A well-said goodbye to a loved one, whether we are the one leaving or the one left behind, can turn the sadness of parting into a moment of love and appreciation. The need to say goodbye can give us the strength to undertake arduous journeys or even delay death until it has been satisfied. Saying farewell is much easier if we healed our relationships, and our loving goodbyes can even outlast us if we leave messages to be opened by our loved ones at specific events in their future after we are gone.
Ira Byock’s book, The Four Things that Matter Most, gives us a blueprint for saying what most needs to be said in preparation for a final goodbye.
‘Please forgive me’, ‘I forgive you’, ‘Thank you’ and ‘I love you’ are four simple phrases with enormous power, which are important to say to people we care about, even if we might think that they are already understood. We can hang on to grudges unconsciously, creating distance and eroding joy in our relationships, without realizing what we are missing.
These four things are what matters most to people who are dying, because when we face death, our relationships become more important than ever. We want to express love and appreciation, and to say goodbye. We are sustained by the knowledge that we are loved and appreciated in return. When people die suddenly, we may regret having left some of these things unsaid, so rather than leave it until it may be too late, it is worth saying them now. If we make sure to tell our loved ones what they mean to us, we can achieve a feeling of completeness such that we could die today without regrets, having left nothing unsaid or undone.
Any relationship can be fixed, and transformed permanently — it is never too late. When facing death, barriers can suddenly melt away, and hard people become soft and vulnerable, warm and trusting. The last moments before death can completely change our memories of a person.
Please Forgive Me
Nobody’s life is perfect, and there will always be things we wish we’d handled differently. We are all human, worthy of love and acceptance just the way we are. We have to come to terms with our mistakes, and accept ourselves, because if we don’t feel worthy of love and acceptance in ourselves, we will reject them when they are offered to us by others. The simple act of asking for forgiveness can have a very large impact on any relationship. No matter who “started it,” each person has responsibility for their own actions and words.
I Forgive You
We can try to treat others with patience and understanding, love and acceptance, and forgiveness. Forgiveness accepts the past for what it was, without necessarily excusing it. If we do not address issues with someone we’re close to, they can continue to haunt us even after the other person has died, and though it is possible to achieve resolution after the event, it is much easier and more powerful to do so while they are still alive. Opening your heart to forgiveness is a powerful force for peace of mind.
Everyone wants to be appreciated. Say “thank you” for the little things and the big things that have made a difference in your life. Life is short, and if we remember to really appreciate it instead of taking it for granted, we can infuse every moment with joy.
I Love You
There are many ways to communicate love, and if events of the past make saying the actual words too difficult in certain circumstances, then the door can be opened by way of a letter or recorded message, or a tender touch. Life is precious, and we should try to live it as fully as possible, in love and gratitude. Remembering that life is temporary can free us from false pretences and pointless strife in our lives, and open up space for intense joy instead. Life goes on when our loved ones die, and the best remedy for grief is to embrace life.