Charlie and Stacey* were newlyweds, married for less than a year. Stacey was coming up on her thirtieth birthday. Charlie had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of stomach cancer and wasn’t expected to live for more than a month. My hospice team received the case, and I took the assignment. I knew it would be a hard one.
By the time I met Charlie, his skin was already sallow and paper-thin. He was a gentle man who spoke in soft, careful tones. He had deep, shadowy eyes, like two pools that welled up from his soul.
Many things were missing from Charlie. He’d lost his hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, and much of his mind, all burned away by the chemo. He sometimes forgot who he was or where he was. In these moments, he’d look up at the ceiling longingly as if it contained some lost treasure. Sometimes he would sleep for hours on end, only to suddenly awaken with a shout. He would sit up in bed, shuddering and weeping, racked by the pain of cancer eating away his stomach. I would sit next to him and rub his back. He was just skin and bones, but even then, he trembled violently.
In one of these episodes, he forgot where he was and who I was. He began to threaten me with violence if I didn’t get away from him. “Get away from me!” he screamed. I couldn’t leave his side because I did, he’d surely fall off the bed. He was sitting up, and there were no muscles to keep him there. I spoke to him calmly, but it only made things worse. Finally, Stacey came running into the room. She knelt in front of him and looked into his eyes.
“What’s happening?!” Charlie cried. “Where am I?!”
“You’re at home,” Stacey said, “you’re safe. You’re at our house. Everything is ok.”
“I’m about to lose it,” he spat in response. “None of this makes any sense!”
Stacey reached up and put both her hands on Charlie’s face. “Charlie,” she whispered, “do you trust me?”
The man breathed heavily. A silver string of saliva descended from his grey lips.
“Do you trust me?” she asked again.
Charlie nodded and burst into tears. Stacey held him, and they wept together a long time. I wept too.
I learned something very important in that moment. Even though Charlie didn’t realize where he was or what was happening, he knew a person—Stacey—, and she gave him comfort.
In the same way, we live in a world of unknowns. There is so much that we don’t understand, much that we think we know only to be mistaken, much that we have forgotten. But the knowledge of a person brings comfort and healing, even when nothing else makes sense.
First John 5:20 says,
We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.1 John 5:20
Jesus opens a door to understanding what is true by offering Himself to us. He is that door, and He is that truth. He is love epitomized and the pinnacle of peace. In the storms of the unknown, Jesus gives us comfort because He gives us Himself. We do not always understand the unknowns in the world around us, but when we know Jesus, we don’t have to. We can have all the comfort we need when He kneels before us, looks into our eyes and whispers, “Do you trust Me?”
*The names in this story have been changed.
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