If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Living Until I Die

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,  and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
 I met 19-year-old Lance Corporal Drew Taylor, USMC, in the early 1990s when he was a patient at our overseas Naval hospital. Drew had complained that he'd become clumsy, bumping into walls and tripping over his feet. He had also been getting severe headaches that awakened him during the night.
 His battalion physician ordered a CAT scan. Then he ordered an MRI to confirm the diagnosis. That’s when he was sent to our department where I worked as a nurse. The neurosurgeon scheduled Drew for emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain resulting from his cancerous tumor but during surgery the physician discovered the tumor had wrapped itself around Drew’s brain stem. It could not be removed.
The surgeon told him only that he was being sent back to the States for further treatment to reduce the tumor. However, he told me Drew would be dead in six months. He asked me to accompany Drew on the Air Evac flight because he would need periodic intravenous antibiotic therapy until he reached the hospital in Texas.
Believing the Lord was giving me an opportunity to share Christ with this young man poised at the precipice of eternity, I agreed. It was not until later did I realize our journey across the Pacific was not designed so much for me to share my faith with Drew, but for Drew to share his faith with me.
Air Evac flights from overseas are not usually direct trips from one airport to another. We traveled three days before finally arriving in Texas. During that time he and I talked about many subjects. We spoke about his home life and how he had committed his life to Christ when he was a teen. But he seemed more interested in talking about his plans to return to college after his discharge from the Marine Corps and showing me photos of his fiancé. They planned to be married in nine months when his overseas tour was completed.

As I listened, I thought about the doctor’s prediction and I determined to not let this opportunity pass without talking more deeply about eternal things. A short while later I posed a "worst case" scenario for him to consider.

"What if the docs in Texas discover there’s nothing they can do for you?" I asked. "For example, how will you feel if they say you only have a year to live?"

Drew turned his eyes from mine and stared into space for a few moments. Then he turned back to look at me.   

"Well," he started slowly, "then I’ll just live until I die."

I don’t know why his response surprised me. Perhaps it was because I assumed he didn’t have a strong faith since he had not seemed interested in talking about spiritual matters. Perhaps it was because I myself had at the time difficulty dealing with imminent death. Whatever the reason, I pressed him further, "What do you mean, you will live until you die?"

Drew grew pensive. And then, with a firm and unwavering voice, he answered, "Whatever the Lord Jesus has for me to do while I am alive, I’ll do."

I leaned back in my seat and fell quiet as the conviction of this young man, twenty-five years my junior, washed over me. I had agreed to accompany him, expecting and planning to teach him about Christ during our journey. Instead, he taught me important lessons about life and death, about service and faith, and about how to "live until I die."

Drew never finished his overseas tour. He never returned to college. He never married his sweetheart. A few months after I left him in Texas he slipped into a coma and died a few days later.

St. Paul wrote to his readers in Rome, "Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4). I think of that verse now because I remember doubting Drew's 'salvation' back then. Why? Because he was not serving Christ according to the way I thought he should be serving Christ.

Talk about arrogance!

The Lord Jesus said, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work" (John 9:4). I believe ,, in his own way (and not in 'my way') Lance Corporal Drew Taylor, USMC worked faithfully for Christ during his very short day.

I look forward to meeting him once again, at the end of mine.


Anonymous said...

thank you for the reminder. I have wasted so many days wishing my life was different, instead of thanking God for each day. I forwarded this to my dear friend who has terminal cancer. We are still praying for a miracle, but maybe the miracle is simply to"live until we die".

Richard Maffeo said...

I am very sorry for your friend. May God bless him/her -- and you, also. It's easy to waste our time wishing things were different. I've wasted plenty of it myself.