The nurse rapped twice on the door before pulling herself into my room. She was not a very good-looking woman, though she tried very hard to conceal it under the layers of make-up that caked her broad face. Now, as she spoke, the foundation cracked along the sides of her mouth.
“Well, Mr. Rosenbaum, it seems like you are going to be going home after all.”
Though she was happy I was going to live, beyond everyone’s expectations, it seemed that she was also a bit disappointed; after all, I was the first patient that she would not help ‘walk into the light.’
“Yes, Nurse, indeed; I’m going home. My son will be along any minute now.”
The staff at the hospice had all gathered earlier that week, and one by one had come in to say their goodbyes and wish me luck. I had defied the odds. There had been a total reversal of my stage 4 cancer. No one believed it. Some of the doctors dodged me, afraid, I assumed, of some impending lawsuit. How could there be no signs of cancer when earlier my family had been told I only had weeks to live? But it had been so and though I was still rather weak, and the damage to my lungs still caused me significant pain, I was going home.
On my last day, the Chaplin came into the room asking if I wanted him to pray with me. I did, and so he launched into a relatively long soliloquy, that highlighted most of his own personal pain and fears than it did mine.
When he was done, I reached out my hand which now felt light as it was no longer bloated with intravenous fluids. The Chaplin pressed my fingers into his palms, and he looked at me expectantly. My voice was still rather hoarse, and my breathing a bit labored, but I was able to make myself clear.
“Father, do you know I’m Jewish?”
He paused a minute, unsure how to answer that question; after all, he had prayed with me several times before. “Yes, Mr. Rosenbaum, I am aware you are Jewish, but I thought you were non-denominational. You have never asked for the Rabbi. We do have a Rabbi here, if you like.”
“No, I don’t need a Rabbi. I was just wondering why you have come to pray with me. I may be dying, but I am well aware of all that is happening around me. I have heard them say you’ve asked for me; you’ve asked to pray with me, even when it wasn’t your turn. Why have you done that?”
The young Chaplin sighed, “Mr. Rosenbaum, I have to be honest. When I first met you, I saw you like all of the other patients here, but since I’ve gotten to know you, I realize you are very different, and that difference has given me hope. I am not surprised that you are going home. You will be the first patient I’ve known who will actually leave this hospice. Frankly, I…” but I cut him off before he could finish.
“Have you wondered why? Why an old man like me can beat cancer…and not just cancer, but stage IV cancer?” I was a bit winded, but I felt I needed to tell somebody. I motioned for him to press the remote control and raise the head of the bed, so I could sit up.
“Listen, I think you believe that while you prayed, I prayed along with you. I think you believe that while you asked God to save me, I asked God to save me too. But I’ll tell you what; I never did pray with you. I never asked God to save me. Do you know what I’ve done every single day that I’ve been here? I’ll tell you. I’ve sat here and developed hope. I’ve sat here day in and out, hoping for that day that I die. I haven’t asked to die, nor have I asked to live. I’ve just sat here and hoped that one day soon I’ll just pass away. I realized the more I hoped, the more hope I received. Even right now, I am spending my quiet time increasing my hope.”
The young man came closer and sat down on the edge of my bed. He was a young Korean man, maybe first generation, and against his pale skin, his slanted eyes became nothing more than expressionless slits. He did not laugh with me as I laughed, but I did not care. “You can say it is my drug of choice,” I said, as I winked up at him.
“Are you telling me that you don’t believe in God, and that he hasn’t saved you from this horrible illness?” It was clear that he was now wrestling with conflicting bits of knowledge. “You are a Jew, but are you also an atheist, Mr. Rosenbaum?”
“Son, I’m telling you. I am nothing. Well of course, I’m a Jew. I can’t help that one, but I have no other labels. I do believe in God, but more than that, I am sure that the only thing that can save me, perhaps save us all, is hope.”
“But you’ve hoped to die. Are you telling me that God, if you do really believe in him, would grant you that wish?”
“Tell me Chaplin, in your bible there, does it not say God will grant you what you wish for? I strongly believe that, and I’ll tell you what, I think I’m living proof. Oh, there is no doubt that I’m going to die, perhaps sooner than my family would want, but in the meantime, I’ve really found out something quite essential to living and that is, having hope.”
The Chaplin quietly studied me for several seconds before he reached over and kissed me on my forehead. It was an awkward moment for us both, as he was neither family nor a personal friend, but the moment had called for it.
Last week, my family sent thank you cards to the hospice, but apparently the card to Chaplin John remains unopened. I smile now believing that he is off somewhere living on hope and a prayer.
© Copyright 2015, Susan M. Wolfe~All Rights Reserved
Author’s note: If you have enjoyed this short inspirational tale, would you kindly leave a comment, or feedback; such messages keep me motivated. Thank you for reading.
Question: What messages have you learnt from the dying?