A Note from Kelly King: When my sweet mother-in-law died of cancer a few years ago, we knew the diagnosis was terminal. What we didn’t realize at the time was how quickly she would leave us for eternity. As I watched her show grace and love toward her family, I also watched her friends show practical kindness in those final weeks. As Deb Douglas shares today, consider how you can be an encourager to someone who is in their final days on earth. Most importantly, don’t let an opportunity go by to share the gospel and the hope of eternity.
I did not want to begin or lead a ministry to people with a cancer diagnosis. Both of my parents died of cancer. It was too close. But that is where God led me for five years. Because I had lived through the process leading to death, I knew how to help others. I knew what helped my family and I. And more importantly, I knew what did not help.
During both of my parents’ illnesses, I noticed a sad trend. Many friends and church family members became distant or were not available. Later, I discovered the reason behind this trend was the lack of knowing what to do, the fear of saying the wrong thing, and the internal struggle of dealing with the coming grief and loss. Unfortunately, the people who run from messiness of a terminal diagnosis miss out on some of life’s sweetest moments.
After living through the grief of terminal illnesses, I began researching to find practical ways to help others:
- Listen. People who are suffering from a terminal diagnosis need someone to have tough conversations with. Be that person. Be present, be willing to listen, and be loving.
- Communicate and stay connected. Having someone care enough to continue to check on the status warms the heart and brings encouragement.
- Encourage. Try 30 Days of Encouragement:
- Enlist friends to help
- Purchase or make 30 small gifts and cards. These can be Scripture cards, hand lotions, or any little gift.
- Place all the wrapped gifts in a large gift bag or wrapped box.
- The person is to open one gift for each of 30 days to encourage her.
- Sign up prayer warriors to commit to pray for the 30 days.
- Clean, cook, and be community. Meet practical needs:
- Do the kids need rides to school and after school activities?
- Who’s doing the shopping? Step in and help.
- Enlist others to help. Think about transportation to medical appointments, yard care, and finances. Recognize that treatment is very expensive.
- Terminal illnesses are expensive for the family. Gift cards for gas or transportation, restaurants, or grocery stores are much appreciated and needed.
- Set up a meal train or pack the freezer with meal-sized casseroles.
- Label the casseroles with instructions.
- Check for food allergies first.
- Use disposable containers.
- Size the casserole according to the family size.
In the midst of a terminal diagnosis, the patient and the family need to be reminded that God’s love for them has not changed. He cares about their suffering. His presence, strength, grace, and mercy are very present helps in times of trouble. No matter how messy the terminal diagnosis may seem, God’s love, peace, and comfort carries us through.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
God has called Deb Douglas to make a difference in the world, one woman at a time. For over 39 years, Deb has served in women’s ministry. Now she spends her time ministering to women in the sex trade ministry and serving as the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Bossier City. Deb is a contributor to LifeWay’s All Access blog, a freelance writer, and an event speaker. Deb was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. Deb is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.