That’s just the way it is; Things may not always be the way they seem.
Sam. What can I say? He was the most beautiful thing my twenty-one-year-old eyes had ever laid eyes on: tallish, mocha skin, and a killer smile. I was an intern at the University Teaching Hospital. The first time I saw him, he was flirting with the nursing students, and it seemed that every time I saw him, he was always walking aimlessly around the medical ward, chatting up girls and generally clowning around. I really didn’t know why he was always around, but he just always was. A few months passed by, and I occasionally would see Sam and would always make some pithy statement about him. I just didn’t like him, for no apparently clear reason. He seemed so cocky and so full of himself.
On the first day of my internal medicine rotation, we were assigned patients, and life went on as usual. Then, one day, a new patient appeared on my list. His name was Sam Thomas. (Note: I had seen Sam around but did not yet know his name.) When I finally discovered this patient was the same man, I was at first surprised because I had never seen him in a hospital gown. To prepare myself for rounds and familiarize myself with the case, I picked up his chart and got a huge shock. This golden boy, this Adonis, was dying! He was in the final stages of acute leukemia, and his bone marrow, the part of the bone that produces blood, had burnt out. His only hope of staying alive was the transfusions that he had to have every three to four weeks, while hoping against hope for a miracle.
I was devastated. And I felt horrible for misjudging this man. He was only trying to make the best of a very bad situation. You see, he was an only child, and his dad was not in the picture, so his mom was the only constant support he had. However, he didn’t let that get him down. Instead, he was always trying to make other people laugh and always had a smile on his face.
I cried that day, but I had to dry my tears because I had a job to do. I was on my internal medicine rotation for three months. Some of the time, Sam was my patient, and at others, I just took care of him while I was on call. Needless to say, we became quite close and developed a deep friendship. I was privileged enough to be a part of the process that led to him accepting Jesus into his heart. I would sometimes go just to visit, and we would spend hours just talking– about our faith, about life.
Sadly, Sam didn’t get better, despite all the treatments and prayers. After a while, he just stayed admitted because his need for transfusions was growing. One day I got called to the floor because a patient was not doing well. It was Sam. He had developed complications and was not expected to live much longer. There was not much I could do, but we talked until he could no longer speak. I just held his hand, and I don’t know whether it was a few hours or a lot of hours, but Sam died that night. He didn’t look too pretty, but his face was so beautiful because he died with a smile on his face.
I know I will see Sam again someday. But as I remember him today, I remember a courageous, generous, and beautiful child of God, and I remind myself that not all that seems to be is. The real miracle was the beauty of Sam’s life and all the people he touched with his laughter and with love.
So, Sam Thomas, I remember you with love today, and I celebrate all twenty-two years of your life. You touched my life for all time. Salute, my friend. I will see you again.
** This is a true story, but the names have been changed to preserve privacy.
© The Voice of One Woman by Mettabel Okulaja, MD, Xulon Press 2013