My grandparents will be celebrating 65 years of marriage in a few months. The anniversary is celebrated with a big party for the extended family and my grandparents' friends.

Many of my grandparents' friends are old people (85+) with bad health conditions. We know of at least two friends with such a bad health, that they might not be alive in a few months.

My grandfather is not comfortable inviting his old friends that he knows are very sick. He fears an invitation will indicate a lack of understanding for their situation and/or remind them of their bad health and limitations.

My counter argument is that an invitation will make them feel remembered and loved, and that he is doing his friends a disservice by holding them in oblivion.

The truth is that I'm very unsure about how to handle this situation. My grandfather has known many people throughout his life that are now dead, and my experience with terminally ill people is non-existing.

I want to convince him that not ignoring his sick friends is the right thing to do, which is why I request your help in formulating an invitation.

Question: How can we frame an invitation to very sick people, taking their situation into account and imply that we know they can't go?

  • 2
    Are these people religious? Christian? I have some experience I could share, but it wouldn't be helpful if they're not Christians...
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 16:13
  • 13
    They are baptized but do not attend church services other than holidays. From a 1-10 scale I believe they are around 3. This level of religiousness (or the lack of) is normal in Scandinavia. Therefore a religious approach would not work. But feel free to suggest an invitation. It might be useful for other people in the same situation.
    – Vingtoft
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 16:18
  • 2
    It is their anniversary. Has your grandfather asked you for help in how to word the invitation given his concerns? You refer to "my party" and "I'm very unsure about how to handle this situation".
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 19:14
  • @Paparazzi As stated in the question: I want to convince him that he is making a mistake not inviting/recognizing sick friends by showing him how an invitation could look like. Thanks for pointing out the title is a bit misleading. I have changed it now.
    – Vingtoft
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 20:22
  • 2
    may be completely wrong here, but could it be that your grandparents don't actually want to have such a big party and are trying to - more or less artificially - limit the amount of people that can/will attend? Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 8:56

6 Answers 6


I've been the dying person (I got better, long story.) Trust me, inviting me to a party would not have "reminded me of my limitations." I already knew. It's more likely that I would be offended at having decisions made for me, as though I was no longer capable of that myself. (There were no family occasions I was excluded from in the bad months, in fact I hosted Thanksgiving which in retrospect was not super smart. Within less than 2 weeks I was hospitalized. But as a full grown adult, it was my choice.) Feeling excluded is certainly not the message you want to send, I'm sure.

If your grandfather worries that a preprinted invitation card with just their name on the front indicates a lack of understanding of their situation, then by all means add a handwritten note:

I know traveling (or leaving the house, or whatever) is hard for you. We would all love to see you and want to include you in this celebration. I hope it's possible!

Adjust the wording for the way your family talks to each other, but that's the general idea. If there's something practical you can do to help the person attend, add that too:

Susan will be coming from your town also and has offered to drive you if that makes things easier.


You're welcome to come the day before and stay over at our house

Also consider having a time at the party where you call people (video chat maybe?) who couldn't be there in person. If you want to do that, you will need to set it all up in advance, so you could add another note:

For those who can't join us in person, we plan to do video chat. Vingtoft will be contacting you in the next week or so to get it all set up and ready.

This covers both the case where they can come and where they can't. It should also brighten the celebration a little for your grandfather.

  • 43
    I've had sick friends tell me that not only does the invitation not remind them (as you said), but they strongly objected to other people making their decisions for them -- the "let me decide if I'm well enough to go!" reaction. If that was part of your experience too, you might want to add something about that -- leaving people out wasn't just neutral but harmful in the cases I'm talking about. Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 20:42
  • 5
    In my case, the birthday boy (actually adult) was ill and many people who couldn’t go e-mailed audio or video greetings to the organizer of the party. To your first suggestion, IF you are able to follow through, you could add, “Is there anything I/we could do to make it easier for you to come?”
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 3:13
  • 8
    +1 for the "having decisions made for me", +1 for the video chat, that is a very nice solution
    – Martijn
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 8:15
  • 4
    I can't help but feel like the phrasing of the first suggestion could cause some guilt. I might suggest adding "but we'd understand if you can't make it" or dropping the enthusiasm slightly (although it might depend on culture).
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 18:08
  • 6
    Note: if it's not actually possible, they can still say no. It's the lack of free will that hurts.
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 18:09

A few years ago I helped my grandparents write down their invitations (to a 50 year wedding anniversary). They too had relatives with serious health problems and terminal illnesses at the time.

What they, as very religious people did, was to include the following sentence of Latin in their invitations (it's often used in their church's communications as well):

Deo volente Monday, January 1st we'd like to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary with all of you.

It means something like 'If God wants it/ if nothing prevents it'. This went on all the cards since they themselves were fragile at the time too. It's not a plea to God, but an expression of hope.

It can be shortened to DV (although people might wonder what the abbreviation stands for). Another form of this is 'inshallah', it has the same meaning but a different language/religious association.

They also included a little personal note on the invitations going to terminally ill relatives. They wished them well, mentioned that they would completely understand if they couldn't come, that the relative shouldn't feel obliged to come. If they couldn't make it, they included a promise to visit them soon.

Basically, they mentioned that they understood the problem and that they hadn't forgotten the relatives existed.

  • 12
    my grandmother's letters were peppered with "pg" for "please god" - pretty much every sentence in the future tense included it. When the future thing was either really important or really at risk (eg because someone was ill) she would spell it out. It doesn't mean "please, god, I'm asking you for this" it's more like short for "if it pleases god" or "god willing". Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 20:19
  • 2
    Also sometimes shortened to the initials DV (though people unfamiliar with the custom might ask who DV is).
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 2:03
  • 2
    I've edited in some of the information here into the answer. If anyone else has another addition or improvement for this answer, feel free to add it!
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 9:43
  • 1
    DV, WP - God Willing, Weather Permitting... maybe not what you need right now, but a handy phrase :)
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 0:25
  • 3
    The simple phrase "God Willing" is sufficiently idiosyncratic in English that I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone, religious or not, with the possible exception of the most strongly-opinionated of atheists. While it can certainly take on extra significance when said by a religious individual, for most others it is no more religious than "Bless You".
    – jmbpiano
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 21:12

the invitation will indicate a lack of understanding for their situation and/or remind them of their bad health and limitations

One counter argument that comes to mind instantly is: not inviting those people to the party just because they are terminally ill is much worse. It's almost like treating them as they were already dead.

If you think that inviting those people will somehow force them to come, you can turn the affirmative sentence into a question, e.g. "do you think you can make it?", and reassure them it won't cause any trouble if they have to cancel later on. Better yet, don't request an answer (truth is, they don't know if they can come), just tell them you hold a place for them in case they can make it.

To reiterate, being invited to a party is a pleasure for most people, even if they cannot come. Not being invited can hurt people who expected an invitation, and not being invited because they are deemed too sick to come is borderline offensive.


I think the main thing here is

  1. You want to let them know they are welcome, and you will be very happy if they can indeed make it. And you're happy to make whatever accommodations they need, if they do decide to come.

  2. You are not putting them under any pressure to come, or to stay if they get tired.

Of course conveying both 1 and 2 is a challenge. Pulling it off means you need to take account of the host's relationship to the invitee, the invitee's personality, and other imponderables. However, it's perfectly doable.

As a starting point, I'd consider something like

We're having a party. We'd really love it if you can make it, but we know you're going through a hard time. If you do decide to come, we can offer you a bed/pick you up/drop you off at home early. If you can't come, we completely understand, and we send all our love.


A common thread in the answers here accommodations - what can you do to accommodate disabilities?

The answers you've got, have got the visible stuff covered (although I didn't see a note about wheelchair accessibility, which matters a lot with the company I keep), and at least one reply covers making none of it seem like an effort on your part.

This answer is about the invisible stuff.

Us geeks visiting from the programmer 'Stack will know about providing a 'quiet room' for people who need a low-stimulus recovery or 'time out' space. Those of us fortunate enough to have a library put a wry note on our invitations that we're perfectly happy to see that some of the guests are just as excited about the chance to visit our book collection as they are to visit us: do, please, keep it a quiet space for them - and we're used to seeing a note about a 'quiet room' in about half of the invitations we get.

It turn out that this as much a courtesy as ensuring that there are always as many chairs as people in a party where you know that some of your guests are over 65. Or under 65, and not disclosing the kind of joint problems or fatigue issues where seating is a necessity, not a courtesy.

Or under 65, and you don't know that they have something they're not disclosing to you - and that's the point, here: some accommodations for people with less-obvious problems turn out to be accommodations you needed to provide, and didn't know about, for more of your guests than you thought...

...And, it turns out, these 'accommodations' turn out to be very welcome - and welcoming! - for at least half of your guests, who wouldn't think to ask.

Labelling one of the tables as gluten-free might be useful, too. Or sugar-free (remember the drinks, too) as a lot of elderly people have diabetes. The current state of play on cardiovascular medications means that you probably don't need a salt (or sodium-) free dish: but you get the idea.

Quiet space, crash-out space for resting, smoke-free space, reassurance that the place is accessible, food choices and an explicit statement that arrangements are being made for people who don't drive a car are all part of that.


Yeah you should invite them, if anything it may improve their situation. They will feel positive, they will feel they have some purpose, somewhere to be, that they are loved and wanted. They may be hyped up and enjoy the experience of getting ready. I'm sure they will want to brag to their friends/family/helpers that "oh my friend ~ who I've known for 30 years has invited me to his birthday party. He's such a nice guy we did all these things together in the great war 200 years ago...etc" jk but serious but also jk

I agree with what others said about letting them know you understand if they can't make it, but please make sure it's not worded like that. "We understand if you can't make it" is so depressing, you know? Like they will probably cry if they read it. Just frame it another way like "We hope to see you there" or something purely positive and without the "but u know it's cool if ur already dead we will understand" u feel me?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.