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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
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.

Comments (12)

  • I was with my grandma until the very end. I will never forget it. It wasn’t comfortable. It was hard. But, death is as much of life as anything else. Presence is important. Thank you Seth for taking on difficult topics.
    Prayers for Seth and Estie and the family.

  • I read not long ago,,,, O death, how we hate you.
    We hate the separation death brings. You are right, we need to find ways to help those who are traveling from this world to the next. My heart is heavy for your family, Estie and all those who have sorrow from your friend’s separation from this life. Death’s days are numbered.

  • Sorry for your family’s loss, Seth… those are good words about making the transition from praying for healing to saying goodbye – we don’t know God’s reasons for healing only on the other side, but we can be alert to hear when he calls us to take a different course. Death’s days are indeed numbered – and goodbye here is not the final word. grace & peace.

  • Praying for you all during this difficult time.

    And I agree that presence is necessary. The day my mom died, our pastor showed up because God told him earlier that morning that my mom would be going home to be with Him. It was good because we all got to say our last goodbyes as well as telling my mom that we would make it through, though she would be missed. She needed to hear that; she was holding on to life because she wanted to make sure we would all be okay.

  • So sorry for your news, what a tough moment in life these things always are. Well done for taking the time to care and say your thankyous and goodbyes. Very wise. Sending you hugs and much love for you and all your family from across The Pond tonight xxxxxxx

  • I had my first experience with that last summer when my uncle died. I hadn’t been very close to him prior to that, but I had recently determined to begin doing my part to reconnect with family. He had been sick for a long time, but none of us had any idea how quickly his condition would degrade.

    My aunt had just battled cancer and was recovering when he suddenly got very ill. I think the stress was just too much for his already weak body. He was in hospice for severl days, and I found myself just drawn to be there. I didn’t really know how to respond or connect, I just wanted to be there with him and the family.

    I honestly don’t know if that helped any of them at all, but I know I just couldn’t remain distant and let it end that way. I hope that he knew I was there and felt loved, and I hope that it was comforting to my aunt and cousins. For me, I had to let myself care enough to be there to share in the greiving and pain instead of isolating myself from it.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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