The call came early in the morning. “If you want to see your brother alive you better get up here.” Right after noon we were able to ‘roll out” driving hard to cover the 700 or so miles between my home and the hospital where he lay. My task was clear, make sure he knows Jesus as his Savior. My journey consisted of miles of praying, Lord please don’t take him until I know that he knows you.
My sister had said he was hospitalized and they didn’t expect him to live but a few days. We arrived late in the night expecting to be able to go straight to the hospital and see him as we had been told we could do.
However the decision to allow us to bend the rules in this life and death occasion had been rescinded. We were told to get a night’s sleep and come to the hospital during the morning visiting hours. My prayer continued. God’s still quiet voice spoke peace, it was ok; rest and he will still be there.
Finally my turn came to go into his intensive care room. I had no real expectations except that God was going to allow me to speak to him.
He looked so uncomfortable; the oxygen mask hindered his speech. Word became valuable, their scarcity made each one precious.
“I love you”.
“I love you”.
I had to ask, “ Have you excepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, he spoke the words I had prayed to hear, “Yes”.
My husband left about that time and Mother came into the room. I shared with her Bert’s answer. She wanted to be certain so she encouraged me to walk him through the plan of salvation. His affirmative answer comforted Mother and gave me some comfort. But I just wasn’t at peace about the matter, after all, he was in crisis.
Discussions with family and the inevitable talks with the doctor brought forth the frightening truth. Bert was dying of AIDS. A long story was about to unfold but it had to be put aside for an even more important agenda. We had to give Bert the best last moment on earth with his family and let him know he was loved and forgiven.
The hospital staff moved him to a hospice bed just before lunch. When we returned from lunch he was moved and settled. The nurses said he had opened his eyes to look outside for a glimpse of the earth he loved. God’s creation was at its peak of beauty, flowers blooming, the azure blue sky so soft and beautiful.
As he lay on the bed gasping for breath we tried to make it like a family gathering. We laughed and shared memories and stories, taking time to remember the good times that had blessed us. When the pastor came we prayed, holding Bert’s hand to include him in the circle.
Bert’s boss came by to visit. On his way out he turned to look at Bert and said, “You know Jesus don’t you Bert?” Bert’s feeble nod of the head and slight smile told the story. This man had given Bert the greatest gift of all; we hoped to learn the rest of the story later.
After the visit with his boss Bert fell back to sleep. Mother left his bedside to go get something to eat and the rest of the family huddled in the adjoining hospice room or went to take care of business. I felt someone needed to stay at his bedside so I stepped next to the window side of his bed.
As I moved in closer I noticed Bert stirring and struggling to come to the surface of his deep, drug induced sleep. His eyelids barely cracked to reveal the hurting mirror of his soul beneath them, words surfaced on his lips, a weak breathe carried them to my ears, “Help me.”
As he settled back into his rest my heart cried quiet sobs covering my helplessness. Oh Bert, there is nothing I can do now. If only you had cried out for help sooner.
Mother kept saying how hard it was to leave his body lying on the hospice bed, as the family finally left the hospital that night. It was over, he was gone. No more chances to say I love you, no more chances to share his grief and fear at having the dread disease.
The church was filled with people whose lives Bert had touched. The service told of a man who loved life, who gave us surprise moments, who appreciated all the wonders and blessings of life so much, who took the time to listen to the troubles of others and take action if needed.
God had allowed the truth to be brought to Bert, quickened him to accept it and strengthened him to make the turn from his old life to the new life God had created him to live. The story didn’t have to end there. Death had no hold on Bert because he had chosen to accept the gift of life.
God had answered my miles of prayer.
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Word Count 861
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