Celebrities usually make the cover of People magazine for doing something silly or scandalous, but actress Valerie Harper's front-page story last week was much more serious. She announced she'd been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
Harper, best known as the wisecracking New Yorker Rhoda Morganstern on the 1970's sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show, went on to launch her goodbye media tour. On The Doctors, the 73-year-old explained why she elected to go public with her grim diagnosis: "Instead of waiting until after I'm dead to tell people the news, I thought this would be better for my fans to get a head's up." She explained that she wanted to use some of her remaining time on earth—possibly as little as three to six months—to encourage people to be less fearful of death.
Harper is winning praise for her courage. She hasn't spoken of any faith beyond the faith she has in the love of her family and fans. We would do well to pray for Ms. Harper and her family and to heed her unflinching message that each one of us is living with the same diagnosis she's been given. We're terminal, too.
We in the church talk a lot about eternal life, but don't always do a very good job helping one face death. We've all seen it happen. A woman from our church found out during her pregnancy that her baby had serious heart defects and little chance of survival. He died just minutes after birth. During her pregnancy, our fellow church members prayed fervently for a miracle. After her baby died, they brought casseroles. None of us, including the pastoral team, knew how to process the heartbreaking loss. I'm afraid too many of the wrong kinds of words, cheerful, over-spiritualized ...1
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