Are Your Secrets Safe with Me? I’m Dying; should I go or should I tell?

Yes, it is true and this is the last major hurdle I face. The dying process is nothing compared to this struggle to settle the ongoing argument within myself as to whether I should “tell” things I know, or have been entrusted with, yet have kept silent about. In other words, SECRETS. It is frequently noted that secrets get revealed when you are feeling the most loved, or the most betrayed.  I would suggest that a third time is  relevant. It is when you are dying and faced with the “last opportunity to set things straight.”

author 2016 2

As an author one becomes known by some familiar phrases, declarations, and beliefs. In my writings, and in life, I am often known to say or have a character declare, It’s not my story to tell” when declining to reveal a secret. In this manner, I have often struggled with what is right or wrong and had characters “solve” their dilemma in different ways with different outcomes. Now, however, it is real life, and it is me, not a character in one of my novels.

Where there is a secret, there is a heart waiting to be broken.  Sometimes the secrets protect the people we love, or even those they care about. When I accepted knowing the secret, I made a decision to keep it because it was the right thing to do. It is often said that three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead. In too many cases at this point in my life, I am now the third person. Life has changed, things have changed or have turned out differently than the others in the secret would have anticipated, so what now? Does the responsibility for the “no harm no foul principle if I tell”, still apply?

In this day and age of DNA testing, the revelations are revealing many secrets, probably long meant to never be revealed. Deathbed “confessions” of personal natures are becoming common, and some people who “took the brunt” of a situation for others now want to leave this world no longer being the “fall guy”. In some of the cases of my secrets long held, that is the situation. So what to do???  Is it a matter of honor that will be forfeited? Would it even be believed at this late date? Or, does one have a moral obligation to “continue that which was begun?”

There was a time in life when people took pride in being the one everyone sought out to tell their secrets too. Many had the feeling it was a kind of special calling and higher position recognized by others. Coupling that with working in professions where confidentiality was a legal requirement more binding than “secrets” you were privy too, and a great commitment to consider “taking it to your grave.” Perhaps, as a person in the medical community one could use a measuring stick of “do no harm” to make the decisions “to tell, or not to tell.” But what about our personal life?

As for me, my decisions are formulating into actions. At this point I choose to cover my bases by leaving letters appropriate to the situation by including apologies where I deem them necessary, revealing the truth behind the secrets, where I deem necessary, and  as Sissela Bok said, “While all deception requires secrecy, all secrecy is not meant to deceive.” Marilyn Vos Savant states  “Be able to keep a secret or a promise, when you know it is the right thing to do.”  In some cases I can put the secret into the hands of a new party who is responsible and trustworthy, in case there is still a question of relevance to the person’s future. In other cases, I can directly share with the object of the secret to give them closure, hope, or a trail toward forgiveness.

What would you do with your secrets? Some being hugely impactful if revealed, others being a mere secret with-held to protect old mores and practices of belief systems such as racial issues, religious violations, and family secrets of betrayals.  

Tombstone secrets to grave

As a child victim of sexual abuse I was taken with an old gospel hymn, “It is no Secret.”  It’s haunting melody and powerful words always spoke to me in a personal way.   I was always mindful of “SECRETS” I could ‘never’ tell, but eventually did. When I first told them I was not prepared for the myriad of reactions and belief vs. disbelief of my story. It taught me a great lesson about the un-predictability of reception. That thing one had long held as secret and finally shared, being met with rejection and disbelief was devastating.  It was this hymn that carried me and in the end, “won the day” for me.  

It is no Secret  (In the public domain)

It Is No Secret

The chimes of Time rings out the news
Another day is through
Someone slipped and fell
Was that someone you ?
You may have longed for added strength
Your courage to renew
Do not be disheartened
For I bring hope to you.

It is no secret what God can do
What God has done for others
He will do for you
With arms wide open
He’ll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do.

There is no night for His Light
You’ll never walk alone
Always feel at home
Wherever you may roam
No evil power can conquer you
While God is on your side
Just take Him at His promise
Don’t run away and hide.

It is no secret what God can do
What God has done for others
He will do for you
With arms wide open
He’ll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do.
It is no secret what God can do.

In the end, whether I keep my secrets or not, God will know the intent of my heart in the decision. If I leave this world “taking the fall” for others by keeping the truth entrusted to me, I will know His peace covered me. If I reveal truths so others can know they were loved by me and I protected them with secrets, I can only pray that they will always trust, it was a decision of love, not selfishness.

The letters? They will be entrusted to a person who will keep my “secret” and then decide whether to share them based on the assessment of the post-death reactions and relationships after I’m gone. It is the best that I can do in the circumstances.

The Godwin Girls

Not all secrets are only yours to tell.

I wore this to most of my talks, book signings and still have it by my computer.

Some secrets were family secrets and involved others who demanded the secrecy be kept.



Secrets can be shared between trusted family members, and some are shared between mutual victims. But the bond of secrets can last a lifetime, even to the grave.



Some secrets I inserted into the storylines of my novels.




I won the 1984 Iowa Diana award and International Diana Award 5th place winner. As one reads the reasons for the honor, the criteria reveals the areas for the accumulation of yet more and varied secrets.


joyce politics2

A short foray into “official” city politics was actually an attempt to gain a public voice on behalf of the homeless in our city. My worst fear was I would be elected, and it almost happened. So many great things came out of the run, including personal contact by city, union and opposing party members including the opposing candidate. It spawned years of support and open doors for my project and my efforts on behalf of the did-enfranchised in our area. And of course; MORE SECRETS OF A NEW AND DIFFERENT KIND.

Author Joyce Godwin Grubbs at age 3.

Some secrets begin at a very early age. Author Joyce Godwin Grubbs at age 3. Shortly after this picture the abuse began; Should I go or should I tell all that remains untold?


About joycegodwingrubbs2

Some call me retired: I am RE-FIRED. I have written 15 books, plus 3 written as a "ghost writer". I no longer offer the novels as printed books, having them only available as Kindle Ebooks since my retirement as a novelist. Twelve books are on Kindle eBooks: collectively they are known as The Greyhound Lady Walking suspense series.They are real cases fictionalized into suspense stories to protect identities..( no victim/survivor names were compromised, and workers and locations were protected.) I also co-authored a non-fiction book: Footsteps Out of Darkness: The Annabelle Kindig Story . It is available on Amazon under the name of Annabelle Kindig. I have traveled, written from the heart, and found an audience that appreciates my "platform". The catalyst to writing the novels was the realization that if I died, I would take all my amazing experiences in these real cases with me; and believe me few have lived 5 lives in one. It would "silence the voices" of the victim/survivors whose triumphs are written into these novels. The suspense series was written in part with the collaboration of police woman and sex crime expert Trula Ann Godwin. In addition to the novels, I have written as a ghost writer for a World War II veteran who fought in the South Pacific aboard the USS Maryland in all the major battles. I have also written a non-fiction book recording oral history stories of my family members beginning with the 1930's to present. There are sixty-six "legacy" stories with pictures. It was recently published as a private printing for family and close associates only. I am a published photo journalist having won the 2009 Editor's Choice Award for internet freelance news articles and pictures of the Cedar Rapid's Iowa flood victim accounts and their personal struggles.. My husband and I are in our 52nd year together (only one blip on the marital radar together), and we have adopted three greyhounds; Dex, Big Buddy and Baby Doll. These were the inspirations in the Greyhound Lady Walking suspense series We have eleven grandchildren, 7 grandsons and 4 granddaughters. My three children live in Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio.
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11 Responses to Are Your Secrets Safe with Me? I’m Dying; should I go or should I tell?

  1. I read this with a heavy heart my dear friend. Your love for others elevates you. You truly are “one of a kind.” You are special.

    • My children, and possibly my husband, would tell you I have been “dying” for some time and “taking my time about it.” While no one knows the “hour or date” I moved into palliative care almost a eight months ago and it has been a steady decline. I would be remiss at this stage, to not finish putting the pieces in place. The “Secrets” are a high priority, and even higher priority would be to do this task while my mind is still able to cope and translate the copious notes of years of writing about my family, our legacies, and the need to “say goodbye.” I am not built for life on an electric scooter, and Lord knows I drive it worse than I drove my vehicles. I wish I could give you peace my dear friend, but I can give you my heartfelt thanks for giving me the opportunity and support to get my novels out there. Without you, I would never have given it the “old college try.” I have complete peace, and as I’m famous for saying “it is what it is.”

  2. Ty says:

    As you know I grew up among people who now I know kept secrets from me. This to me is a miss guided thought of protection from the truth, as if they think one should not know something that happens. Nothing is further from the truth. Finding out a secret after all the party has died does nothing for you. You should tell……………………Love You

    • Coming from you with your first hand experience Ty, I certainly see the merits of “telling” and also doing it personally rather than leaving letters. I will say though, that initially in your case, and in that era of your youth, it was to protect you and may well have done so. YOu have a very loving caretaker that was family and kept your life stable. For that, one can not find fault as she had a great deal of knowledge about “the facts.” However, I do realize it took away your chance to make choices. Totally understand. And since I hold so many secrets, about so many things including family issues, I am certainly rethinking my position on most of them. Thank you dearest cousin. So happy you are in my life.

  3. I’ve thought about this as I’ve read through this moving piece. It partly depends on how you feel about your legacy, but then for me I want people to understand something of what is was like being me, the good, the warts, the reality of our imperfect lives because that’s what we leave as memories. If you want people to know you protected them, maybe you want to do it while you are still here…. read them the letters… be there to answer questions. I guess I’d say if you are going to open the secret, do it while you are there. If it is to stay a secret, then no letters, no giving that responsibility to someone else. You are a caretaker and that is the best person to deliver the news and be around for the many questions that will follow. Maybe I’ll think differently tomorrow, don’t know. I’m not sitting on any secrets, no letters I want to leave behind, so it’s not something I’ve grappled with. I had no idea you are in palliative care, but I my advice is to really enjoy your scooter adventures. Love you.

    • As always very good advice from you my friend and I do believe I shall take your counsel. The few times I have tried it out in my Fairy Garden at my hubby’s urging to practice, I have crashed into things, almost tipped over but in truth, provided him with some levity. Thank you as always for your insight and your constant vigil over my life. It has been a distinct honor; love you Michelle.

  4. Jo Nicholson says:

    The old church hymn, “It Is No Secret” is one of my all time favorites. It is about vulnerability, the openness of God’s arms, a safe haven, and forgiveness. I enjoyed your post and it stirred in me my secrets from childhood and what we accept and reject as being “our fault” and what society accepts and rejects as good or bad. It does cause confusion to a young mind when those choices and decisions follow you a life time. My own personal feeling is that I must come to terms with myself and my God before I die, whether the secrets are kept or passed on. Passing on is another choice, but has nothing to do with how God will accept me and my secrets in his open arms.

  5. Connie Opperman says:

    There is no doubt in my mind Joyce, that when ever God looks at you he smiles. You have been a light in the dark, a beacon of brightness guiding others from victim to victor and making all good causes a priority.
    I would not have known you are in palliative care now and have been for many months prior had I not read this article and my heart is heavy.
    As far as the “secrets” go, I could not agree more with Dr. M. Harrison. You would be the best one to reveal the hidden information as you remember the circumstance and you know how to present everything with utmost compassion. Someone else would not be able to answer questions and they might not use the same tasteful tact that you would. I would also give them the letter(s) at the same time. Maybe they won’t believe it at first but life has taught me that our minds sort through everything we have done and every event in life that pertains to us as we age.
    I regret not having met you but cherish the fact that we are facebook friends and to me you are every bit a dear friend as if we would have spent time together. You have inspired me, enlightened me and even made me laugh out loud. Stay awhile longer, take a long time in going. And, oh yes,use your scooter so you can enjoy your beautiful garden.
    Love You!

    • Dearest Connie, it is distinctly special to be friends with you. Even the way we met on Facebook and knew “it was meant to be” due to mutual things we share. I treasure our sharing times and am certain had we been closer geographically, we’d have gotten together to talk and “set the world straight.” But I am a big believer that things are done in “God’s timing, and His way” and sometimes people don’t have to meet to be close. As for the secrets, some I will take to the grave, some I have already begun to share, and others are on my list to share as I can make it available, and not force it. So thank you for sharing your thoughts and your gracious words. I truly am a “people person” and even love the flaws and shortcomings in people as I feel then as though “I have company”. Take care dear friend.

  6. Lara Patterson says:

    With God’s help, you will make the decision that is best for you and for those who love you. Thanks for sharing your heart in your writing. I haven’t stopped reading since several hours ago, when I followed Hannah and Steven’s link to their engagement story blog. Jesus’ Love to you from a fellow writer and fierce lover of the Hensler family.

    • Dearest Lara, thank you so much for your wonderful response. It is true that we writers have a secondary purpose in writing which is to know that as long as our words are out there, and read, we are remembered. I often said that as a writer, “I just want to be read.” It is true and I hope I’ve left not only many encouragements, but that I have given voice to many who could not speak for themselves. God Bless You.

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