Returning to the Fold

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven
over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent

Luke 15: 7    (New International Version)
He was a 65- year-old gentleman with lung cancer which was producing a great deal of chest pain. We’ll call him John. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy had had their turn. Now it was up to the palliative care team to support him and his family through their shared experience of suffering. Increasing doses of pain-killers at home had made little difference, so he was admitted to the hospice. Little seemed to be helping; the doses were going up and up.
Opposite him in the four-bedded ward was another patient. We’ll call him David. He too had lung cancer. Breathlessness was his main complaint. Despite this, he engaged in conversation across the ward. 
John’s pain had continued, but a couple of days later as the nurse and I went round to see the patients, I remarked:
‘You look so much better,’ 
‘I feel it,’ was John’s reply.
‘So what’s suddenly made the difference?’ I asked.
John paused for a moment and then said: ‘I don’t know how to put it; but I guess it’s what you might call a sort of spiritual experience.’ He paused, and then added as though by way of afterthought: ‘Oh I’m sure you’ve got the dose of pain-killers right.’ 
I smiled.
‘I’m delighted to hear what you’ve just said. We know there’s more to pain relief than our medicines.’
I was about to walk on to the next bed, but curiosity got the better of me. What had happened, I wondered.
‘It may be something very personal and private, John, but I’d really love to know more about this spiritual experience,’ I ventured.
John hesitated but he soon had the explanation coming.
‘You see David across there. He's a devout Catholic, and he’s been talking to me about his own faith. I’ve known for some time that there are some things I needed to put right. He has a nice priest visiting him, so he came to speak with me, and I’ve done it. In fact he’s left this book here for me: ‘While You Were Gone: A Handbook for Returning Catholics.’
I moved across the ward to have a word with David.
‘I wish you could do for some of the other patients what you’ve done for John,' I said.  David beamed.
Next morning when John woke up he found the bed opposite empty. David had died in his sleep. 
‘I’m just so glad I met him,’ was John’s rather matter of fact comment.
He was discharged home the following week – still much better.