Give Me Truth or Give Me Death

She was a feisty little old woman, in spite of her condition. I can’t recall her name, though it feels like it’s at the tip of my tongue, the edge of my memory. I met her while hospitalized for 5 days in 2005. I had minor surgery that was to require a 2-day stay but a massive hematoma extended my stay to almost a week.
She was delightful, with a great sense of humour. As she scooted about the hospital, she took with her a strange contraption, something that looked much like a vacuum cleaner. It had a hose, though smaller than a vacuum cleaner hose, that ran under her shirt. She explained that its purpose was to keep her lungs clear of fluid.
I wanted to ask her why, but chose instead to respect her privacy. During my time as her ‘roomie’ I learned the rest of the story. She had previously been diagnosed with lung cancer but fortunately they had removed all of it, treated her and told her she was cancer free. That was about five years before I met her. I also learned she wasn’t as old as she appeared. Cancer had taken its toll on her body and she wasn’t quite seventy.
The more she shared with me of her current situation, the more I realized that the cancer was back and the ‘cancer-free’ was an illusion from the past. What bothered me most was that they were not telling her the truth.
On day three a nurse showed up for the usual routines but this time with a family doctor, who also checked her.
“Will the oncologist come see me again?” She repeated the question she had asked the nurses several times each day. “The fluid has been really bad the last few days. I should probably see him again. Has he gotten the test results yet?”
Again they assured her she was okay and it wasn’t cancer. They told her that the oncologist would come in a day or two and give the test results in person.
I could hear every word. Curtains are definitely not sound proof. I felt guilty. And the whole time I kept thinking, “Tell her the truth! Don’t let her die slowly and not know it.” She had told me she would want to know and have time to prepare.
As promised, the oncologist arrived the next day. I didn’t even try to avoid eavesdropping. I wanted to know if he would tell her what all the evidence had already told her for several months. To my amazement, when he told her the cancer was back, she argued with him, assuring him that everyone had told her it wasn’t and that she was okay.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “there is nothing more we can do.”
She argued again, and again he told her the truth.
Something changed in my new friend that day. After the doctor left she was confused and unsettled. The wheels of her little vacuum cleaner stopped squeaking across the floor and she stopped making fun of it. The laughter stopped. It was as though her life had already been taken from her. Alive, yet dead. Dead, yet living. Hope was gone.
The truth she wanted had come too late and when it did, the lies had already convinced her so completely that the truth destroyed her.
A day later I left the hospital. I had a six-week recovery ahead of me and was not able to return to the hospital to visit her so I never saw again.
To this day there is a twinge of sadness in my spirit as I recall this woman who had only days, maybe weeks to live and was not given the dignity to embrace the truth and spend quality time with family in preparation to say good-bye.
Jesus says, in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. “ There is something to be said for truth. No matter how difficult truth is, ultimately it has the potential to bring freedom.
Cancer, undiagnosed, cannot be treated. Slowly it destroys the body, invading it, overtaking the good. While treatment doesn’t always bring cure, it increases the odds and it also gives patients hope, something to fight for, something to overcome.
Shouldn’t we live truth and, if we’re going to speak at all, shouldn’t it be the truth that Jesus left with us? He came to give life and to make life rich and full. It can only be full and rich when we know truth and embrace it.
Truth removes all control, manipulation. It sets us free. Free to love. Free to live. Free to be the person we are created to be. Truth gives us dignity. It offers us the freedom to choose how we respond to it—allowing us to accept or reject it, rather than choosing for us. Truth is constant and unbending, whether we like it or not. Truth is empowering and liberating.
The quote: “Give me liberty or give me death” by Patrick Henry, could well have been “Give me truth or give me death” .

2 thoughts on “Give Me Truth or Give Me Death

  1. ouradoptionexperience September 4, 2011 / 2:43 pm

    Well said, Trudy!! May the truth continue to be proclaimed. As the truth is spoken and light is shone into the dark places, the strength of many strongholds, is broken.

  2. Suzanne Talbot September 15, 2011 / 5:20 am

    Thank you! We find hope in Christ! I am grateful to JMT for connection with you! JOY!

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