Thursday, December 6, 2012


By Sarah Carter Lewis - reprinted by Claire Goodwin

How can a pathway before you at Christmas seem starkly ominous--- as if it were drawing you ever closer to what seemed like a conspiracy from hell?

Linda Renforth was slowly dying.
But since she had no idea that she was dying, the hovering presence of the Grim Reaper did not disturb her in the least.  

The hospital room where she lay was quite
cheerful, and there were vases of flowers
 upon the dresser and the window sills.

Linda lay gazing contentedly at these lovely offerings from her many friends; thinking of spring, which was not far off, and of how she was going to enjoy working in her flower beds and borders again.

She felt quite ill, of course, but no inkling of her
condition had been allowed to reach her;
...and so she was in total ignorance of the fact that she could live only a short while longer.  Linda had a deep-seated idea that only the old die; and so she had never remotely considered that death might visit her ---not until she had reached a ripe old age.

“The doctor said today that I might go home for
Christmas,  if I’m no worse,” she mused.  “That means
 that I’m much better,  of course. He thinks that I may
 have to come back here for a while longer, 
but perhaps I will not.  I’ll probably
 be even more improved by then.”

Richard Renforth, Linda’s husband, had been responsible for giving this hope to his wife 
Yesterday he had sat before Doctor Myers with tears blinding his eyes and his head in his hands; stark hopelessness numbed him as it had been doing ever since he had learned the bitter truth some weeks ago.

“If she could just live through Christmas, Doctor,” he had said.  “If she could only spend the day at home, and see little Carol with her Christmas tree, and all the lovely gifts she has prepared for her. Linda has been planning for the child’s Christmas for six months.”

“It could be done, I think,” the doctor had conceded. “Some extra transfusions on the twenty-third and twenty-fourth would probably make her strong enough to go;  we’ll try it.  But under no circumstances must she be told of her true condition.”

Richard agreed with him in this.  He knew that he could never tell Linda himself; and he could not bear to have her life shortened by even one hour, as it might well be if she learned the truth.

Linda looked up from her musing to find her friend Katherine standing in the doorway.  She wondered greatly at her odd expression.  There were tears in her eyes, and love and pity seemed mingled in her glance.

“Don’t look so solemn, darling,” laughed Linda. “I’m ever so much better, really.  Why I may even get home for Christmas!”

Katherine choked back the words she longed to say and sat down by the bed.  She thought helplessly that she, too, was a part---though a very unwilling one---of the awful deception which was being practiced upon Linda by the doctor, the nurses, and by her own family and friends.  They had no right to do it, Katherine protested in her heart.  It was like a conspiracy out of hell, originated by the devil himself to keep Linda from becoming alarmed about her spiritual condition and receiving Christ!  And suppose that she should slip away now and be forever lost!”

“Linda,” she said compellingly, “I came to talk to you about Christ today.  I have been praying so earnestly that you would accept Him and be saved.  Have you thought much about the matter lately?”

An expression of annoyance crossed Linda’s face.  
Why must these people from the Gospel Chapel always be asking her these embarrassing questions?  She never asked them about their religious beliefs; why could they not treat her with the same courtesy?  But of course Katherine was sweet, and Linda really loved her; and so she tried to erase the vexation from her voice as she replied.

“No, I guess not,” she said indifferently. “Perhaps I’ll consider the matter when I feel better.  I can always think things out much better at home than anywhere else, can’t you? Isn't it wonderful, Kathie, to think that I may get home for Christmas” I can hardly wait!  I want to be there when Carol sees that big doll I have dressed for her.  It’s really beautiful.  You must come and see it.  I’m so glad that I got everything ready for her Christmas before I had to come to the hospital.”

Katherine groaned inwardly at the deft change of subject.  Linda was so evasive.  But she knew that she must try again.

“Linda,” she said earnestly, “if it is so important to you to get ready for your child’s Christmas, how much more important it is for you to get ready to meet God! You must realize that any of us may die at any time. And you have told me that you are not ready.  The Bible says, ‘Prepare to meet thy God’ (Amos 4:12), and the time to prepare is now while you are in full possession of your faculties and able to do it.  If you continue to put it off, you may not have a chance to prepare; who knows?”

“Oh, don’t be so solemn, Kathie,” replied Linda.  “I’ll think about it after Christmas.  I really cannot think of anything except Carol’s Christmas just now.  I know I ought to ‘prepare,’ as you say, and I intend to.  But after all, I have plenty of time.  I am young and healthy.  There’s nothing much wrong with me, I am sure.  I think my trouble is coming from these bad teeth I have.  As soon as I am able to have them pulled, I’ll be perfectly all right.”
Katherine could not speak, for the lump in her throat prevented her.  She got up and stood by the bed for a moment, patting Linda’s hand until she could get control of herself.  Then she took a little booklet from her handbag and handed it to the sick woman.

“Read it, Linda,” she said.  “It’s a beautiful message of salvation, and will show you just what you need to do in order to be saved.  Why would you wait any longer when you can be saved now---today? Will you promise me that you will read it?”

“Yes, of course I will, Kathie.  And thank you for coming.”

Linda laid the booklet upon her bedside table.  She decided that she would try to read it after she had a nap, just to please Kathie, if for no other reason.  She closed her eyes, for she was very tired.  When she awakened, two nurses were standing beside her bed, preparing to give her another blood transfusion.  This was always a trying ordeal to Linda, and when it was finally over, she was more tired than ever.  She felt that she would be obliged to get some rest before Richard and Carol came in the early evening.  It would not be long before she could expect them, and she was quite exhausted.

Linda began to feel a little better as more transfusions were given her; and she lived from day to day in anticipation of the happy Christmas which she expected to spend at home.  All her energies were bent toward getting strong enough to stand the trip home in the ambulance.

Several friends, who had learned of her condition, visited her and spoke to her about her need of Christ, but she hardly heard them.  She felt so happy and so much improved that she was almost sure that she would not have to return to the hospital after Christmas.

Linda stayed at home for almost a week after Christmas, but her new-found strength failed rapidly; and soon she became so ill that she was glad to get back to the hospital. 
The day after her return, she had a visit from the pastor of the gospel Chapel and his wife. Inwardly she resented the minister’s soft, appealing voice, as he read and prayed with her.  Did not people know that she was ill? Why did they persist in coming in and worrying her in this manner?

“What is your hope for eternity, Mrs. Renforth?” the pastor was asking her.

“I---I have to admit that I am not a Christian,” she replied unwillingly.

“Then you should receive Christ now,” said he. “ ‘Behold, now is the accepted itme; behold, now is the day of salvation’(2 Corinthians 6:2).”

“Yes,” put in his wife, “you may not have a moment to lose.”

“Now I wonder what she meant by that last remark,” mused Linda to herself after they had gone.
“Surely I am in no danger, or Dick would have told me; 
I am sure that he would have. 
But of course, preachers always talk that way.  They didn’t mean anything particularly,” and Linda relaxed comfortably and closed her eyes for another of the naps which she always seemed to feel the need of these days.

The next day Katherine came again, for she felt she could not stay away.  After they had talked for a few minutes, she brought up the subject of salvation once more. This time the annoyance in Linda’s eyes was unmistakable.

Baffled, Katherine was silent for a few moments, wondering what she should do.  As she sat there, the door opened quietly and another minister, well-known to Linda, stood in the doorway.

“It’s Mr. Goodwin, Linda,” Katherine told her.  “Shall I ask him to come in?”
“Ye-es, I suppose so,” she replied ungraciously, “if he will only stay for a minute.”

Mr Goodwin read and prayed with Linda, and pleaded with her to accept Christ at once, for he knew that she had not done so.  But she gave no sign that she had heard him.  More and more she resented these persistent people who came to worry her with questions and suggestions about her spiritual condition when she was ill and could not get away from them.

When Mr. Goodwin had gone, Katherine tried once again to speak to her friend on the subject, but finding that Linda was very sleepy, she was obliged to give up and leave without further conversation.

Katherine had been quite hopeful when she had gone to the hospital that day, but she went away with her hopes dashed and her
 heart sore and heavy.  
She was convinced now that Linda would never become a Christian unless she realized her danger; and so she tried tog et in touch with Dick Renforth.  She hoped that she might get him to agree to tell his wife of her true condition, so that she might be roused from her spiritual lethargy and receive Christ before she died.

But Dick was not in, and the maid said that he probably would not be in until late that night, after he had visited his wife at the hospital   Disappointed and frustrated, Katherine ate a sandwich with a cup of hot coffee, and left a hastily-prepared dinner in the oven for her husband and a note on the table.  Then she hurried back to the hospital, hoping to have a word with Dick when he came.  But he had already arrived and was in his wife’s room; and she knew that an intrusion just now would not be appreciated and would accomplish nothing.

Katherine remained in the corridor for most of the
 evening and was still there when Linda
 took a sudden sinking spell.  
Doctors and nurses were summoned,
and after a time, she rallied somewhat.
Finally, Dick came out into the hall for a moment, and Katherine took the opportunity to tell him what had been bearing so heavily upon her mind.  But his misery was so great that he failed to get the full import of what she was saying at first.

“No, I could not possibly tell her,” he groaned, when he understood what she was getting at.  “She would probably die immediately from the shock.  And there is always a chance that the doctor is 
wrong.  She has already lived longer than he said
 she would. Maybe she will pull out of it yet.
  I’ve just got to keep on hoping.
 And even if I knew she had to go, 
I could never tell her!”

“Not even to give her a chance to be saved?” 
asked Katherine desperately, 

...but she realized even as she spoke that she could never expect Dick to understand or appreciate her feelings. If only he were saved himself!  If only he realized his wife’s danger!”

The next morning, Dick’s sister Marjorie, called Katherine and asked her if she would go to the hospital and stay with Linda for the afternoon.  She herself was staying that morning, as Linda was so ill that she could no longer be left alone, and no special nurse was available.  Dick was on the verge of collapse, after staying all night, and could not be of much help.

Katherine readily agreed to go, and began at once to get her house in order and meals cooked for the day, so that she could stay as long as was necessary.  A hope burned in her heart that Linda might be a little better, at least enough so that she might speak to her once more about her soul’s salvation.

But her heart sank when she reached the hospital and found that her friend was only partially conscious.  Moments of lucidity would come, but she would soon go off again. 

It was as Katherine had feared.  Apparently the time had come when Linda was not rational enough to receive Christ and really trust Him for salvation, even if she desired to!  Once she opened her eyes, and looked long at Katherine, and she took hope once more.

“Do you know who I am?” she asked her friend.

“Kathie,” she whispered weakly.

“Listen, Linda,” asked Katherine earnestly, her hand upon the sick woman’s, “have you received Christ yet?”


“Will you do so now? He is just waiting
 to come into your heart.”

“Not ---not now,” and Linda’s eyes closed again.

The next time a nurse came in to give the sick woman some attention, Katherine slipped out and went in search of the attending physician, who was usually in the hospital at this time of the afternoon.  

Fortunately, she found him, and without any preliminaries, she began, “Dr. Myers, I think it is a crime to allow Mrs. Renforth to go out into eternity completely unprepared as you are doing. If she knew that she was dying, I feel certain that she would try to get ready for death.  Will you not give permission to tell her?”

“Only to her husband,” replied the doctor coldly.  “I have already given him permission to tell her the truth; but Mr. Renforth does not wish her to know, and I agree with him perfectly.  Why should we shorten her life by telling her, when we are doing all in our power to prolong it?”

“But why deny her the privilege of knowing that she is leaving this world? cried Katherine.  “She would surely want to make some preparation for the next life!” Doctor, would you yourself give up eternal life for a few short hours of this one?  It’s unfair to her not to tell her the truth!”

“That is your opinion,” replied the doctor stiffly.  “Religious opinions are so varied that I pay little attention to them.  As for apprising Mrs. Renforth of her condition, that is entirely up to her husband.  And now, if you will excuse me---,“ and Katherine found herself firmly dismissed!

The devil had done his work well.  He had foiled every attempt which Katherine had made to have Linda acquainted with her true condition.  He must also have found a way to dull Linda’s perception from the first, ro else she must surely have guessed the truth from the broad hints given her time after time by friends who longed to tell her.

With a heart like lead, Katherine went back to her friend’s room, determined, since all else had failed, to tell her the truth herself, regardless of the result.  But the sick woman, burning with fever, turned glassy and unrecognizing eyes upon her friend, and jabbered unintelligibly.  Sick at heart, Katherine realized that she was probably beyond all help now.

“I have just given her another hypodermic,” said the nurse.  “She will be quieter soon.”

Katherine nodded numbly, and once again took up her vigil by the bed.  There she remained in agonizing prayer until six o’clock, when other members of the family arrived to spend the night.

Katherine went out to a nearby drug store and had hot coffee, but instead of going home, she went back to the hospital once more.  Perhaps there might be another lucid moment, who could tell?  At any rate, she felt that she could not go home, even if there was nothing she could do for Linda.

As she approached her friend’s room, she was startled to hear the sick woman’s voice, high pitched and unnatural.  She was crying out, “Show me! Show me! Show me! Show me!, incessantly.

Dick and Marjorie were there beside the bed, endeavoring to find out what she wanted; but Linda did not recognize them, nor hear what they said to her.

Linda’s mother and other members of her family were packed into the small room, and there was not space enough left for Katherine to enter.  She stood in the corridor, and Linda’s voice, droning incessantly on and on, beat upon her brain until she felt that she would go mad.

“Show me!  Show me!  Show me! Show me!”
One after another of the family group tried to get through to Linda’s consciousness but failed.  She knew nothing, heard nothing, and saw nothing. Yet she kept up that monotonous wail, saying the same words over and over.

In the morning, after a short, troubled sleep, Katherine arose and began to get ready to go back to the hospital; but while she was preparing to go, the telephone rang, and Marjorie told her that Linda had gone without recovering consciousness.

If her last words indicated a desire to be shown how to accept God’s way of salvation, as they may have done, her request was not granted.  She had waited too long.

Permission granted to use on this blog.
---Gospel Herald