'Please Don't Tell My Child I'm In Heaven': Dying Mom Pens Extraordinary Goodbye

by Ashley Austrew

This mom’s moving posthumous goodbye letter has gone viral.

A 36-year-old woman who recently passed away from metastatic cancer did something a lot of people do: she wrote a heartfelt goodbye to her loved ones, along with some instructions for how to help her young daughter cope. It’s the refreshingly honest and beautiful things she said in that letter that are taking the internet by surprise.

On December 15, Heather McManamy’s husband, Jeff, shared a letter his late wife had penned to her loved ones. It starts out with a blunt truth: “I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is, apparently, I’m dead.”

From there, McManamy explains that even though what’s happened to her “sucks beyond words,” she’s lived a life full of love, joy, and amazing friends. She thanks her loved ones for their support, gives a shoutout to her doctors and nurses, and writes beautiful words to her husband — “the love of my life and my best friend” — about the ten years they spent together. Most striking, though, are the instructions she leaves for how to talk to her four-year-old daughter, Brianna, about her death. She writes:

“Whatever religion brings you comfort, 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.”

It’s a portion of the letter that punches me in the gut because, were I in McManamy’s shoes, I would say the same thing.

Heaven is almost universally accepted as an idea that’s soothing, but too often we forget that not everyone is a believer and not everyone takes comfort in thinking of their loved ones as being somewhere else. In trying to help kids cope with loss, it’s so important to take that into consideration, and it’s amazing that McManamy laid it out, point blank, to spare her daughter the sometimes insensitive things people say about heaven and God and being in a “better place.”

McManamy finishes her letter with wit and candor, writing, “If you go to my funeral, please run up a bar tab that would make me proud.” She adds, “I look forward to haunting each one of you,” and ends her goodbye with this moving request:

“Please do me a favor and take a few minutes each day to acknowledge the fragile adventure that is this crazy life. Don’t ever forget: every day matters.”

Since it was posted, her letter has been shared almost 2,000 times by people who are in awe of her honesty, her sense of humor, and her incredible spirit. Her bluntness in talking about cancer and her personal beliefs is powerful, and it’s refreshing to see someone tackle such difficult topics in such a matter-of-fact way.

McManamy’s words are such a gift, even to strangers, and there’s no doubt in my mind that she led an incredible life. May her loved ones find strength and joy in the beautiful message she left behind.