Evangelist Billy Graham is urging people to leave the past behind and be reconciled to those they've hurt before it's too late, as death "closes the door on everything we should have done, but didn't."
The 98-year-old founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association shared his thoughts on death in response to a letter sent to him by a reader.
The reader explained that they had always had a rocky relationship with their mother, who died before the two were able to reconcile.
"I'd give almost anything to be able to tell her that I'm sorry for all the hurt I caused her, but it's too late," the reader said. "Please encourage people to make things right while they can."
Graham said the reader's' story reminded him of King David in the Old Testament, who, despite being a great king, failed as a father.
"He ignored his responsibilities as a parent, and his son Absalom turned into an undisciplined, self-centered rebel," the evangelist said. "In time Absalom tried to seize his father's throne, but was killed in the subsequent fighting. All David could do was weep with regret: 'If only I had died instead of you-O Absalom, my son, my son!' (2 Samuel 18:33)."
The Baptist pastor acknowledged it's not easy to admit we've hurt someone - especially if they've hurt us back: "Our pride gets in the way; we also fear we might make things worse," he said.
However, don't let your pride hold you back, the evangelist advised: "Jesus said, 'If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you' (Matthew 6:14)," he said.
He told the reader: "No, you're no longer able to seek your mother's forgiveness-but you can seek God's! Confess your sins to Him, and by faith open your heart and life to Christ's forgiveness and love."
In an earlier advice column, the famed evangelist told a reader struggling to reconcile with his family after abandoning them that while we cannot change the past, we can change the future-with God's help.
"First, take your burden of guilt and failure to Jesus' cross-and leave it there," he advised. "God loves you in spite of the wrongs you've committed, and Christ died on the cross to take away your sins. Turn your life over to Him today, and put your future into His hands."
Graham continued: "Then ask Him to guide you to a church where you'll hear God's Word, and also find encouragement from others who can help you grow spiritually."
Finally, the evangelist advised the reader to "do what you can to keep contact with your family-even if they aren't as open to you right now as you'd like."
"Tell them you know you've failed them, and that you regret the hurts you've caused. The road to reconciliation may be long-but start on it today," he said.