Chapter 22: The Calling
Joey decided to sneak into the intensive care unit. He wanted to see Amarea and make sure she was all right. It wasn’t hard to do. It wasn’t like the ICU was under guard or that the doors were even locked. All he had to do was push the button on the wall, and the doors swooshed open. As Joey entered the ICU, he heard the beeping and swooshing of machines. Some kids were lying under plastic tents. Most of the kids seemed to be sleeping. He didn’t see Amarea. One little boy was watching him from across the room. Joey recognized him; he was Samuel. Samuel had a tube down his throat, pumping oxygen into his lungs.
Samuel, can you hear me? Joey asked with his mind as he approached the bed.
Samuel shook his head no.
Joey looked surprised. Can you hear me? Joey asked again, staring intently at Samuel.
Again Samuel shook his head no.
Joey stepped back, clearly startled. Can you hear me? Joey asked a third time.
Samuel slowly nodded his head, yes.
I’m scared. A little voice whispered in Joey’s mind.
It wasn’t Amarea. Joey realized in one terrifying, terrific second. Joey felt the whole world looking down on him. He felt so small and so insignificant yet blessed with such an enormous gift.
How was the play? Samuel asked.
Wonderful! Joey said. He reached out and took Samuel’s hand. You did an amazing job!
I don’t want to die, Samuel said, a tear forming in the corner of his eye.
You’re not going to die. As he thought it, Joey knew it was a horrible lie.
My grandma said I am going to die, Samuel said. She said I have to wait just a little longer.
What a horrible grandma, Joey blurted out. He regretted it instantly.
Don’t say that about my grandma, Samuel shot back. He had a hurt look in his eyes. She loves me.
I’m sorry, Joey replied soothingly, I didn’t mean she was a horrible grandma. It just seemed like such a horrible thing to say. I mean telling a kid he’s going to die.
It was the truth, Joey supposed, and what exactly do you say to that?
Did I do something wrong? Samuel asked.
What do you mean? Joey replied.
Did I do something to get cancer? Samuel asked meekly. Was it because I pulled my sister’s hair? I was just playing you know. I really do love my sister. Joey saw a tear streak down the side of Samuel’s face.
Joey said what his heart was telling him to say. No, Samuel. It wasn’t because you did anything wrong. Some people just get sick. Think of it this way, you are one of the lucky ones. You get to go back to Heavenly Father. You get to live with Him forever. You never have to hurt again.
But will I get to see my sister again? Tears were streaming down Samuel’s face. And my Mom and Dad?
Yes, Samuel, Joey said comfortingly, you get to welcome them into Heaven when it is their turn to go.
My grandma is back, Samuel said, looking past Joey.
Joey looked around the room and saw no one.
She said it is time to go, Samuel continued. Can you tell my Mom and Dad that I love them? Tell them that I am sorry I got sick, and I am sorry to make them sad. Tell Stacey that I love her.
Yes, Samuel, Joey said. Tears were streaming down his face.
Joey held Samuel’s hand and watched the fear leave his eyes. Joey saw the reflection of a bright light in Samuel’s eyes. He felt a profound peace. Buzzers sounded, red lights flashed. Joey backed into the corner of the room. Nurses rushed into the room.
A family rushed to the bed side. A mother cried out. A father dropped to his knees. Joey overheard his prayers “Please God no…Please God no…just one more day…God please…just one more hour.”
Joey felt himself walking to Samuel’s father; he recognized Joey. He stood up and put his arms around Joey and began to cry. Joey pulled away and put his hand on Samuel’s father’s shoulder and heard himself say, “He is safe now. His grandma came to bring him home. He wanted me to tell you that he loves you.” Joey turned to Samuel’s mother, “He wanted me to tell you that he loves you. That he was sorry he got sick and sorry he made you sad.” Joey took Samuel’s sister in his arms, “He wanted me to tell you that he loves you.” The little girl smiled.
Joey turned back to Samuel’s mother, “She won’t remember, be sure to tell her often how much her big brother loves her and that he was sorry for pulling her hair.” She took the child from Joey. With her tearful eyes looking towards Heaven, Joey heard her say, “Thank you Jesus, take care of my boy,” over and over.
A peace swept the room. The buzzers where silenced. Samuel’s father took Joey’s hand and pulled him towards him. He gave Joey a great big bear hug and cried on his shoulder again.
When he released him, Joey turned and saw a glowing white figure standing behind Samuel’s mother. Joey knew it was Samuel. He looked so peaceful, so beautiful.
“He’s behind you,” Joey managed to whisper, though no one seemed to hear.
Others need you, Samuel said with a smile. Somehow Samuel seemed older, wiser.
Joey turned to leave the ICU. He saw Amarea sleeping soundly in the corner of the room. The buzzing and the lights had not even disturbed her. Joey left the hospital that day knowing that he had been given a gift. He had been called to serve.