Talking with those who are dying can be difficult even in the best of circumstances. There is a need for guiding family members of the terminally ill, as well as friends, caregivers, and even those more experienced in talking with the dying—clergy, pastoral ministers, hospice workers, and medical personnel—in understanding the best ways this can be done. What Do I Say? provides that guidance. It comes from the heart of author Margrit Anna Banta who, in her work as a pastoral minister with the dying and terminally ill, noted the lack of an accessible resource for family and friends caring for a loved one that can help them in their conversations with the dying person.
What Do I Say? covers both practical matters and spiritual and emotional topics, always mindful of the fact that many people in their final days are not able to talk about or express what they are going through. It touches on areas that should be addressed before someone dies, such as a will, DNR orders, funeral planning, and other topics, and gives suggestions for what to do if someone is non-communicative or unconscious. The last chapter includes prayers to say when family and friends visit with their loved one.
This is not a comprehensive end-of-life planning or medical guide, but a brief overview of how to communicate with someone who is dying. Above all, the book stresses that conveying a sense of loving presence and a willingness to listen are usually what is most needed.
Margrit Anna Banta leads a grief support group at Holy Trinity Parish in Norfolk, Virginia. She holds a master’s degree in religious education from the Catholic University of America. Among her published works are the student and teacher’s manuals for the “I Call You Friends” series (grades 7-12), Parish Reconciliation Services, Reconciliation Services Through the Church Year, and Words of Comfort As You Grieve.