Five Things To Say to a Loved One Before Death

My mother died from ALS ten years ago on June 11, 2008 (which also happens to be my wedding anniversary). Lots has happened in life since then and I sometimes wonder how my mom would respond if she knew all that happened in my life. I can see the shock on her face when she learns I have five kids and got a PhD — a couple of the many things that she probably never expected to occur in my life. I’m guessing she would be surprised in a good way.

ALS is a nasty neurological disease which slowly causes a person to become paralyzed. Death occurs when an individual loses the ability to breath. I wanted to be intentional with the limited amount of time remaining with my mom. I spent two weeks of concentrated time with her, asked her dozens of questions about her faith and life, and then recorded them in a book for the Mulvihill family. The book has been a blessing for my children as a way to learn about their grandmother.

I also wanted to make sure our relationship ended with no regrets and in a great place. My mom and I had a strong relationship, but I had heard stories from numerous friends who had relational regrets with a parent who died and I didn’t want to be one of those individuals. I spent some time developing a list of five things that must be said before my mom died:

  • I love you
  • Please forgive me
  • I forgive you
  • Thank you
  • Goodbye

Just reading the list brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. I had some sweet moments with my mom that strengthened an already strong relationship. Good gave me the opportunity to whisper goodbye in her ear the morning she died. I am grateful that God gave me the time to have these conversations with my mom and write this to encourage you to consider if there is anyone in your life, sick or healthy, that needs to hear one or more of these things from you?

2 replies
  1. mnfarmwife
    mnfarmwife says:

    This article is beautiful. My mom passed away suddenly, almost 11 years ago, so there was no time to say goodbye. My dad passed away 1 year and 17 days later. I’ve often thought of the spiritual encouragement I could have given my dad in his last days even though he was not able to respond at the end. Thank you for sharing your experience. God bless you and your family. I recently listened to you on Family Life Today and was blessed by it.

  2. Linda Moran
    Linda Moran says:

    Hi Josh, Just heard your podcast on Family Life Today, it was great! Thank you for sharing this story. Tatiana and I were just in Colorado with my mother for the past 10 days. After a horrible fall and surgery she is still struggling to recover. I wanted to make a point to spend time with her while she was still of sound mind. I was able to tell her I love her, that I did forgive her, that it was okay to go home to Jesus, that she is loved by Him completely and that we will be okay without her and she can let go if she wants. It was so very hard to see her in such pain, she was crying out to Jesus to let her die. We read scripture to her, we prayed over her and with her. We sang worship songs and just sat with her, we posted bible verses all over her room and Tatiana was able to play her flute for her (in person). As difficult as this trip was I know we will never regret this time. We did have to come back home and now I am not sure I will ever see her this side of heaven again but I know I she knows how much we love her. It was a heartbreaking time, so bittersweet, yet I know we shared the love of Jesus not only to my mom but to the staff at the hospital and hotel as well. I thank God for this time we had with mom and I look forward to the day we see each other in heaven. Looking forward to listening to tomorrow’s podcast, love your message, we need to get this out to the masses!


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