His Dad is dying from the coronavirus. So, he asked people for advice on their final conversations.

Nearly all of us will at some point experience the loss of our parents. It's a feeling nothing can really prepare you for. All too often that loss comes at an unexpected time when we're either physically away or emotionally distant from those who brought us into this world and raised us.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced billions of people around the world to contemplate their own mortality and those closest to them in ways many probably never have. One new example from Reddit is both tragic and an uplifting roadmap for anyone who has an aging parent where the time they have left together will soon come to a close.


Posting in the relationship advice subreddit, one user shared the painful news that his elderly father has been hospitalized with the coronavirus, a diagnosis that is likely to prove fatal:

"My dad is 77 and has a compromised immune system (he's been on prednisone, an immunosuppressant, for a rarer form of vasculitis, which has affected his lungs.) It's quite likely he will die. We've had a rocky relationship in the past (typical Asian dad not getting along with/opening up to his Asian-American son) and I'm worried that he'll die before I really got a chance to ever get to know him. What are good things I could try to talk to him about this week while I have time?"

The question instantly resonated with readers, generating over 15,000 up votes and more than 1,000 comments in the first few hours after it was posted. Now, one of the things about anonymous subreddit questions or life stories is that they rarely are verified. And while this is no exception, the response from readers is really applicable to anyone who has an aging parent that is still able to communicate with their child or children but may not be able to do so for much longer.

If you are in this position or just curious what people think about doing with precious time with those closest to them, here are some of the best responses:

I " interviewed" my father in law about 2 weeks before the cancer took him. I asked him his favorite stories about his kids, his favorite various things, his hopes for his 3 kids... I wrote down what he said for my husband and his 2 sisters. I completely forgot about that until I read this post. I need to dig out that notebook. OP- i'm so sorry your family is going through this. I hope you're able to find peace with your father. God speed.

The concept of interviewing one's parents or grandparents and saving that interview (especially on video) is an idea that really resonated with readers. Other readers said they were told by nursing home and hospice professionals that asking someone to talk about their life story can often have a therapeutic effect on the person as they make the final adjustments toward the end of their own life. Capturing their story in their own voice could turn out to be an invaluable gift to the people receiving that information as well as the person being asked to share it.


Photo by Denis Agati on


Another commenter suggested keeping things in a realistic perspective. It will be a powerful moment but as the father and son had a distant and often strained relationship, it's better to not expect some Hollywood moment:

"You can't redefine or really deeply mend a relationship like that in a week with mortality looming. Focus on the good that you have, /u/throwRA-230s8s97d, without trying to suppress the bad. But maybe you can learn some things about your dad you didn't know before that help you understand the bad parts and contextualize them and help you understand your father as a complete human being. I'm sorry you're going through this, I know it's not easy."


Photo by Jordan Whitt on U


Several commenters jumped in with specific questions, all of which were valuable. Here was one set of possible questions that people seemed to really agree are worth asking and knowing:

Here's the list of questions we waited too long to ask my boyfriends mom before she passed:

Tell me about the sweetest thing (wife) ever did for you

What's your funniest memory of (grandkids)?

What's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for you

What are your hopes and dreams for your kids?

Tell me about a time that you felt the most free?

How do you want the family to celebrate your birthday every year?

What are you most proud of?

They say that life is all about the little things – what are some of your favorite little things?

What advice do you have for me?

What's your favorite thing about your children?

What's the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?


Photo by Harli Marten on


And lastly, another commenter made the excellent suggestion of not trying to cram all of the questions into one sitting. Time is short and there's certainly so much he want to know about his Dad but giving a small break between conversations and perhaps even revisiting a few could prove valuable:

"This is a great idea. And OP, consider asking him on at least 2 separate occasions if at all possible. You know how sometimes you get asked a question and it's only hours later you think of something much more interesting you could have replied with? You could give him a chance to say more of what's on his mind that way."

As we collectively cope with the coronavirus at home and around the world, now is a great time to reach out to those you love and maybe even those you miss - those unforgotten folks who have slipped out of our lives. Use this tragic moment for something of purpose, listen, share and collect it all for the future. You never know whose life it could change for the better.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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