As part of my initial treatments for Acute Myeloid Leukemia, I had to spend a month in the hospital getting serious chemo to “knock down” the presence of the cancer cells. This was to buy some time before the cancer came back in order for me to find a matching stem cell donor (turned out to be my brother Kyle) and make the arrangements for a stem cell transplant (again!) at the Duke Cancer Institute. So I spent the month of December parked in the oncology wing of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. It is a great hospital with a terrific staff of nurses and doctors.
About a week into my stay on a quiet night, I heard a lot of sounds coming from the room next door. Not terribly loud, but enough to notice. After a while, a young and visibly shaken nurse came into my room to take my vital signs. I asked if she was okay and if she knew what the sounds were about. She whispered that the lady next door had just passed. I now know that nurses aren’t supposed to talk about that kind of thing with other patients, but she was pretty new on her job. I guess it is not the best thing to be telling patients who are fighting for their lives that their next door neighbor had just died.
After the nurse left I found myself in deep prayer for the soul of the lady next door and for her family mourning her. All I knew of her was that she was a fellow human being fighting cancer. And that was more than enough of a connection for me. As the tears rolled down my face, I realized they were both for her and for my own mortality.
Over the course of the rest of that month, I heard a couple similar things happen in the rooms near mine. The passage from the bible struck me “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil…”and I realized that I wasn’t just walking through the valley; I had pitched a tent and was camping out there!
But we cannot fear death. We should only fear not living the best life possible. And I know in my heart that can be accomplished by caring for and about others as much as we possibly can.