DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: A friend is dying of cancer and is not expected to live much longer. Yesterday, she asked me to help plan her funeral service. I didn’t have the nerve to tell her no, but doesn’t she need encouragement right now, instead of thinking about her death? — L.R.
DEAR L.R.: The most encouraging thing you could do for your friend right now would be to follow her wishes and help her plan her funeral service.
After all, to you this may seem morbid or depressing, but she is facing her situation realistically, and it may even give her joy to know that others won’t have to worry about these details.
Otherwise, the responsibility will fall on her family, who may not have any idea about her wishes. Abraham made careful arrangements for the final needs of his family, and it’s wise for us to do the same (see Genesis 23:1-20).
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What can you do to help your friend? First, listen carefully to her, and take notes on what she says. Ask questions also, such as if she has any favorite hymns she’d like sung or passages from the Bible she’d like included. Encourage her, too, to talk with her pastor. If she doesn’t have one, the chaplain in her hospital will know how to help her.
The most important thing you can do, however, is to encourage her to look beyond her present suffering to the hope we have of heaven because of Christ. Is her hope and trust in him — and is yours, as well? If not, may she turn to him for the forgiveness she needs. Death is inevitable, but when we know Christ, “we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have... an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
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