Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Recently a friend related a story about an experience she had at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. While seated in a bustling waiting room she began a conversation with an elderly gentlemen who she described as tall and very slender. In a kind voice noticeably altered by the lack of facial muscle tone he began to tell my friend about his life. He had driven a truck for decades until a stroke he suffered made it impossible for him to continue in his chosen profession. During his years driving his truck he and his wife had bought a home, raised their children, paid their taxes and done everything they could to set a good example for their children. Despite his health issues and inability to work they continued to make ends meet.

The small rural town where they lived sounded like one of those places where life is slow and easy. Not much happened there and the people liked it that way. Life there was generally carefree until the day the doctor in the small town clinic told the man that his wife likely had breast cancer. They couldn’t be certain because they lacked the facilities to test her. They sent her to a regional medical facility where the diagnosis was confirmed. She indeed had breast cancer and needed immediate treatment.

Because of the man’s disability and discharge from his job they no longer had health insurance for his wife. They were not eligible for governmental assistance for her either. They had always paid their own way. Suddenly they were faced with the reality that his wife needed treatment to save her life – treatment they could not afford. After many failed attempts to obtain assistance they were ultimately told by the hospital that they could not treat the woman due to their inability to pay. There was nothing they could do.

Devastated and with nowhere left to turn, the elderly gentleman left his sick wife at home to turn to the only place he knew he could find relief from the worries on his mind. In the small town church they attended he knew he could find solace.

At the end of the sermon as the pastor brought the service to a close he was getting ready to pronounce the benediction when he said he felt there was someone there who had something they needed to share. The pastor asked for another verse of the closing hymn. The elderly gentleman suddenly found himself rising from his seat and making his way down the aisle toward the front of the congregation.

As he neared the front he wondered “what in the world will I say”. He never spoke in front of groups. He was terrified. As he turned to face the crowd he thought his knees might not hold him steady. As he began to speak in an uneasy tone about the life he and his wife had lived and the situation he found himself in his voice became filled with strength.

He could not believe that they had worked all their lives, raised their children, always taken care of their business and now when he needed to care for his ailing wife there was nothing he could do to save her. As tears streamed down his face he said it was almost unbearable to stand by and watch his wife grow sicker each day with no way or hope to secure the care she needed. He didn’t know where else to turn or what he could do.

After some comforting words from the pastor and prayer from the congregation the elderly man excused himself to the bathroom to dry his eyes and steady himself. As he emerged from the bathroom the pastor said there was someone who was visiting in the congregation that day who wanted to speak with him. The stranger from the church service told him she was very moved by his story and wanted to help him. She couldn’t make any promises but gave him a phone number and asked that he call it the next day.

That stranger in the congregation worked at M.D. Anderson hospital. The call made the next day started the wheels in motion that would deliver an answer to the elderly gentleman’s prayers. You see, the elderly woman sitting in the wheel chair next to him in the waiting room the day my friend heard this story was his wife. The stranger in the congregation arranged for her treatment at the leading hospital in the world for cancer treatment – free of charge.

When our lives are the darkest and hope seems like a distant flicker in the blackness of our despair God is always there. WHEN WE CAN’T FIND A WAY GOD CAN.

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