In a training I took on the intricacies of the care of the dying, one of the teachers was Dr. Ira Byock, who has written a marvelously helpful book called, The Four Things That Matter Most. His words are filled with compassion and wisdom and the book is interesting to read for anyone who wants to complete some important work in this life. Dr. Byock gives instances from his own experiences as a hospice physician to many patients who resolved their issues with family and other loved ones at the end of their lives.
Dr. Byock has found, after many fulfilling years of serving as a hospice physician, that there are five (no, this is not a typo) essential things to say to those you love during your life: Please forgive me, I forgive you, Thank you, and I love you. For those about to cross over, a fifth is added: Goodbye. Dr. Byock urges people not to wait until you are terminally ill to say these things to your friends or family—do it now. Alas, sadly, most people do not, and these things left undone can contribute to a difficult dying process.
Dr. Byock revealed he really wanted the book to be titled, The Five Things That Matter Most, but the editors disagreed (and obviously won the argument) because they felt if “Goodbye” was added, this marvelous little tome would be shelved under the category of death and dying in bookstores and would be essentially forgotten or overlooked. It saddens me that our American culture is so frightened by the thought of death and dying that we try to avoid the subject at all costs.
I encourage you to pick up this book, read it, and say the four things that matter the most to those in your lives. Don’t wait until you have received bad news to have these conversations. Truly they can be life-changing. If there are one or two people you think of and feel some resistance in your heart, these are probably the ones you should target first!