Six-year-old Paul sat uneasy and all alone in the hospital waiting room. Three weeks before he had been sitting in the very same room, together with his parents and his infant sister Annie, anxiously awaiting the results of the ten-month-old’s blood tests. Ever since her birth Annie had been a sickly child; her frequent fevers and recurring infections were signs of what her family feared was leukemia.
An hour after completing the tests, the hematologist had called them into his office, and had quietly announced that the tests confirmed that Annie did indeed have leukemia; her bone marrow wasn’t producing enough red blood cells to bring the required oxygen to her body.
What could be done to stop the disease? The only hope of a cure was to find other healthy marrow to implant into Annie’s bones and hope that her body would accept the new healthy blood cells. Those for whom no cure could be found lived a life of ever increasing weakness until their blood could no longer supply the amount of oxygen needed by the body to survive.
Paul’s parents suddenly reappeared through the waiting room door, walking quickly toward him, accompanied by two or three doctors. He hadn’t seen much of his parents during these last weeks. Most of their time was spent at the hospital with his sister, waiting and praying for a suitable match to be found for Annie’s bone marrow. Three weeks of failed attempt after failed attempt had passed, and just a few days ago the doctors had suggested that a sample be taken from Paul himself.
Smiling cautiously, Paul’s parents announced that the results had been positive; his marrow was the only positive match with that of his sister. But all smiles turned into looks of concern as they noticed the boy’s reaction: Paul’s face had turned suddenly white; he refused to look at them as he stared at the ground. His mother knelt down to take his clenched and trembling hand and assured him his sister was okay; all Annie needed to get better was some more of his healthy marrow and she would have hope for a real future. Paul said nothing. After a few moments of silence, he nodded his head, still looking down at the ground, and reached out to wrap his arms around his mother’s neck.
The next day Paul was once more in the operating room. He looked around nervously as the doctors prepared to administer the anesthesia. After administering anesthesia, the doctors proceeded with the operation. Several hours later, the operation over, Paul’s parents heaved a sigh of relief as their son awoke from the anesthesia. Paul resumed his nervous look and spoke for the first time that day. Those words were to remain engraved in the minds and hearts of the few who had stayed waiting in the operating room.
“Mom? Dad?” he said, “When do I die?” Until then, no one had realized what had been going through the boy’s mind. He had truly been prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice so that his sister would live.
No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
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