Our news is constantly filled with the reality of death and dying. And each of us, if we live long enough, experiences the loss of persons we loved.
Children ages eight through ten were asked what they thought about death, and these are some of their answers:
"When you die, God takes care of you like your mother did when you were alive - only God doesn't yell at you all the time." (Beth, 9)
"When you die, they bury you in the ground and your soul goes to heaven, but your body can't go to heaven because it's too crowded up there already." (Jimmy, 8)
"Only the good people go to heaven. The other people go where it's hot all the time like in Florida." (Judy, 9)
"Maybe I'll die someday, but I hope I don't die on my birthday because it's no fun to celebrate your birthday if you're dead." (Jon, 9)
"I'm not afraid to die because I'm a Boy Scout." (Kevin, 10)
"Doctors help you so you won't die until you pay their bills." (Stephanie, 9)
I've observed that the loss of a loved one can be one of the most difficult things we humans can face. And one of our greatest needs as we experience such a loss is for simple, human comfort. I've known friends of sick and dying people to sit by a bedside or in a hospital room for hours, even days, at a time. I've sometimes heard them offer words of prayer. I've seen food in homes of people who are dying overflow from kitchen to dining room - food brought by comforting friends from church and concerned neighbors. And I've observed friends to just listen-for as long as it takes. Caring friends are indispensable in times of trouble.
When U.S. Congressman Sam Rayburn (1882-1961) discovered that he was ill, he announced to the House of Representatives he was going home to Texas for medical tests. Some wondered why he did not stay in Washington where there were excellent medical facilities. His answer was a beautiful tribute to friendship: "Bonham is a place where people know it when you're sick, and where they care when you die."
No one wants to go through difficult times alone. So Rayburn traded the best of medical technology for the closeness of loving friends. He knew that good friends are good medicine. Often the best.