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When friends die

Half an hour ago at 6:10 a.m., my phone rang. It was Estie with the news that our friend had died.   I’m going to wait to talk about what our friend meant to the Barnes family until her family has called whomever they need to call. But what I want to say is that most of us need help dying,…
By Seth Barnes
Half an hour ago at 6:10 a.m., my phone rang. It was Estie with the news that our friend had died.
 
I’m going to wait to talk about what our friend meant to the Barnes family until her family has called whomever they need to call. But what I want to say is that most of us need help dying, help that only friends and family can provide.
 
We got the call this weekend that she had just days to live. We had all prayed for healing, so one of the things we felt was, “It’s time to stop fighting for her healing and help her to leave well.” That’s a hard transition to make. I know a couple who fought for God to heal their 11 year-old son right up until the very end. They had a friend who wouldn’t lay off the faith healing message, and they never got to say goodbye properly. They were understandably bitter about this. They were robbed of an essential conversation. People need to be able to say goodbye.
 
But how do you say goodbye? Fortunately we had some air miles, so Seth jr. and Estie were able to fly down and do it in person. I said goodbye on the phone with her yesterday. The morphine was dulling the pain, but I think she heard me. I recounted what a good friend she’d been, how much we loved her. I recalled how she’d cared for our family over the years. I told her that I knew God was waiting to welcome her into his arms. I wept. I read the 23rd Psalm. I released her to God. I said goodbye.
 
Seth and Estie showed their love just by being present. They were there to hold hands and to cry. I imagine that was more important than any words they spoke. I like the fact that Job’s friends hung out with him for a week after his tragedies and didn’t say anything.
 
When my Aunt Ruth died, our family made it to her bedside in Cape Girardeau in time to say goodbye, but I made a mistake. We should have stayed with her till the end. Not knowing how long she might last, we left her to struggle through the night. Presence matters; I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again.
 
I’m no expert at this, but I’ve observed that most people are uncomfortable with death and often unconsciously shun the dying just when they need their friends the most. Of course it’s easier for us knowing that God has made a way to be resurrected to life through his son, Jesus. And for the rationalist doubters, there are many with near-death experiences who speak of the incredible peace they felt going to meet him.
 
I’ve spoken with people who have gone to the other side and met Jesus before being told that it wasn’t their time – they needed to return. They know the reality of the verse, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Eph. 1:23-24)
 
They never again have to struggle with death. The rest of us do and we need to help one another die well.
 

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