The good news is we can occasionally help.
For instance, the problem is sometimes (and increasingly) plain old unbelief.
“I don’t buy any of that heaven stuff anymore,” one aged lady told me, with great sadness, some years ago. “When we die, we cease to exist and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
She is a reader, so I gave her a copy of Heaven Without Her and she promised to read it. It’s my prayer, of course, that she will be pointed towards the narrow gate (Matthew 7) by the evidence it presents for the truth of Christianity -- or at least come to see that eternity is worthy of both consideration and investigation. I may never know, however; we only met in passing.
Sometimes end-of-life fears are the result of unbiblical theology.
Many years ago, I found a 100-year-old woman sobbing in her room. “I’m afraid of dying,” she confessed through her tears. “I’m so afraid of Purgatory!” I gently showed her from scripture that if she repented and trusted in Christ, she could count on being “absent from the body, present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5). Did these truths relieve her fears? It seemed so at the time; but she suffered a massive stroke and died soon after our discussion, so I won’t know until I get There myself.
Occasionally even the faith-filled elderly fear death -- not its reality but its mechanics, in particular the prospect of pain.
Fortunately, we really don’t have to deal with overwhelming pain anymore, thanks to modern pharmaceuticals. In two decades as a nursing-home volunteer, I saw only three residents suffer greatly, and in two of those cases it was because they refused medication to relieve it.
But even when that relief is incomplete, it’s possible for the dying to rest in the knowledge that God is at work in and through them, and that eternal bliss is just beyond the horizon.
I’ve seen this attitude time and time again in Spirit-filled Christians. What a blessing and encouragement it is to spend time with those who are waiting patiently not for the other shoe to drop, but for joy forevermore!