Dear Barb—Last Visits

Dear Barb:

My sister-in-law has just been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and only has weeks left to live.  The dilemma I am having is whether I should try to see her before she passes.  She has always lived a couple of hours away and has not been close to her family.  My husband—her brother—has not been close to her and she never seemed to want to change that.  He only saw her once a year and we never felt welcomed at her home.  When she would come to her parent’s home for a visit she only stayed for a short time and would not engage with anyone.  She just sat with her husband and was very quiet.  My husband and I would like to see her, but we don’t know whether that is something she would want.  We don’t want to make her uncomfortable in her final days, but we don’t want to have regrets either.  Her parents are not in good health, so they will not be able to see her.  I personally feel we should see her, but my husband is not sure what to do.  What do you think we should do, visit her or just let it be? Thanks, Katherine. 

Hello Katherine:

I am sorry for what you have to go through.  Often people’s feelings change when they are approaching death.  She may want to see her family to make amends and achieve peace before leaving this world.  I would suggest you talk to her husband about how he feels.  He is the closest person to her and would be most aware of her desires at this point in her life.

If her husband says she would not like visitors, I guess you will have to decide whether you still want to visit despite how she may not want visitors.  I personally feel it is important to have that closure, and depending on her condition she may not be aware of your presence, but you will still be able to say good bye.  We are all most vulnerable at the end of our lives and we often have regrets about things that we did or actions that were taken or not taken.  There is no point in hanging on to past feelings; find peace with your loved one’s passing.  Her husband may say that she is open to seeing family and you and your husband will be able to have a visit and share loving, caring feelings with your loved one.  This final visit will bring peace to everyone, and I do hope you and your husband will be able to achieve this.

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