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What Do You Say to a Dying Friend?

John W. Pinkerton


What do you say to a dying friend?

A longtime and faithful friend recently learned that she will soon pass away…die, lung cancer.


I've never been good at comforting the ill, so I guess I won't be much use to her with my words.  I find that I find ways to say inappropriate things to sick folks---usually humor.  They are not amused.

The one suggestion I have for her is that she use Janis Joplin's prayer rather than going to the trouble of thinking what she might want to say to the Lord.

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porsches I must make amends I worked hard all my lifetime No help from my friends Oh Lord, won't you buy me A Mercedes Benz?

Anyway, I don't know how effective this prayer might be for her, but it helped get me through a couple of my hospital stays.

A few years ago, Linda and I visited a very ill friend who was in a hospital apartment in Houston.  He had an inoperable heart related cancer problem.  We had a reasonably good visit in the middle of which he began confessing all of his sins.  The best I could do was, “Well, you weren't all that bad.”---not exactly Shakespeare.

I really don't know what it's like to know that you're definitely going to depart the earth soon and without question.  Although when my first trip to a hospital with a heart attack suggested that I might die, I didn't give it much thought.  On the second trip, death did cross my mind.  I laughed when the hospital folks told me it was just pneumonia.

Linda, my wife of over fifty years, says that I make everything about myself.  She's absolutely correct.  I apologize, but that's just the way it is.

When Linda told me of my friend's state, I immediately thought, “Can I get an essay out of this?”  My second thought was…,“damn!”