People are going to die. People who you love are going to die. So how do you help them in this final journey? The following passage of Scripture includes a job description of a poor shepherd who didn’t help the sheep threatened by destruction or death. This speaks to all of us whether we are shepherds or just caring laymen.
Zechariah 11:16-17 (GNB) I have put a shepherd in charge of my flock, but he does not help the sheep that are threatened by destruction
So how can we help those who are dying? I want to talk about 3 simple ways we all can get involved in this ministry. Sometimes we think it’s the pastor’s job to minister to the dying. But sometimes we may be in a situation where our relationship with the person can open the door and give us opportunity to be a loving servant.
Taking time to visit persons who are dying is one way we show love. If they can talk with you, then listen to them. Listening and asking questions validates their life. Asking about their childhood or marriage or life events helps them remember happier days. Often we get too busy or feel awkward in visiting someone who is in their last days on earth. When the person can no longer talk to you or communicate, they often can still hear you. Talking to a person in a comma or reading to them will mean much to them and be rewarding to you as well. Often just touching their arm or holding their hand can let them know they are not alone. When you know this may be the last word you will speak, it makes every word important.
2. Pray for them
Prayer is always perfect because only God really knows what someone needs. Sometimes praying out loud even though they don’t seem to hear can help them realize God’s presence is indeed there. Prayers don’t need to be long or eloquent. But prayers must be from the heart and genuine. Many times death beds are altars where people who have put off accepting Jesus as Lord will finally do so. They simply need someone to lead the prayer.
3. Sing to them
I have ministered in nursing homes for many years. One thing that really involves the dying is singing. I have noticed the lips of the elderly singing along to “Jesus Loves Me” when there was no other communication. One lady began to sign the words to “Jesus Loves Me” when it seemed she wasn’t even listening. An old tradition that is rarely performed today is when families attend the room of the dying and begin singing hymns of the faith. I recently read that a lady would take a stringed instrument and begin playing and singing to usher the dying to heaven. I really like that image of the farewell team sending off the loved on to the other side.
Finally, don’t let fear or feeling inadequate keep you from ministering to the dying. Let love rule and do it afraid!
What are some ways you have ministered to the dying?