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Don't Say Sorry (It's Not Your Fault)

John is a poet, short fiction, and freelance writer who also trained in home ministry and Bible study.


In Life and Death.

First let me just say, this poem is not about me. I have not been told by the doctor that I have some in curable disease and only a limited time to live. This is not my goodbye message to you my Hubber friends, so please breath a sigh of relief.

What inspired me to write a poem on such a depressing subject you may ask?

Well, my wife and I were at a craft group we attend twice a month and the conversation among the group turned to funeral insurance and whether it was a good idea. One thing led to another and the subject of death came up. The question was asked, "If you were told you had a terminal illness that wasn't immediately obvious, would you tell everyone you knew or keep it quiet for as long as possible?"

One woman, who is widowed, said her husband only told her and their children that he had cancer. He made them promise not to tell anyone else until the very last. He didn't want people to start treating him differently or feeling sorry for him. They respected his wishes until he had to leave work due to his illness when it was impossible to hide it.

She said that after the fist couple of weeks of people phoning or coming around to say they were "sorry", his friends just stopped coming. They felt uncomfortable and didn't know what to say. His fears were founded. He just wanted to be treated the same way he always had and talk about football, car racing and the like. Instead he was treated like a leper, as if his condition was catching.

My wife had recently gone through a similar situation with her younger sister unexpectedly being diagnosed with a brain tumour and only being given a month to live. She had an operation to remove most of the tumour, but it was only to give her an extra few weeks to say her goodbyes.

The operation took away her long term memory, and she couldn't remember any bad things from her past. This may a good way to be for your last few weeks on Earth, but it was also an opportunity for people who had treated her badly or not spoken to her for years to come and say goodbye without having to apologise for their past actions...because she couldn't remember! The one's who should have said sorry...never had to.

Although we don't really know how we'd feel until we are in this situation, the general consensus was that we would all prefer to keep it quiet except within our immediate families for as long as possible. My wife said she didn't want people saying "sorry" to her, when they hadn't done anything wrong and her condition wasn't their fault. I agreed as did most others that we didn't want to be treated differently and pitied if we were dying. In that situation you want your thoughts to be distracted from your condition and to talk about good times and more pleasant things.

The following poem is the result of that conversation.


Don't Say Sorry.

There is something

I need to say,

Please don't treat me

any other way.

The doctor called me

up last week.

"Please come and see me,

we need to speak."

"Your test came back,"

he said, so sad,

"Sir, you have cancer

and the prognosis is bad."

His serious tone

hit me like a brick.

This couldn't be happening,

I didn't feel sick.

I sat there in silence,

then managed to speak,

"How long have I got,

A month, or a week?"


It's hard to determine,

it's a matter of chance.

You may have a year,

but it's very advanced.

I told all my family,

they took it quite bad.

I tried to act positive,

because they were so sad.

I'm still the same person

you've laughed with, and cried,

so show me respect,

I haven't yet died.

I've come to accept it,

it's useless to worry.

But all that I ask,

is please don't say sorry.

This song uses the words "Don't Say You're Sorry" in a different context, but powerfully all the same.


© 2014 John Hansen

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