“Hi, José”


One day while serving in the Chile Santiago East Mission, my companion, Elder Patricio Álvarez, and I received permission from our mission president to visit Elder Álvarez’s ailing grandfather in a local hospital.

When we located his grandfather’s room, we found two ancient men engulfed in extensive tubing and wiring. Two of Elder Álvarez’s aunts were there comforting his grandfather. Elder Álvarez quickly joined them.

I hung back, not wanting to intrude on this family moment. As I stood apart from the little group, I noticed the other patient in the room. He seemed unaware of anything around him. He stared through sunken eyes at the ceiling—his mouth gaping. His appearance startled me.

Suddenly a thought pierced my mind: Go comfort him!

No, I thought, he is too far gone for me to do any good. Besides, what would I say? He is a complete stranger.

But the thought came again: Go comfort him!

This time I thought of what Jesus Christ would do and realized I couldn’t do any harm by at least saying hello.

As I approached the man’s bed, it was difficult to walk; my feet didn’t want to move. I noticed a small yellow card that read “José.” I wondered, Where are this man’s friends and family? He is not just a name on a wall.

Then I realized he was looking at me. His eyes were full of pain. I tried to smile, but smiling didn’t seem right. I stood at the foot of his bed while I found enough courage to move to his bedside. Once there, I reached over, put my hand on his, and said, “Hi, José.” Giant tears rolled down his cheeks. Tears rolled down my cheeks as well. Our eyes locked; everything else faded away. Then he closed his eyes tightly and began to sob.

There we were—an old man and a young boy. I hummed Church hymns. He cried again several times, but each time he gave me a nod, letting me know he would be all right.

Thirty minutes passed quickly. My companion and I needed to leave. I didn’t know how to say good-bye to José. How could I possibly sum up what I had felt and thought? I bent over and whispered in his ear, “Jesucristo está contigo” (Jesus Christ is with you). He gave me one last nod, and we parted ways, never to see each other again in this world.

Someday I hope I have the chance to really get to know José.

[illustration] Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson