– Recommendation by Quentin Holmes 

Reading this small book will help you visit friends who are seriously ill or in danger of dying. “What Can I Say?” grew out of co-author Karen Fox’s experience surviving brain cancer.

Karen wanted to reach out to help others who were experiencing serious illness. So, she intentionally went far out of her normal comfort zone – dressing up as Raggedy Ann and paying a brief visit to a patient at the hospital across the street from where she worked. Her visit on that day helped that patient, and it also helped Karen.

Such visits continued and soon Karen and her husband, Simon, formed a non-profit organization, Adventures in Caring Foundation, which enables others to be more helpful when visiting someone who is seriously ill.

This book is built upon four fundamental elements used by gifted caregivers: attention, acknowledgement, affection, and acceptance. Each of these four elements addresses a fundamental human need of a seriously ill individual. Practicing these fourelements will help you support your friend or family member.

“What Can I Say?” does not offer a set routine. Rather, it provides a compendium of things that you can do, and say, to be open and vulnerable to someone who is seriously ill. Medical science is what their doctors provide. However, the human side is equally powerful – and that is what you can personally provide regardless of the perceived difficulty of their current situation.

In addition to providing helpful resources, this book also provides several examples of things NOT to say to the person who is ill. These are simple clichés that many of us may well have blurted out to a dear friend who was struggling. At the time, our intent was to be helpful. However using one or more of these clichés is insensitive at the least, and can even be downright hurtful.

I highly recommend this book to family members, friends, deacons, and anyone else who is seeking to be helpful to a seriously ill individual by visiting them in person.

This article originally appeared in the 2024 Older Adult Ministry Planning Guide.