Saying goodbye can be an art form. True, many of us might not possess the eloquence displayed within these “10 Farewell Letters That Will Move You to Tears,” but that’s okay. These goodbye letters were written by people from all walks of life and can serve as a template for the rest of us. They might even inspire you to pen your own goodbye letters to those you love before the moment comes to pass.
1. Sullivan Ballou’s Goodbye Letter to His Wife
Although it was never mailed, it was discovered in his trunk following his death and delivered to his grateful wife by Governor Sprague.
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days – perhaps tomorrow. And lest I should not be able to write you again I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I am no more. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing – perfectly willing – to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but omnipotence can break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly with all those chains to the battlefield. The memory of all the blissful moments I have enjoyed with you come crowding over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you, that I have enjoyed them for so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes and future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and see our boys grown up to honorable manhood around us. If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name… Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have sometimes been!…
But, O Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be with you, in the brightest day and in the darkest night… always, always. And when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath, or the cool air your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again…
2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Goodbye Letter to His Friends
The massive chemotherapy regimen he undertook saved him from bodily death but attacked his brain. This literary genius now has severe dementia that continues to worsen with time; something he would likely consider a fate worse than death.
If God, for a second, forgot what I have become and granted me a little bit more of life, I would use it to the best of my ability. I wouldn’t possibly say everything that is in my mind, but I would be more thoughtful of all I say.
I would give merit to things not for what they are worth, but for what they mean to express. I would sleep little, I would dream more, because I know that for every minute that we close our eyes, we waste 60 seconds of light. I would walk while others stop; I would awake while others sleep.
If God would give me a little bit more of life, I would dress in a simple manner. I would place myself in front of the sun, leaving not only my body, but my soul naked at its mercy. To all men I would say how mistaken they are when they think that they stop falling in love when they grow old, without knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love.
I would give wings to children, but I would leave it to them to learn how to fly by themselves. To old people I would say that death doesn’t arrive when they grow old, but with forgetfulness.
I have learned so much with you all, I have learned that everybody wants to live on top of the mountain, without knowing that true happiness is obtained in the journey taken and the form used to reach the top of the hill. I have learned that when a newborn baby holds, with its little hand, his father’s finger, it has trapped him for the rest of his life. I have learned that a man has the right and obligation to look down at another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground.
Say always what you feel, not what you think. If I knew that today is the last time that I am going to see you asleep, I would hug you with all my strength and I would pray to the Lord to let me be the guardian angel of your soul. If I knew that these are the last moments to see you, I would say “I love you”. There is always tomorrow, and life gives us another opportunity to do things right; but in case I am wrong, and today is all that is left to me, I would love to tell you how much I love you and that I will never forget you.
Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old. Today could be the last time to see your loved ones, which is why you mustn’t wait; do it today, in case tomorrow never arrives. I am sure you will be sorry you wasted the opportunity today to give a smile, a hug, a kiss, and that you were too busy to grant them their last wish.
Keep your loved ones near you; tell them in their ears and to their faces how much you need them and love them. Love them and treat them well; take your time to tell them “I am sorry”; “forgive me”, “please”, “thank you”, and all those loving words you know.
Nobody will know you for your secret thought. Ask the Lord for wisdom and strength to express them. Show your friends and loved ones how important they are to you.
Send this letter to those you love. If you don’t do it today…tomorrow will be like yesterday; and if you never do it, it doesn’t matter, either, the moment to do it is now.
For you, with much love,
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
3. Captain Robert Scott’s Goodbye Letter to His Wife
His salutation says so much.
To my widow. Dearest darling. It is not easy to write because of the cold – 70 degrees below zero and nothing but the shelter of our tent… We are in a very tight corner and I have doubts of pulling through. In our short lunch hours, I take advantage of a very small measure of warmth to write letters preparatory to a possible end. If anything happens to me, I should like you to know how much you have meant to me. I must write a little letter for the boy if time can be found to be read when he grows up. Dearest that you know I cherish no sentimental rubbish about remarriage. When the right man comes to help you in life, you ought to be your happy self again. Make the boy interested in natural history if you can. It is better than games. Try to make him believe in a God; it is comforting.
Oh my dear, my dear, what dreams I had of his future and yet, oh my girl, I know you will face it stoically – your portrait and the boy’s will be found in my breast. What lots and lots I could tell you of this journey. What tales you would have for the boy, but, oh, what a price to pay. To forfeit the sight of your dear, dear face. I think the best chance has gone. We have decided not to kill ourselves but to fight it to the last for that depot but in the fighting there is a painless end so don’t worry.
True to his wishes, Kathleen remarried and became a baroness. Scott’s son became a distinguished ornithologist.
4. Milada Horáková’s Farewell Letters to Her Family
She was tortured repeatedly, yet stayed steadfast in her denial of the legality of the Communist regime. She was trialed and sentenced to death by hanging.
The day before her impending death, Horáková wrote three farewell letters: one to her mother-in-law, one to her husband and one to her 16-year-old daughter, Jana (a portion thereof, below):
The reason was not that I loved you little; I love you just as purely and fervently as other mothers love their children. But I understood that my task here in the world was to do you good … by seeing to it that life becomes better, and that all children can live well. … Don’t be frightened and sad because I am not coming back any more. Learn, my child, to look at life early as a serious matter. Life is hard, it does not pamper anybody, and for every time it strokes you it gives you ten blows. Become accustomed to that soon, but don’t let it defeat you. Decide to fight.
Jana accepted the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom Award from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation on behalf of her mother at the Czech Embassy in November, 2006.
5. Mary Queen of Scots Goodbye Letter to Henri III, King of France
A mere six hours before she was to face the guillotine, Mary wrote a farewell letter to her brother-in-law, Henri III, the King of France.
Tonight, after dinner, I have been advised of my sentence: I am to be executed like a criminal at eight in the morning. I have not had time to give you a full account of everything that has happened, but if you will listen to my doctor and my other unfortunate servants, you will learn the truth, and how, thanks be to God, I scorn death and vow that I meet it innocent of any crime, even if I were their subject. The Catholic faith and the assertion of my God-given right to the English crown are the two issues on which I am condemned, and yet I am not allowed to say that it is for the Catholic religion that I die, but for fear of interference with theirs. The proof of this is that they have taken away my chaplain, and although he is in the building, I have not been able to get permission for him to come and hear my confession and give me the Last Sacrament, while they have been most insistent that I receive the consolation and instruction of their minister, brought here for that purpose. The bearer of this letter and his companions, most of them your subjects, will testify to my conduct at my last hour. It remains for me to beg Your Most Christian Majesty, my brother-in-law and old ally, who have always protested your love for me, to give proof now of your goodness on all these points: firstly by charity, in paying my unfortunate servants the wages due them – this is a burden on my conscience that only you can relieve: further, by having prayers offered to God for a queen who has borne the title Most Christian, and who dies a Catholic, stripped of all her possessions. As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him. I have taken the liberty of sending you two precious stones, talismans against illness, trusting that you will enjoy good health and a long and happy life. Accept them from your loving sister-in-law, who, as she dies, bears witness of her warm feeling for you. Again I commend my servants to you. Give instructions, if it please you, that for my soul’s sake part of what you owe me should be paid, and that for the sake of Jesus Christ, to whom I shall pray for you tomorrow as I die, I be left enough to found a memorial mass and give the customary alms. Wednesday, at two in the morning.
Your most loving and most true sister
Mary’s decapitation was not quick and painless. It took several strikes to accomplish the deed. On the first attempt, the blade missed her neck and struck her head, at which point her servants believed they’d hear her whisper, “Sweet Jesus.”
When the decapitation was finally complete, the executioner lifted Mary’s head to show the crowd, only to have her wig come off in his hand and her head roll across the floor.
6. Melissa Nathan’s Farewell Letter to Her Family
A highly popular comical romance novelist from the UK, Melissa Nathan, initially learned of her breast cancer diagnosis in 2001. She died in 2006 at the age of 37, when her little boy had just turned three.
First, to my wonderful parents. You have given me a life suffused with love, support and friendship. I have been lucky enough to see eye to eye with you both, and look up to you at the same time. Please never feel that I have had a hard life. I have had 37 wonderful years, and I’m grateful to you both for giving me that. I am happy and at peace. My wonderful Andrew. I respect you as much as I love you, and that is saying something. You, of all people I know, will get through this. After all, you’ve got through nearly 12 years of marriage with me, and that’s no easy feat. I have been so lucky to know you. You have been my steady rock, my gentle giant, my best friend, my everything. I wish you a happy life, full of love and joy. And my amazing Sammy. I wanted to know you for longer, my love, but it wasn’t to be. Still, at only three years old, you have already left an imprint on my heart that will go with me, wherever it is I’m going. Motherhood made my life worthwhile. And you gave me that. What does a mother wish for her son? I wish you happiness. You have a wonderful daddy and a family who adores you. Go into the world knowing that while you were everything to your mother, you won’t have to deal with an annoying woman who can’t stop kissing you when you’re 15. I will be in the sky kissing you from afar.
7. Jacob Vowell’s Goodbye Letter to His Family
Jacob and other miners wrote farewell letters to their families as they awaited the moment when their life-giving oxygen would run out completely.
Ellen, darling, goodbye for us both. Elbert said the Lord has saved him. Do the best you can with the children. We are all praying for air to support us, but it is getting so bad without any air. Horace, Elbert said for you to wear his shoes and clothing. It is now 1/2 past 1:00. Powell Harmon’s watch is in Andy Woods’ hand. Ellen, I want you to live right and come to heaven. Little Elbert said he trusted in the Lord. The bad air is closing in on us fast. Dear Ellen, I leave you in bad condition, but set your trust in the Lord to help you raise my little children. Elbert said for you all to meet him in heaven, for all of the children to meet us both. Raise the children the best you can. Oh how I wish to be with you. Goodbye, all of you, Goodbye. Bury me and Elbert in the same grave by little Eddie. Goodbye Ellen, Goodbye Lillie, Goodbye Jimmie, Goodbye Minnie, Goodbye Horace. Oh God, for one more breath. Ellen, remember me as long as you live. Goodbye darling. It is 25 minutes after 2:00. There are few of us alive yet. Jake and Elbert.
8. Captain Kuno’s Farewell Letter to His Children
Dear Masanori and Kiyoko,
Even though you cannot see me, I will always be watching you. Obey your mother, and do not trouble her. When you grow up, follow a path you like and grow to be fine Japanese persons. Do not envy the father of others, since I will become a spirit and closely watch over you two. Both of you, study hard and help out your mother with work. I cannot be your horse to ride, but you two be good friends. I am an energetic person who flew a large bomber and finished off all the enemy. Please be persons who rise above me and so avenge my death.
9. Jack Trice’s Farewell Letter to Himself
During the first half, Trice’s collarbone was broken. He played on through the injury. In the third quarter, three Minnesota players threw him on the turf and stomped atop his body. He was sent to a hospital and deemed by doctor’s fine enough to travel back to Iowa.
Forty-eight-hours later, Trice was dead. His lungs had hemorrhaged and he had further internal bleeding as a result of the vicious and vile actions by the opposing team.
A letter that he’d written to himself on hotel stationary the night before the game was found in his jacket prior to his funeral.
My thoughts just before the first real college game of my life: The honor of my race, family & self is at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things. I will. My whole body and soul are to be thrown recklessly about the field tomorrow. Every time the ball is snapped, I will be trying to do more than my part. On all defensive plays I must break thru the opponents’ line and stop the play in their territory. Beware of mass interference. Fight low, with your eyes open and toward the play. Watch out for crossbacks and reverse end runs. Be on your toes every minute if you expect to make good.
Four thousand people attended Jack Trice’s funeral, and Iowa refused to play against Minnesota on the gridiron until 1989.
In 1997, Universities Cyclone Stadium was aptly renamed Jack Trice Stadium. Outside the stadium today stands a brilliant bronze statue of Trice. It depicts the trailblazer reading the letter he’d written to himself while sitting alone in his hotel room on the eve of that fateful game.
10. Valli Ollendorff’s Goodbye Letter to Her Son
Just two days prior to getting shipped off to a German concentration camp, Valli Ollendorff penned a farewell letter to her son, Ulrich, who had fled to the U.S. in 1938 (after Germans razed 191 synagogues).
His brothers and mother stayed in Germany, however, and in the early 1940s the brothers were murdered by Nazis.
Less than two months after penning her farewell to Ulrich, Valli died at the concentration camp. The farewell letter she wrote to her boy was not found until 1985. However, it was not made public until 1998 when Ulrich died.
The goodbye letter from a loving mother to her son has given hope and inspiration to many since it has been made public. It has also been featured in a book and a documentary film.
Tormensdorf – 24th day of August, 1942
My beloved, my good boy, within two days we are going away from here and the future lies so dark in front of us that the thought comes up that the new place will be the last one which we reach on our migration. And if you my boy will hold this letter in your hands, then we are not chased from place to place, then all the suffering will have an end. Also, the restlessness and peace will be around us and in us. Be happy that I have this rest and this peace, my good boy, and don’t be too sad.
Also, you, my beloved boy, can carry the knowledge through your life that you through all your life were a source of purest joy for your parents… I wish your life will go from success to success, my beloved boy, and that you stay so good, so modest, and so grateful for all the good and beautiful things like you did already as a child. We wish for you to have with your child as much joy as we had with you. May the blessings, which I pray for you, come true.
The fact that I could not be a witness to your life in America was much more sad for me than you believed it my boy. All your letters born by a deep child’s love called me to you and the joy of seeing you again, and the echo of the longing, and the possibility of living with you caused that I did all that was necessary to come to you. Also, today I repeat to you and I know that you will understand me, I was and I am daily happy even longing very much for you and your life.
However, fate did not let me go. And now my beloved boy, I will take leave from you. I will thank you a thousand times for all the love, for all the gratitude, for all the joy and sunshine which you brought into your father’s and my life, starting from the day of your birth. May the memory of your parent’s house and your childhood shine like a bright lucky star over you, my beloved, good, precious boy.