bring you even closer to your father.
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Old 03-02-2009, 08:16 AM   #20
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With one exception, you got some solid advice here..
I would push to make this a joint venture with your Dad. That will relieve some pressure, yet accomplish the mission.
Most important, let her carry the conversation, you accent the positive, and leave in a manner that will give you peace in the future.
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