This is something that no one likes to talk about. Terminal illness can be one of the most stressful and devastating things to watch a person go through. Perhaps it goes without saying that it is much worse for the person who is sick, and that generally necessitates that you be there for them. Most people want to offer some sort of gesture to show their concern and support, but they’re typically so overwhelmed that the most effort they’re willing to put in to buying a gift is a trip to the hospital gift shop. Understandably so. Most would naturally feel like they have more important things to be thinking about.

Of course, in spite of the fact that it seems trivial, a gift can truly be important to a sick or declining individual. We often times can become so entrenched in the more objective and medical side of things that we forget how important a patient’s feelings are to their recovery. The fact is that a person who doesn’t want to die is less likely to die than a person who does want to die; similarly, a person who believes they can get well is more likely to become healthy than a person who believes they will die.

What I’ve tried to do here is compile a list of gifts that go the extra mile to inspire your terminal loved one. Particularly things of significance across a few cultures that promote health, good luck and, most important of all to your loved on, good vibes.


An ancient Japanese legend says that anybody who folds 1,000 origami cranes (referred to as senbazuru when all grouped together) will have a wish granted by a crane, typically in the form of good luck or a recovery from illness. In some versions of the legend the person making the wish must fold all 1,000 of the cranes themselves. I like to think though that the crane in question would not mind if you bought your loved one some origami paper and helped them for a little while.

Prayer Flags

You may have seen these around before in spite of their distant origins in Tibet nearly a thousand years ago. Typically a set of prayer flags consists of five square, differently colored flags. Each flag has over 400 sutras printed on it (typically via woodblock printing), each devoted to a different deity. The thought is that if the prayer flags are hung in a high up place then as they become faded and weathered their sutras permanently become a part of the universe, thereby spreading good will for everybody. It’s a great way to promote positive vibes and they are beautiful decoration as well.

Dream Catcher

This one isn’t all too unfamiliar to most in the US, especially if you live in the rockies. If you aren’t familiar with the legend, you should know that it’s a native american legend and you would do well not to further mis-appropriate this (many people hang them from their rear-view mirrors or on walls as decorative pieces). The legend goes that a woman once stopped her son from swatting a spider on the wall who was spinning her web above where the woman slept. When the boy left the spider revealed that it could talk and desired to repay the woman for her kindness. She left her web for the old woman to keep over her head when she slept, explaining that bad dreams will become entangled in it and that only her good dreams would be remembered. This gift is particularly great for anxious children and is a symbol of good luck.

By all means, if you like to keep things simple then do. We don’t all have to be Patch Adams and not all of us can be anyway. Not that folding an origami crane makes you Patch Adams, but it will likely be a welcome refrain from all the worry. Unless you’re a doctor this is the most that you can do sometimes. And that’s OK! You’re helping much more than you know by just being present. We need to de-stress and de-compress in order for our bodies to be healthy. If you can provide that opportunity to do so then you don’t need Patch Adams.