Culture

Doctor Suggests Writing Final Letter to Family and Friends While You're Still Healthy

When the day comes for each of us to say goodbye to this world, will we have had the opportunity to say what we always wanted to say to our loved ones? Some people get the opportunity to express their love or regret or pride when they know they will soon pass on. But not everyone has that ability or luxury. Dr. VJ Periyakoil from the Stanford Palliative Care Education & Training Program witnessed dying patients time and again, who expressed to her their thoughts and feelings — things that she knew their families needed to hear. As a result, she founded the Stanford Letter Project as a way for people to express their thoughts with those they love before it is too late.

Dr. Periyakoil writes:

The letter template, which is available in eight languages, allows writers to express gratitude, forgiveness and regret. In one letter, a participant wrote to his wife, Lily, “I wish I had loved you more.”

Many writers use the templates to express pride in their children in ways they might not do in person. One wrote to a son, Michael: “You are so courageous to change your major and do what it takes to be successful to reach your dreams.” Another wrote, “Life for us was never easy but you overcame obstacles.”

And some apologize. A man named Tyrone Scott wrote to his daughter, “I’m sorry that I wasn’t there when you were growing up. If I could relive my past, I would not have let your mother take you away from me.”

With the help of ill patients from various ethnic and racial backgrounds, the doctor developed several letter templates for people to choose from. These include the “Dear Friends and Family” template, as well as the illness letter and the healthy letter templates. Some people choose to write their letters now, while they are still healthy, and update them over the years. And while some give their letters directly to the people to whom they’re written, others put them somewhere (or with someone) for safe keeping until a later date.

When the time comes for you to pass on, will you have said your proper goodbyes? Check out the video below of people participating in the project.