How do you say goodbye to friends, your family, your 4-year-old daughter when you know you’re going to die before you’re 40? Hopefully it’s something most of us never have to face but US mum Heather McManamy did. And the way she chose to do it is very possibly the most honest, the most heartbreaking – and the most uplifting – thing we’ve ever seen.
Heather (pictured above, with her daughter Brianna) died, from cancer, last week at the age of 36. And in her final weeks, she wrote a funny, spirited and searingly direct ‘goodbye’ letter for her husband Jeff to post on Facebook after her death – so her friends and family would know how she’d like them to talk about her, and her death, to her 4-year-old daughter.
Her words have touched the hearts of many the world over: the post has already been liked over 10,000 times and shared by more than 3,000 people.
Heather starts her letter as she means to go on: straight to the point, with a definite smile in her words…
“So…I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is, apparently, I’m dead. Good news, if you’re reading this, is that you are most definitely not (unless they have wifi in the afterlife).”
Hello all,I am posting this on behalf of the love of my life. These are her words. Much love to all. – Jeff…
But it’s the next bit that makes you stop in your tracks. And, whether you, like Heather, are not religious or whether you do believe in a God, her words touch your heart – and make you think how important it is that everyone knows how you’d like your child to remember you, and think about you now you’ve gone. Because words matter, especially to a child, and how some people talk about death is maybe not how you’d choose to – or choose for your child to hear.
“Whatever religion brings you comfort,” writes Heather, “I am happy that you have that. However, respect that we are not religious. Please, please, please do not tell Brianna that I am in heaven. In her mind, that means that I chose to be somewhere else and left her.
“In reality, I did everything I could to be here with her, as there is nowhere, NOWHERE, I would rather be than with her and Jeff. Please don’t confuse her and let her think for one second that is not true.
“Because I am not in heaven. I’m here. But no longer in the crappy body that turned against me. My energy, my love, my laughter, those incredible memories, it’s all here with you.”
And Heather has some stuff she wants Brianna to hear – about how being a mum changed and enriched her in ways she’d never anticipated.
“Please tell Brianna stories, so she knows how much I love her and how proud of her I will always be (and make me sound waaay cooler than I am). Because I love nothing more than being her mommy. Nothing. Every moment with her was a happiness I couldn’t even imagine until she came crashing into our world.”
Heather sprinkles the rest of her letter with words of love for her husband – “I love you, Jeff. I believe that the awesomeness that is Brianna is our love brought to life, which is pretty beautiful” – and with instructions to her friends to have a “kickass party” in her honour “to celebrate the beauty of life”.
And then she ends with, “Please do me a favour and take a few minutes each day to acknowledge the fragile adventure that is this crazy life. Don’t ever forget: every day matters.”