Merry Christmas, Bill
by Reg Quist
Although Bill was a well-known local businessman, I had never met him. I knew the name but not the man. So when the organizer of our Barbershop Chorus Christmas outing announced that we were to sing at the bedside of a very special friend of his, I took it as just one more thing to do. Our Chorus was well known for visiting the hospital and the senior’s homes. Visiting one more sick room would be no problem.
We made our way through the hospital, quietly singing carols in rooms, hallways and nursing stations. Most of the sick and elderly seemed to enjoy the old songs, and it is the old songs that Barbershoppers love to sing.
Arriving at Bill’s room, we were told before entering that Bill was very sick with cancer. His life expectancy was being counted in days. We filed in with due reverence and gathered around the bed. Bill sat up as best he could and listened intently as we very gently sang some carols. We ended with Silent Night. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the entire chorus. The reality of imminent death struck deep into the heart of each of us.
My position as a tenor had forced me into the back corner of the crowded hospital room. From that position I would be one of the last to leave. When we finished singing, the men each wished Bill a Merry Christmas with a handshake or a light touch. I wanted to do more. I felt the Spirit moving me to do more. I stepped back and allowed the others to leave before me, arranging to be the last one out. I put my hand on Bill’s shoulder and said, “May I come and visit you again?” His response was eager. “Yes.”
I went to see Bill in a couple of days and had a great visit. I told him about my Savior and about why the Christmas season was so special to me. We talked for a while and he asked me to visit again. I let a couple more days go by and then made my way to his room. This time Bill was not at all well. I could see he had failed. He could barely talk; his throat was so dry. He had eaten nothing for several days. After a short time of sitting by his bed I said “Bill, it’s Christmas, is there anything you really, really want?”
I’m not sure what I thought a dying man would ask for, but I certainly didn’t expect the answer I got. I shall never forget his words. He said, “I would like to be able to swallow just a little bit of water. Every time I try, I gag and get sick.”
I was unprepared for Bill’s words. “If I could just have a little drink of water.” With the typical Canadian Christmas being an orgy of buying and giving and getting, I was unprepared for such a simple request. “Just a sip of water.” A request so basic that I was shocked by it.
It took me a few moments to get my bearings again but finally I said “Bill, I am going to pray that God will allow you that wish. But first I have to tell you again about the Savior.”
Bill listened carefully as I told him about the love of Jesus and the eternal life waiting for those who receive Him. When I was finished, I said, “Bill, would you like to know this Jesus?” Bill’s response was immediate. Through dry, cracked lips and past a parched throat came the barely audible response, “Yes.” It was then my very great privilege to lead Bill in prayer, and a new name was written down in Glory.
The Scripture promises that angels sing at times like this and I felt like singing too. Into a dying body came new spiritual life. That life showed up in Bill’s eyes and I felt it in the grip of his hand.
I then prayed for Bill as he had requested. I prayed that he would be able to take on a little nourishment and drink a bit of water.
That done I floated home on wings of wonder, glorying in the reality of the living God.
I visited again the next day. What I saw in the sick room was a new Bill. He was sitting up, he was smiling, and he was happy. “Bill,” I asked. “What about the water”.
Again, I shall always remember Bill’s answer. “I drank three whole glasses of water. I threw two of them back up, but one stayed down”. We both laughed and then gave thanks to God together.
Bill got a little better. He started to eat and the intravenous was removed. In a few days Bill went home. He never got really well, but he did spend the remainder of his life in his own home with his own family. He lived several more months and then died quite suddenly. The cancer was just too far-gone to be reversed. But he never again had to go without nourishment and he never went back on his commitment to Jesus.
I visited often with Bill and our favorite conversation was of God and the things of eternity. His friends mourned him at his funeral but in my heart, I was rejoicing. Bill was healed and in the presence of the King of Glory. What better healing could we ask for?
God has many ways of calling out His chosen ones. Not all callings are as dramatic as Bill’s, but God is free to use whatever method He wishes. And when I get feeling selfish or hard-done-by I think of Bill and his little sip of water. It makes it much easier to keep things in perspective.
And it was, indeed, a very Merry Christmas.