Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I am writing this letter to you with a broken heart, caught in the middle of a bitter and impossible situation. I have been sworn to secrecy by my husband but I can’t deal with this anymore. You see, my husband has been diagnosed with late stage cancer and has only a few more months to live. He had been ill with a constant cough for over a year but refused to go to the doctor. Three months ago he started spitting up blood and finally agreed to see a doctor and get tested. The diagnosis was grim, late stage lung cancer, his heavy smoking had finally caught up with him and there was little they could do but give him pills for the pain and suggested he get his affairs in order and surround himself with family and friends. And herein lies the problem.


My husband has been alienated from our three grown children for the past fifteen years. There has been much bad blood between him and them since they took over the family business under duress, because my husband couldn’t work anymore as his illness progressed. He would fight with them about the business decisions they made, often without consulting him, and it got to a point where he virtually disowned them, wouldn’t be present when they came over with their wives and children to visit in the hopes of making peace with him. He would lock himself away in his study, not caring that his grandchildren were there, or that he was being totally unreasonable. After a while my kids gave up on him and the visits became few and far between. So many things missed, births, birthdays and graduations where only I attended, and soon our eldest grandchild’s wedding.

After we got the news about the state of his health and the short time he had left, I thought for sure he would come to his senses and tell the kids he had only a short time left and wanted to reconcile and spend the last days catching up with them. No such luck! Instead, he swore me to secrecy and forbade me to tell them anything. I can’t bare the thought of what it will do to them when he passes and only then they find out that they were robbed of their ability to say goodbye to him. I know it would destroy them, and me too. I am so stressed out by all of these events and the burden of keeping his secret from the family is killing me too. Is there any way I can handle this so that there will be a peaceful resolution to all of this. My husband is a very stubborn man, more so now. If you can think of anything at all that might change the course of events in the next few months, as time is of the essence, I would be eternally grateful.


Dear Friend,

I was so sorry to hear of your situation and appreciate the gravity to find a solution with the shortness of time looming close. It seems that the layers of heartache and pain are so heavy and insurmountable, and rest on your shoulders alone. There are many questions here that have no answers, which leaves me at a disadvantage as to what to replay. What was the original issue which caused the rift between your children and their father? Why would your husband be so adverse as not to accept their apology, begging his forgiveness and pleas for reconciliation? And what was your role as peacemaker during this time?

I have a habit of reading and re-reading a letter quite a few times before I answer to the problems presented within and between the lines. Your letter took a lot longer because there was so much missing in the way of clarity and cause, that I am not sure how to advise you on it. What makes it harder is hearing that clock ticking in the not too distant future, leaving little time to bring about an amicable solution. So, please hear me out and understand that we will do the best we can, pending the circumstances at hand.

First thought that comes to mind is if your husband has a rav he respects or is close with who would be able to reach out to him and make suggestions he would accept and, perhaps, act on. Or even a close friend whom he has trust in and would accept advice from. It would mean your breaking your promise to your husband, which may involve some halachic clarifications, so speaking to a rav about this would sort of take the burden off of you.

From my personal standpoint, I truly believe it is important for your husband to make peace with his children before it is too late. I think in his heart of hearts he wants to but doesn’t want it to come because they pity him, he seems to be a very proud man. Therefore, I feel that if you can somehow talk to your children to make the first overture toward this and not give up so quickly, because no one knows when they will get the chance to do it again… maybe they will try harder to achieve it. You must also try, in a quiet moment, to explain to your husband that you know deep down inside himself he loves his children, reminisce about when they were young how life was, and slowly introduce the importance of telling him how much they love him and never meant to upset him.

I hope I have been able to give you some solace, as well as some ideas of how to navigate a peaceful reunion before time runs out. My wishes for success and peace are with you and should you need my voice, I will be glad to speak with your husband, should you find it helpful.


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