Vits From A Man Named Nobody 81

Vits From A Man Named Nobody 81

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The door burst open, announcing the EMTs. 

“Mom, you’re going to be OK,” Paul said even as he moved back to allow the to emergency responders to do their jobs.

“I don’t want to be OK!” She sounded as if she were in agony. “I want perfect peace. No pain. No tears.”

Paul stood there staring as the emergency responders worked on his mother, muttering to one another. It might have taken a few minutes; it might have taken forever, but eventually they got her up on the gurney. 

One of the women approached him. “She’s reacting to chemo?” She must have talked to his mother a bit. 

Paul nodded. He was regarded as quite the scientist, but he couldn’t even think about what medications his mother was taking. His intelligence was failing. He had his wretched father’s build and strength, but that couldn’t fight a single cancerous cell. “The list of medications is on the fridge.” The words came out like he was back in college trying to remember a particularly tricky formula. 

The woman nodded. 

“Where are you taking her?” Paul asked. 

Of course, they were taking her to where she got all of her treatments. Why would take her anywhere else. 

The woman helped her partner raise the gurney and they moved toward the ambulance. Paul wasn’t sure if he locked, or even shut, the door behind himself. He just followed the EMTs out to the ambulance. He didn’t know if people were allowed to ride in an ambulance or not, but no one stopped him from climbing inside. 

The trip was quiet. Whether they gave his mother something to help her sleep, or the pain had faded, she seemed to be breathing deeply in sleep. Paul realized he was watching her chest rise and fall again. Every breath was somehow a relief and a threat. 

The ambulance came to a stop, and Paul tried to stay out of the way as they pulled out his mother and rushed her into the emergency room. Paul stopped in the waiting area and watched his mother be carted away. 

She wants to die. Death is a release to her.

A part of Paul remembered something about death being a good thing to Christians. It had to have been something someone said during Bill’s funeral. 

Paul stumbled around, stunned. A distant part of him knew that it would be a long time before anyone knew anything. He just wandered, trying to process what his mother had said. She was obviously in a lot of pain. Was she fighting just to stay with him? Did he want her to suffer like this just for the chance to live longer?

He didn’t even look up as he walked. The white-tiles on the floor of the hospital was the only way he knew he was moving. 

He didn’t want to lose her, but he didn’t want her to suffer. 

The tile floor suddenly turned into a dark, thin carpet. Paul looked up to see a religious area. He certainly didn’t know enough about Christianity or Catholicism to know which the room was built around, but the stain glassed windows that lined the walls to his left and right certainly depicted scenes even he could remember from reading the Bible all those years ago. 

A strange chuckle escaped Paul. One day ago, he’d have grumbled and turned around. He would have been annoyed at just being around a church. That day, Paul realized he would have had to wind up right exactly there. The room was empty. It was strangely quiet given that it was tucked inside a deep corner of a hospital. Four rows of pews led to a small stage where a cross hung behind a podium. 

Paul walked to the far-back pew and sat down. 

“Are you here?” 

Silence responded. 

“Figures,” Paul said. “You never really wanted me to talk to you; did you, Nobody?”

Nobody didn’t want Paul to seek him for guidance. Bill didn’t give advice based on what he thought. They always wanted Paul to go to the one being Paul never really wanted to acknowledge. 

He looked up, and tears flowed from his eyes. 

“I think you hate me.” The words came out in a soft, chocking manner. Even though he wanted nothing more than to sit there and weep, he didn’t know what else to do. 

“I know I said I hate you. You made that man my father. Then you gave me Bill and took him away. I was so angry.”

His head sank. It took him a few moments to gather himself. 

“I am angry. I’m angry all the time, and I don’t want it. But if you are there, then you’re really in charge. If I live in a universe created by an all-powerful God, I have to acknowledge that, that same God is in charge of everything. So I’m powerless. You can do whatever you want. Bill said that what you want most is people to come to you. Nobody said that, too.”

He wasn’t really sure what he was saying. His words were more about collecting his thoughts than anything else. 

“I’m alone. My mom is in there, and she wants to die, but even if she survives this, we all die.”

His voice cracked as more tears fell. “You can do whatever you want. Just please don’t let her hurt anymore.”

He fell forward, resting his arms on the pew in front of himself and burring his head in his arms. 

“I don’t want to lose her. I don’t want to be alone. But I don’t want her to hurt either. I don’t know why you took Bill. I don’t even know who Nobody is or why he hasn’t appeared in so long. All I know is I love my mother, and if anyone is going to save her, it has to be you.”

He looked up. “I’m sorry I hated you. If you’re there, you’re the being in charge of everything, and all I’ve done my whole life is try to fight you.” Paul spread his arms. “I’m done. You can do whatever you want with me. You can do whatever you want to me. I deserve it. I’m angry. I’m violent. I push everyone away. So I I deserve it.”

Paul looked out the door of the church, or whatever it was called. He couldn’t really be sure where his mother was, but he wanted to believe he was looking in her direction. “But she’s done everything I know a person who follows you should. And she’s tried so hard to get me to surrender to you. She’s been patient. Sh—“ He needed another few moments to collect himself. “If you’re there, you’re the one who decides when a person lives or dies. Just don’t let her hurt anymore.”

He waited another moment. 

“But please save her. I need her. I know, that if you’re real, it’s moronic to fight you. It’s just plain stupid to go against you, so of course I need you. I just … please don’t take her from me now. But please don’t make the time I get with her painful.”

He gave another of those odd chuckles. “I keep saying ‘if.’ I don’t know anything. But I think … I think you’re real. And that wouldn’t change if you saved her or you didn’t. I’m just asking, even though I’m the last person you should ever do anything for. My whole life I thought that if you were real, that you owed me, but that was never true. You don’t owe anyone anything. You didn’t have to make us. So I get it. This isn’t a trade. This isn’t a bargain. All I can do is ask, so I’m asking.”

Paul let his head rest on his arm again. He’d said all he could think to say. He didn’t know where else to go, so he just sat there. Eventually, his tears ended and sleep arrived. 

… to be continued …

Book Review: Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul

Book Review: Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul

In Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics, R.C. Sproul seeks to defend two simple claims for the defense of Christian truth. They are: God’s existence and the authority of the Bible.

I picked this book up because apologetics fascinate me. While I was hoping for more archeological and scientific information, this book is still wonderful for what it does do.

Before anyone takes my previous statement too far, please do not misunderstand. What I meant was more in depth archeological study. This book is actually quite analytical and scientific. In fact, it begins with a clear distinction between the terms contradiction, paradox, and absurdity. It then continues with its truth statements using certain criteria. One I remember is two different things cannot be true at the same time in the same circumstance.

Sproul bases his arguments on the fact that if his two main points are true, everything else must be, and that much is true.

So here I state a fundamental principle. None but those who are called will come to saving faith. Apologetics are intellectually valuable, but without God’s intervention, a human cannot come to believe. We are, however, tasked to defend our faith and share the good news, so those two principles are a fantastic place to start. C.S. Lewis started his series Mere Christianity in much the same way. 1) There is a God. 2) It is the Christian God. 3) His word is authoritative.

Sproul doesn’t simply provide evidence for those statements. He also provides counterargument to several other views.

This book is absolutely worth reading for Christians and non-Christians alike. For those just seeking to understand fundamental Christian beliefs, this book (obviously the best would be the Bible) is a reasonable summary. For Christians seeking a better understanding and manner to defend their faith, it not only provides comforting evidence, but counterpoints that answer questions I know I had when I was younger in my faith.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 80

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 80

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Twenty-Four

May 29, 2038, 10:34 p.m. 

13 Years, 189 Days Ago

Paul gently held his mother as she retched. Her heaving stomach had long since emptied itself of it contents. She wept. 

“It hurts!” The statement was barely a whisper, but it still carried with it the implication of immense pain. 

She heaved again. Despite doing so for at least five minutes, nothing came out. Each time she finished convulsing, she fought to take in a breath before another wave of nausea hit her. It was like she was being suffocated by the illness. 

“I’m here,” Paul said. “I’m sorry. I … I don’t know what to do.”

Each bout of nausea got worse after each treatment. This session, the fourth, there was no optimism as they sat the treatment room, and Derek administered the treatment. They waited for the inevitable aftermath, and it came just five hours after they got home.

This time, Paul’s mother didn’t even sleep. She didn’t eat. She just went into her bathroom and waited with Paul, and the nausea, as expected, hit harder than ever. 

Paul stared at his mother as she heaved again, but this time, something plopped into the bowl. 

Paul glanced inside and froze. Dark red blood swirled in the water, changing it’s color in a terrifying moment. 

“We’re taking you in,” Paul said. 

He tapped his PID, activating it so he could press the emergency button. After a few painful moments, during which his mother coughed more blood into the toilet, a man’s face appeared on the PID.

“Emergency services. An ambulance is already on the way. My name is Don. Please tell me the emergency.”

“My mom’s coughing up blood,” Paul said. “She’s been going through chemotherapy, and they told me to report any blood immediately.”

Don’s holographic head nodded. “Someone will be there soon. Are there any other symptoms.”

“It hurts,” Paul’s mother whined. “I feel like my head is going to explode. God, I don’t want to do this any more. I don’t want this pain. Lord, I’m ready. Call me home and end this suffering.”

Paul fell back against the bathtub as if he were shoved. Did she really just ask to die? Is the pain that bad?

A siren screamed in the distance, and Paul shook his head and sucked in a breath. “Let’s get you up.”

He reached over to help his mother up, but she tried to push him away. “I said I’m done!” Though the comment was barely audible, the anger in her tone was clear.

“OK,” Paul said. “I’ll just go let them in.”

He rushed to the door. Coincidentally, the ambulance came to a stop in front of the house right as Paul opened the door. The large white vehicle’s hybrid engine seemed to both rumble and whine at the same time. Red lights flashed on the top of the vehicle. 

Two people, both women, exited the front doors and quickly walked to the back. They opened the rear side of the ambulance and rolled out a gurney. 

“The door is open!” Paul shouted. “We’re in the bathroom in the master bedroom.”

Paul didn’t wait for any reply, rushing back to his mother. 

He got to the bathroom and found her sitting on the stool crying. She held herself, awkwardly crossing her arms in front of her chest and yet still twisting her hands around so they could clasp together. 

“I can’t do it anymore!” Her comments came in quiet whispers of agony. “Please take this pain. Please don’t make me go through any more.”

“The ambulance is here,” Paul said. “They’re going to get you to the hospital and make you feel better.”

She looked at him, her full lips trembling, holding in a scream. She took a deep breath. “I don’t want to feel better,” she said. “I want the pain to stop.”

“That’s …” Paul didn’t understand. 

“I don’t want comfort,” she said. “I want it to end.”

“I … “  Paul couldn’t think.

“I love you,” she said. “I’m sorry I can’t fight any more. I just can’t do this any more.”

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 79

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 79

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Each time she took in a deep, restful breath, he took a bite, but he didn’t realize that was what he was doing until he was halfway through his meal. He set the bowl down and just watched her.

A series of agonizingly long minutes passed until he picked up the bowl and went right back to rewarding each of her breaths with another bite of food. It was literally all he could do. Sure he called the hospital and helped her get back to bed, but he was utterly powerless in this situation. 

He set the bowl back down; there were only a few stray noodles remaining. Paul pulled out his note pad. The truth was no man every really had any power in any situation. A person could exercise, eat right, see a doctor and dentist regularly, and still end up killed just as easily as anyone else. 

Paul imagined most people understood all of that, but the illusion of power gave comfort. Paul’s mother was aways strong and beautiful, even now. She ate right and lived a life most people would describe as good no matter what their beliefs. Regardless, there she was, lying in a bed and completely helpless to do anything. 

Paul threw the notepad down in frustration. The slap it made on the hardwood floor caused his mother’s eyes to burst open.

Idiot! He couldn’t even reign in his temper for the sake of his mother?

She looked around, smiling when her eyes met his, and then smiling wider when she saw the bowl still steaming on her night stand. 

“Is that for me?” she asked.

Paul smiled. “I wasn’t sure if you were hungry or not, and I didn’t mean to wake you; I’m sorry.”

She gave a soft chuckle, and Paul grimaced as she winced in pain. “I’m sure whatever it was won’t do whatever it did again.” She must have noticed his concern as he stood. “I just felt a moment of discomfort.” She reached out a grabbed his hand. “I’m OK, and I’d love a few sips of that broth.” She pulled back her hand.

Paul nodded and sat back down. He picked up the bowl and scooped up some of its contents.

Paul had created machines that could generate vacuum fields without the aide of any containment device. All of that required skill and dexterity, but in all his life, he’d never been so cautious and gentle than he was in those moments. 

She opened her mouth, and he guided the spoon to her lips, letting her slowly sip the liquid in. She gave a thin-lipped smile and let out a contented sigh. “I’m truly blessed to have a son who cares for me so.”

Paul let out a frustrated chuckle, but her eyes caught his.

“Should I focus on the pain?” she asked. “Should I focus on my concerns? Am I such a fool for choosing to be grateful for what I do have? Am I so stupid and naive for counting what good things I can count?”

“Of course not,” Paul replied. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to laugh like that.” He completed his apology with another spoonful of broth.

“I know you’re worried about me,” she said. “And I love you. And I’ve had my fair share of doubt and sadness and even anger. But if I just think for a minute about all the wonderful things I have, I can smile.” She did so, looking at him. “The first thing I always think of is you.”

“I was the worst son ever.” Paul scooped up more soup. 

She accepted another bite but them lied down. “I could say the same about my parenting skills.”

“Don’t go there,” Paul said. “We talked about that. What were you supposed to do?”

Her eyes were almost shut when the question came out, but they popped back open. “Care for you. Protect you.” A single tear rolled down her cheek. 

Paul thought for a moment. “You believe in forgiveness.”

“I have to,” she said.

“Whatever you may have done, whatever you’ve done in my life, know that the only thing I think about is how wonderful you’ve been to me.” The tone and forcefulness in his voice seemed to increase as he spoke. “I don’t think you need my forgiveness because I don’t hold it against you, but if that’s something you’re still holding on to, then know that I forgive you.” 

“Thank you,” she said softly. “And, you, who said you were such a bad son, you’ve made me so proud. I want the world for you. I love you, and I think you’re a wonderful son to me. Whatever you think you’ve done, I forgive you. You are my son, with whom I am well pleased.”

That last part tickled something in Paul’s mind, and he couldn’t understand why the phrase hit him as hard as it did. Whatever the reason, Paul had to scrub at his face and sniff in a suddenly runny nose. 

“So it’s settled,” he said. “We’ve forgiven each other, and I’m going to take care of you until you’re healthy.”

“That’s nice.” Her eyes drifted shut.

“I’ll be here when you wake,” he said. “I won’t leave you.”

“That’s … so … kind.” 

“I love you.” 

“Mmm hmm mm hmmmm.” 

Paul watched her sleep, careless of the time. He sat by her side and just watched until sleep came to claim him, too.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 78

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 78

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 // PT 47 // PT 48 // PT 49 // PT 50 // PT 51 // PT 52 // PT 53 // PT 54 // PT 55 // PT 56 // PT 57 // PT 58 // PT 59 // PT 60 // PT 61 // PT 62 // PT 63 // PT 64 // PT 65 // PT 66 // PT 67 // PT 68 // PT 69 // PT 70 // PT 71 // PT 72 // PT 73 // PT 74 // PT 75 // PT 76 // PT 77 //

“Yes.” Paul’s mother actually found a gasp of air necessary to join the conversation. 

Paul watched her take a few shaky breaths. “What?” He hadn’t paid any attention to the holographic projection.

“I asked if there was any blood in the vomit.” 

Paul looked in the bowl. The green and yellow mess didn’t have a hint of red in it.

“No.”

“Please make sure,” the woman said. “It might look black or even like coffee grounds.”

Paul looked again, half terrified that he’d find specks of black in the vomit, but no matter how hard he looked, all he saw was green and yellow. 

“I’m sure,” Paul said. The relief at what he didn’t see helped him get a handle on his temper. “That’s good, right?”

“Yes.” The woman actually smiled. “It’s horribly uncomfortable and painful to vomit, but as long as there’s no blood, then it’s very likely just bile.”

“Very likely?”

“Almost certainly,” the woman said. “How much has she had to eat?”

“Not nearly as much as she’s vomited,” Paul said.

“Some fruit,” his mother added. “Just a few servings here or there.”

“OK.” The woman gave a smile as she nodded. “What’s probably happening is something called delayed nausea, which is very frightening, but not terribly uncommon. That combined with fruit and the color of the vomit indicates that it is just bile.”

Her eyes glanced down, and Paul herd some distinct clicking, fingers pressing keys on a keyboard. 

“I’m sending you a list of food that will probably go down better and will be less likely to come up.” A small envelope appeared in the bottom right of the holographic projection to indicate the file had already arrived. “Give her some water and maybe a bit of broth, and try to help her get back to sleep.”

“That’s it?” Paul asked. 

“You can always bring her to the hospital to get checked up, but it seems like the worst of it is over, and what she needs right now is something to ease her stomach and help her rest,” the woman replied. 

Paul gently rubbed his mother’s back. “Do you want to go to the hospital?”

She shook her head.

“OK,” Paul said. 

“How should I know if I need to take her in,” he asked the hologram.

“Bleeding or blood in any situation is cause for concern. The darker the color of that blood, the more serious it is,” she said. “I want to be clear that you can and should always visit the hospital if you feel it is an emergency.”

Paul nodded as he listened. She stayed on the line for what had to be a full minute, watching Paul’s mother. 

Paul looked at the woman. “Thank you.” It was clear she was just giving his mother a bit of attention. 

“Your welcome,” she said. “Get some water and broth in her, just a little, and see if you can get her back to sleep.”

“OK,” Paul said.

The hologram blinked out of existence. Paul gently helped his mother up and into her bedroom. Just a few weeks ago, his mother seemed so vibrant. Now he worried he might break something if he gripped her too hard. 

And this is just after one treatment? How bad is it gonna get?

He tried to hide his concern as he covered her up. He went into the bathroom, flushed the toilet, washed his hands, and grabbed the PID before coming back out. He set the PID back on the night stand next to her bed.

“I’ll be right back.” 

True to his word, Paul fought himself to avoid sprinting to get his mother something to drink. He filled a pitcher with ice and water and brought a small cup back to his mother’s room. Some small part of his mind reminded him to snag a hand towel as he walked, and he set it on the night stand to catch the condensation of the water in the pitcher. His mother would go insane if something put a ring on any of her furniture. 

He poured water into the small glass, and helped his mother drink. She only managed a few sips. The cup couldn’t have contained 8 ounces, and she still only drank half of it, but at least she drank.  

“It’s right here for you, and if you need help, just tap your PID. I’m just going to make you some broth.”

Paul waited for his mother to nod before heading to the kitchen. He grabbed a can of soup and got to work cooking it. Once he had the contents heating in a pot, he made his way back to her room.

She was there, sleeping. Her hands were still folded together in prayer. She was clearly exhausted, but she didn’t look uncomfortable. Paul took a moment to finally head to his room and grab his PID. Then he returned to his mother’s side and watched her sleep until the soup was ready.

He quickly went to the kitchen to turn off the stove. He carefully used a lid to pour the broth into one container and the rest of the soup, vegetables and chunks of chicken, into a bowl. He covered the broth to keep it warm and set the bowl on top. He carefully walked back to his mother’s room, breathing out a relieved sigh when he saw she was still sleeping. He set the broth and noodles down and pulled up a chair. 

He left for another moment just to get two spoons. She was still resting comfortably when he returned, so he picked up the bowl, deciding to eat the noodles and chicken while he watched over her.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 77

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 77

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 // PT 47 // PT 48 // PT 49 // PT 50 // PT 51 // PT 52 // PT 53 // PT 54 // PT 55 // PT 56 // PT 57 // PT 58 // PT 59 // PT 60 // PT 61 // PT 62 // PT 63 // PT 64 // PT 65 // PT 66 // PT 67 // PT 68 // PT 69 // PT 70 // PT 71 // PT 72 // PT 73 // PT 74 // PT 75 // PT 76 //

Twenty-Three

March 27, 2038, 2:24 a.m. 

13 Years, 252 Days Ago

Paul wasn’t sure what woke him. He looked around from his bed. Did he hear that strange surge of electricity that accompanied an appearance of Nobody?

“Are you there?” 

Nobody didn’t usually just sit quietly, but Paul struggled to remember the last time he’d seen him. Nobody didn’t visit when Paul’s mom got diagnosed. He didn’t appear during the surgery. Maybe he finally gave up on Paul.

Paul wasn’t sure how he felt about that. While listening for a footstep or a soft word, he heard a distant coughing. That coughing quickly became a retching sound.

Paul launched out of the bed, throwing the comforter and sheets off his body. He was into his mother’s room and into the adjoining bathroom before the night air could nip at his bare calves and feet.

His mother was huddled over the toilet. Paul dropped to his knees and held gently rested his hands on her.

A stream of vomit erupted from her mouth. It could have been the stress of the moment, but Paul thought the yellow-green fluid poured out of her for a solid five seconds. It felt like it took for ever. 

His mother let out a few couches. “I’m .. .”

Another surge of sickness hit her. This time she only had a moment to take in a shuddering breath before another, longer attack struck. 

However long it really was, it felt like an eternity, and his mother had only managed a few inhalations through it all. 

Paul tried to keep the nervousness out of his voice and offer her words of love and encouragement, but she just kept on throwing up. Even as she began to weep from the pain and fear she had to have felt, she just couldn’t stop. 

She hadn’t even had that much to eat! There couldn’t have been much left in her stomach to force out. 

A fifth stream of bile flowed out of her, and finally, she managed a deep shuddering breath, and then another. 

Then the weeping resumed. She didn’t seem like she was going to be sick again, but she moaned.

“It’s hard.” It was barely more than a whisper. 

“It’s OK,” Paul replied. “I’m here.”

“Please give me strength.” 

Paul realized she was praying, so he just focused on holding her. He wasn’t sure if he did it intentionally, but his hand was on her back, and he couldn’t resist feeling her back expand and contract with each deep breath. 

She was halfway through one such breath when her body convulsed, and she leaned over the white, porcelain bowl. Nothing came out. There wasn’t anything left to come out, but her body still shook even as she coughed and hunched over.

“Please … “ It was one of only two words she could choke out. “God.”

Another round of hacks and full-body tremors struck her before her body seemed to be able to recover. By that time, she focused on her breathing. 

For some reason, Paul started counting his mother’s breaths. Each one seemed to be every bit as relieving as it was nerve-racking. Each one she offered made him hope she’d made it through, but it also made him wonder if it would be the last before another fit hit her. 

Five breaths passed. Ten breaths. 

“I’m going to call someone.” He should have called when this all started, but he didn’t want to leave her side.

He surged to his feet and went to his mother’s room, grabbing her PID rather than leaving to retrieve his from the night stand by his own bed. Even then, he returned to find her over the bowl again, coughing when she wasn’t sobbing. 

“Please … God.”

Paul positioned himself next to her again. Whatever he missed was over just as quickly this time. 

“I need your face,” Paul said gently. He positioned the PID in front of his mother to activate the facial recognition and unlock the device. 

He tapped frantically, bringing up the emergency contact he had received from the hospital. 

The PID gave a few blinks before a woman’s holographic face appeared. “Oncology Emergency Support. How can I … Oh.”

Whatever illness was attacking Paul’s mother chose that moment to give a brutal example of what was going on.

“You said it would happen within hours,” Paul said. “And nothing said it would be this bad!”

He shook with anger, but his mother had most of his attention. Paul set the PID on the water tank as he tried to console his mother. 

“It’s been more than 24 hours?” 

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 76

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 76

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The hard part was watching Derek put the needle in. A part of him understood that he didn’t have to watch. That part was dwarfed by a strange compulsion to stare. Even once the IV was set up, Paul watched as the solution poured down from the bag and into her arm. He hated seeing it even as he hoped that this solution would do its job. 

Paul sat near his mother and held her hand as she read. She whispered the words to herself so low he couldn’t make them out. The entire process felt surreal to him. He’d watch her lips move, look at her arm and the solution, look up at the bag, and look back at her. He couldn’t tell if Derek had left or not, and Paul didn’t spare a moment to look around for him. 

“Do you need anything?” he asked.

She smiled at him, patting his hand. “I have everything I need.”

“I could get you some water or maybe a pillow?” He wanted to do something, anything. 

Her smile widened. “I’m OK.” She turned back to her reading.

Each of the bags seemed to deflate. Derek must have been there. At the very least, he came back to switch bags, but Paul never noticed.  

His mother looked away from her reading again. “I love you.” Her eyes hardened. She spoke so forcefully, as if she’d never said the words before and was desperate for him to believe her. 

He smiled. “I know.”

She shook her head. “Do you understand what love is?”

He looked at her. “Sure.”

She stared at him. Did he actually expect him to define the term? 

He stammered. “It’s … well, it’s when you care about someone. It’s when they’re important to you.”

She nodded, but it wasn’t one that conveyed agreement. “I think most people think that way, but love is so much more.” 

She waved her hand around the room. “You took time off work. You help around the house.”

“Most the people who visit the house just sort of appreciate that I stay out of the way.” Paul wasn’t sure why he felt the urge to fell embarrassed, but he did.

“You’re here now, when you could be somewhere else,” she said. 

“Where else would I go?” Did she think he’d leave her? “Mom, I’m right here.”

She nodded, and this time her smile showed she agreed with his words. “I know you love me because you’re caring for me now. You’re sacrificing a chance to do more at work, and I know you’re still using that brain of yours. But you’re here with me.”

“I’m not leaving you!” This time it was Paul’s turn to speak with urgency. 

She smiled again. “I know. My point is, love is sacrifice. Anyone can say someone is important, but we show importance by how we prioritize things. When we’re willing to give up ourselves for someone else, we show our love for them.”

“Where is this coming from?” Paul let out a chuckle. 

“Because as much as I love you, though I’m willing to give up everything for you, there’s something I can’t do.” A tear rolled down her cheek.

“What? Mom, is something wrong?” Paul stood up and looked around for Derek. Was she in pain? 

He was about to call out when his mother said, “I can’t save you.”

Paul let out a long, slow breath. He was worried she was in pain, and she was just gearing up for a sermon. She was giving a speech right there in the treatment center. 

“Oh, I know that look,” his mother said. “If you must be mad at me, be mad, but I don’t frankly know when or how else to tell you this.”

Paul plopped down in the chair, gritting his teeth. “I already know your point.”

“Then give me the decency to allow me to say it, and maybe without looking like I’ve just slapped you.” She gave him a stern look. He shut his eyes. 

She’s afraid, and she wants to say her piece.

That thought actually made him more angry for a second. He didn’t want to lose her in the first place. But if he wanted to be near her, he’d better get more than a little used to her faith. She’s worth that much and more.

He opened his eyes to find her smiling. “Thank you. I would give my life for you to have anything, but Christ died so that you can have everything, and whatever happens, before things get bad, I wanted to tell you that. I understand you’re hurt, but all the pain we face in this world isn’t worth comparing to the glory to come.”

He gave her his full attention, hoping to at least show her he cared about her enough to hear her out. After she hadn’t said anything for another few moments, he nodded. 

“Thank you,” she said. 

That was it? He’d thought she would want some sort of statement or affirmation. He was really worried he’d have to lie to her to make her feel better.

“Would you believe in God if I got better?” she asked.

Paul gave a scoffing laugh before he could stop himself. He also couldn’t avoid opening his mouth to talk. “I’d believe the doctors were good at what they did.”

She nodded. Paul worried she would be angry at his mocking tone, but she only shrugged. “I see,” she said. “So man gets the credit for anything good that happens, but God only gets the blame for the bad things.”

He let out another sigh. He’d walked right into that one. 

She shook her head. “Just a point I wanted to emphasize to you. My son, we’ve both felt pain that no one should ever have to, but one day, you’ll see that it all works for your good.”

Bill died for his good. His biological father beat him for his own good. His mother got cancer for his own good.

“There’s that look again,” she muttered. “Keep that temper for three more seconds. I promise you; one day, you’ll see it.”

Paul’s breathing grew faster. She was talking like a crazy person! Here she is, near to death, and she still wanted to say her God loved her.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

The words sucked the anger right out of him. “For what?” 

“I know the thought angers you,” she admitted. “So I really appreciate you listening with such patience.”

He looked at her, worried she’d want more of that patience.

“Like I said.” She held up her hands in surrender. “That’s all I wanted to say.”

He studied the tiled floor. He was angry, but did he really want to take her faith from her at a time like this? 

No, he realized. Let her have it if it makes her feel better.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 75

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 75

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Twenty-Two

March 26, 2038, 3:55 p.m. 

13 Years, 253 Days Ago

Paul didn’t exactly know what to expect, but it wasn’t a recliner. They were in an enormous room full of identical cubicles. Each of those had a recliner, bookshelf, and television, which was mounted on the wall and positioned perfectly in front of whoever was seated on the recliner. 

For some reason, the IV pole felt like the center of everything. No amount of buttons or books or TV background noise was enough to erase the presence of that slender metal stand positioned on the white tile floor next to the recliner, where his mother sat.

She offered him a mischievous grin. “This might be the nicest chair I’ve ever sat in.”

Paul offered a smile that didn’t have any humor in it. “Want me to buy you one?”

She shook her head, but her smile remained. “It’s not your job to buy me things.” 

“Why not?” Paul wanted to keep things light, so he let his sarcasm loose. “I could remodel the living room just like this.”

She looked over at the IV pole. 

“I’ll leave that part out,” Paul whispered.

That earned him a melodious laugh that caused a few people in other areas to glare over at them. Paul didn’t care; it was the first laugh he’d heard in three weeks. 

Paul actually liked this specific cubical. While it was identical to every other section of the treatment room, it was tucked in the middle, making them unable to see either entrance at the front and rear of the room. Almost they could believe that they were in the strangest movie theatre ever. If only that stupid pole weren’t standing in the middle of it all. It felt like a pole, awaiting the rising of its flag to declare that this was not a comfortable lounge area. It was a treatment room, where, at any moment, someone would come by and hang that poison-filled flag up and let it flow into his mother. At least medical terms didn’t dress it up the way hospital rooms did. They called this a treatment center. But the term chemotherapy was quite clear. They were going to flood his mother’s body with chemicals in the hope that it would shrink the brain tumor down. 

His mother pulled up her PID and activated her reading app. There was no need for him to try and figure out what she was reading. While she’d read a lot in her life, she’d lost interest in any other book.

“Did you want to watch something?” She pointed at the TV.

Paul shook his head. “I’m just here to be with you.”

She gave him a warm smile and set her hand on his arm. “You’ve been wonderful. I’m grateful for all the people who’ve helped.”

That much was a relief. Paul had worried he’d have to do everything, but if someone from her church didn’t stop by once a day to see if she needed anything at all, they showed up every other day. And they always brought food. Paul wasn’t the worst cook in the world, but he’d hardly needed to operate a microwave with all the stuff people delivered or just left on the porch. 

“It’s pretty great how people are helping you,” Paul admitted. 

She smiled at him again, avoiding an obvious opportunity to talk about God. Paul appreciated that, and she probably knew it. 

They didn’t make her change into a hospital gown. That was another small kindness. She wore a blue sun dress that ran from the middle of her calves to a pair of straps that wrapped around her shoulders like a necklace.  

Paul wore a simple T-shirt and jeans. He pulled a note-pad and pencil of of his back pocket and started scribbling. He’d had time to think, and he’d come up with a few ideas to present to his boss, who said he could work from there so long as he delivered. 

The pencil and paper were antiquated systems, but Paul liked having the ability to just jot down ideas. If anything of note really caught his imagination, he’d transfer the notes to his PID for further review. For the moment, he was just trying to find anything to focus on instead of that stupid pole.

“Hello!” 

The word caused both Paul and his mother to jump. A young man who didn’t look old enough to drive, let alone operate medical equipment, stood at the entrance to the cube. The boy, there was no way he was 21, wore a lab coat, and it looked like he was just dressed for Halloween.

“How old are you?” Paul asked.

His mom lightly swatted his arm. “Paul!”

The boy laughed. “I’m actually 32.” He shrugged. “I think the fact that I’m short and skinny fools people.”

“32.” Paul couldn’t hide his skepticism. 

The kid offered another shrug. “You wouldn’t be the first person I’ve had to show my driver’s license to.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Paul’s mother said. “We’re ready.”

The man, Paul really did want to see that ID, got started setting up the bags. “My name’s Derek.” He hung up one bag. “I’m a physician’s assistant. I’ll be helping you out while you’re here.”

“You’re assigned to my mom?” Paul asked.

Derek nodded. “I’m on the team, and you can expect me to run this part for you guys.” He had hung another three bags by the time he’d finished speaking. “There’s not much to it, honestly. We deliver the treatment intravenously,” he looked at Paul’s mother and smiled. “So all you have to do is sit back and relax.”

Paul felt a strange relief. It wasn’t that Derek did anything special with the bags or even the IV he inserted into Mary’s arm. But the way Paul’s mother smiled at Derek made Paul feel better for some reason. It was like she saw some young man she’d just decided to adopt right there. 

As he watched the man set up the treatment, he codlin’t blame his mother. The guy’s shaggy brown hair and thin facial features just made it hard to see anything but a boy.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 74

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 74

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They held each other for a time. Paul thought she was still just trying to come to terms with the information. At the very least, that’s what he was doing. She might have been trying to support him. He didn’t ask. Instead he remained content to sit there as long as she was.

Time passed, and she eventually pulled away. “I have to change. Then you can take me home.”

Paul stepped out of the room and waited. He thought about how best to help his mom, trying to tamp down frustration at his utter powerlessness. After several minutes of telling himself there wasn’t much of a point in trying to do anything but be there throughout the treatments, he realized she hadn’t come out. 

He tapped on the door. “Mom? Did you fall asleep?”

“I’m fine.” The response was immediate, but he noted the tremor in her voice. She’d ben crying again. 

Somehow, her reply hurt him in a way he couldn’t completely understand. He wanted to be there to support her, but she wanted to be alone to cry. There was some sense in anyone wanting space, but Paul worried she felt like she needed that space. Paul’s mind started gnawing on the idea, but he wasn’t sure what else to do.

The door suddenly opened, and she offered him a fake smile. “Let’s go.”

The doctor was good to his word. When they went to receptionist to offer the co-pay for the insurance, the woman at the desk provided a packet of information about chemotherapy and its possible side effect. The stack of paper, containing information on both sides of each page, couldn’t have been an eighth of an inch thick, but it felt heavy in Paul’s hand. He kept the packet and used his other hand to hold his mother’s arm as they exited the hospital and got to the car. 

They drove in silence. Paul put the packet of information in the glove box, and his mother would glance at the compartment’s latch from time to time. She never reached for it, but it was clear she was thinking about it. 

The entire trip home was quiet. Paul pulled into the driveway and cut the engine. 

“You can cry around me.” Paul spoke before his mother’s hand reached the door handle. 

She froze there, looking at him as if she wasn’t sure what he meant.

“I’m worried about you. I don’t want to lose you, but you don’t have to be brave for me. You don’t have to hide somewhere alone if you’re mad or afraid.” He wasn’t sure why, but he didn’t look at her until he’d finished speaking. 

When he did, she was smiling at him. “Thank you.”

While a single tear rolled down her cheek, she didn’t fall into his arms or begin wearing. It wasn’t like that’s what he wanted her to do. He just wanted her to know she could.

Paul reached over and pulled the information packet out of the glove box. Then he got out, rushing around the car to be there to help his mother out as well. 

They got inside and took a seat on the couch in the living room. Paul, ever the scientist, itched to read the packet. He wanted to understand. He wanted to be prepared. But he codlin’t stop thinking about how his mother avoided it.

“Are you hungry?” He asked her.

“Not really,” she replied.

Paul looked at the packet again. “I understand if you’re not ready to go over that information. We can do it later.”

“When are you leaving?” she asked.

He stared at her. “Leaving?”

“To go back to work,” she explained.

He shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be right here.”

She smiled, shaking her head. “You can’t take a half-year off from work.”

“I’ll figure all of that out,” he said. “But whatever happens, I’m not leaving you until this is over.”

Her bottom lip trembled. She leaned over and wrapped her arms around him. The shift in position left her resting her head on his chest. That’s when the crying started.

“Thank you,” she said between shuddered breaths.  

“I won’t leave you alone,” he said.

She pulled back a bit, looking at him. “Oh, I’m not ever alone.”

He smiled. “I know.” He knew she was talking about her faith. He didn’t understand it at all, but it was something she took comfort in, so he had no intention of taking that, or any, solace away from her.

She placed her head back on his chest. “It’s still nice that you’ll be here though.”

While tears fell, she somehow sounded more cheerful. “I know you want to look at that information.”
“Yes,” Paul admitted, “but I know that you’re just not ready to do that yet. We have time. For now, just rest. Let me know if you want anything.”

“Thank you,” she said again. “Thank you, and thank God for you.”

A part of Paul was upset. He needed to be doing something. He wanted to say more to her, to make her feel better. But each time he opened his mouth, he remembered what his mother had said about sitting and listening. 

It was hard, listening to her cry without wanting to go over the information or formulate a plan for treatment, but it’s what she wanted, so that’s what he did.

The end of Chapter twenty-one.

… To be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 73

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 73

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“And how long will that take?” Paul asked.

The doctor might have shrugged or been hit by a particularly strong gust of air conditioning. “We’ll do six treatments. Each treatment will be three weeks apart.”

Paul ran the math. “So almost five months?”

Feniker nodded. “We’ll give your mother another few weeks to recover, and then we’ll do another MRI. If everything goes well, we’ll be able to do the surgery then.”

“What,” Paul’s mother took in a deep breath before continuing. “How bad will the side effects be?”

Feniker’s face seemed to scrunch up like he smelled something particularly rotten. Was that his thinking face? “There’s no real way to know. There’s usually sickness, nausea. The severity of the nausea ranges from mild to severe. I’ll make sure the receptionist gives you a packet that has all the details and possible side effects, but I’d advise you to consider them as a possible list instead of a comprehensive list.”

As the doctor spoke, Paul’s mother folded her hands together so tightly her knuckles went white. Somehow, even thought she was obviously afraid, her voice was even and clear. “Thank you.”

They spoke some more, scheduling the first treatment for two weeks from then. Paul tried to keep his thoughts calm. The doctor was clearly trying to maintain a positive demeanor, but Paul couldn’t keep from feeling like he was acting like he didn’t care. No amount of effort let him see it any other way. Luckily for Paul, the doctor excused himself before Paul could work himself into what even he realized would have been an unjustified tantrum.

Paul wrapped an arm around his mother as the doctor shut the door behind himself. The echo of the closing door hadn’t faded before his mother turned into his chest and wept. He held her. He didn’t have a clue what to say, so he remained silent.

“Peace I leave with you,” she whispered. “My peace I give with you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”

She cried for another few moments and then repeated the phrase. Each time she said it, she seemed to need a little less time to cry, but she gripped him more tightly with each rotation. By the fourth time, her grip was just a shade less than painful, but Paul sat there, quietly holding his mother. 

“Thank you for your support.” Paul would have thought she was still quoting scripture if she hadn’t have looked into his eyes and offered a smile. “I’m so glad you’re here with me.”
“I’d prefer to be with you in a restaurant, but I suppose this’ll do.” He offered her one of his fake smiles, but she laughed anyway. 

“I mean it,” she said. “Whatever happens, I will cherish the memory of how kind and sympathetic you’ve been.”

“Kind?” He was ready to punch the first person he could find who had a reasonably punchable face. “I just sat here.”

“Oh, if more people were willing to just sit quietly and support others.” She chuckled as she spoke. 

… to be continued …