Help me say the right thing!
December 17, 2010 5:02 AM   Subscribe

I need help coming up with something gracious to write on the 90th birthday card for someone who definitely won't make it to his 91st birthday.

We've been invited to the 90th birthday party for my MIL's boyfriend. We have a nice gift for him (a highly-rated and newly-released classical CD, which he should love), but are hung up on the issue of a card to accompany the gift. It seems that a blank card or a note would probably be best, but I'm stumped at what to write in it. Our relationship has always been cordial, although my husband and I are not especially close to him. He has cancer and just entered hospice; no one (including him) expects him to live much longer, so this party may well be the last time we see him. I want the written message to be just right. Ideas?
posted by DrGail to Human Relations (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Tell him what every person wants to hear, dying or otherwise: that your life has been enriched in some way for having known him.
posted by The White Hat at 5:14 AM on December 17, 2010 [8 favorites]

"Congratulations on 90 wonderful years--our lives have been better for knowing you" or something to that effect?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:19 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Have a very happy birthday"? This doesn't seem so hard.
posted by amro at 5:41 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Maybe you're hung up on expecting it to be some kind of valediction. This isn't the place. As others have said, say what you would say normally. "Happy birthday - I appreciate the love you've shown MrDrGail's mother" or words to that effect.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:44 AM on December 17, 2010

prolly "we", not "I," but you get the gist.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:45 AM on December 17, 2010

what everyone else has said. Or if you really want to avoid anything close to the topic, make the card about the gift. "We saw this and knew you would appreciate it! We hope we were right! Enjoy, and happy birthday!"
posted by Windigo at 5:53 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're somehow wrong and they make it to 91, you're going to look like a really big ass. So just write a birthday wish and be done. If nothing else it avoids the thought that you're waiting for him to die.
posted by theichibun at 6:13 AM on December 17, 2010

I agree with the above - just make it about the birthday and not anything else. "Best wishes on your 90th birthday"? And I really like "Congratulations on 90 wonderful years" above as well.
posted by pemberkins at 6:17 AM on December 17, 2010

My friends and I are always writing stuff like what Admiral Haddock suggested in cards to each other. We've all been through a lot together and have had serious losses in our lives, so we make sure we all know we appreciate each other, every day. For one of us to write, "Happy Birthday! My life is better because you've been in it," wouldn't be unusual and none of us are in hospice.
posted by cooker girl at 6:20 AM on December 17, 2010

I think you have a wonderful opportunity here on his birthday to let your mother in law's boyfriend know how much he means to you. Even if you and your husband are not particularly close perhaps you could write about the good memories you have had without without seeming maudlin or overly "you're gonna die soon!!!".

More important than the card, probably, is making this gentleman happy on his last birthday.
posted by amicamentis at 6:28 AM on December 17, 2010

Not "OMG, sorry about the cancer!" It's a birthday party, not a wake. Something light. "I'm sorry I missed your first 89 birthdays. Let's try to make up for it on your 90th!" And bring 90 of something you can share with everyone, or a 90 proof liquor, something like that.

But when you're there, listen to everything he says and let him know you've heard him and will remember him. It's one of his last chances to express himself.
posted by pracowity at 6:29 AM on December 17, 2010

My dad recently died at age 82, and one of the things that was really awesome about his last years was how open people were about sharing how much he had meant in their lives.

So please take this opportunity to do this. It doesn't have to be a whole eulogy, but just saying a little something about something you've learned from him, or enjoyed with him, or something you admire about him will really mean a lot.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:37 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

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