DEAR ABBY: I have enjoyed a good life. I have served my community. I have a wonderful wife, great children and good friends. However, it now appears that the disease that has been kept at bay has progressed, and soon my days will end. I have accepted my impending death as best one can, and let few people know of it.
I would like to thank all the wonderful people who have been an important part of my life over the years, and I'm wondering how that might be accomplished. I do not want to make them sad or receive condolences. I simply want them to know they were an important part of my life for which I am truly grateful.
I considered a party, but wondered if that might seem morbid. Letters seem too distant, and phone calls would be hard on me.
While my death sentence is firm, and it will be soon, the exact date is impossible to know. Few of these people are aware that I am seriously ill, although I have been hospitalized many times.
Can you give me some suggestions to show my appreciation? -- ON THE WAY OUT IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR ON THE WAY OUT: While goodbyes can be sad, your farewell party need not be morbid -- particularly if you and your wife make it a celebration of life and let your guests know it in advance. If you're afraid that saying what's in your heart to each person individually will be emotionally draining, then deliver a speech or videotape one to be played at the event.
While reading your letter, I am reminded of a friend, Judith, whom I lost several years ago. Judith had battled cancer for 12 years. After she had completed yet another round of chemo, some of her women friends gathered for a potluck luncheon at her place. The wine was poured and we all glanced at each other, worried that toasting "health" might seem inappropriate. Sensing the hesitation, Judy raised her glass and announced, "To life!" And that, my friend, is exactly what your party should be all about.