The Chaplain

This story was a shock and a blessing mixed into one; we were not expecting this a year after John’s death.

Inside was a handwritten letter and a copy of John’s obituary from the Philadelphia newspaper stapled to it. As I (Bob) read this quietly I was shocked at what was being communicated. This person was at Thomas Jefferson Hospital the night that John died; she had held his hand, stroked his cheek and cried as she held him. She mentions that John was a “blessing” to her, for one reason, because her brother died prematurely and she never was able to be with him; his birthday, August 27th!

It was Saturday, September 1, 2007, when the unexpected happened. Labor Day weekend was filled with most of our family in town for a warm, end-of-summer, weekend. After a day of swimming with the family we came home and gathered the mail. In the mail was an unusual handwritten envelope from the funeral home and in the envelope another handwritten envelope, simply addressed to: “The Jung Family”, care of the funeral home. A sticky note asked if the people at the funeral home could forward this to our family.

I said to Pam, “Listen to this.” As I read the letter again out loud, we were sobered and began to cry. Who is this person? A doctor? A nurse? A paramedic? We didn’t know and she didn’t say, so Pam wrote her because there was a return address and asked that she call, write or email.

A week later, September 9th the phone rang and there she was. Up until this point there were so many mixed feelings, it was so unsettling. Pam and I looked at it like a jigsaw puzzle that we had figured out after a few weeks after John’s death as we received medical reports, spoke to people at the hotel and hospital and so on. We had the “picture” in our mind of the last hour of John’s life and now someone was sharing details we never heard about. This was upsetting because of the gaps in the letter and the lack of identification of the role of the person that morning. It was as if someone threw a handful of puzzle pieces onto the picture and we were left to figure out how they fit.

Now we could speak to one another and at this point I found out that the author of the letter was the Chaplain at the hospital who just happened to be in the emergency room area when John arrived. These are the new things we learned:
  • John was not alone at the hotel; there was a couple on the elevator with John as he attempted to get to the lobby to seek help.
  • The wife on the elevator stayed with John and the husband ran to the front desk to have them call 911.
  • The Paramedics arrived within a matter of minutes. (The Chaplain knew the head paramedic whose territory is downtown Philadelphia and relayed the timeframe.)
  • The Chaplain took John’s wallet and found out from the paramedics where John came from and she called the Holiday Inn and told them to secure John’s room so the Police could perform a proper investigation.
  • No fewer than six medical personnel ran to John when he arrived at the hospital and they work diligently on him. At this point the story gets very interesting.
  • In the ER there is a strange experience that the medical team experienced, “something was different,” she said. The Chaplain described John as “beautiful” and “peaceful.” The talk in the ER is about John more as a person than an emergency. A Resident doctor mentions that he thinks he knows of John because they went to medical school at Penn.
  • The medical team is impacted by John’s death. After John was pronounced dead, the nurses went into the ER one-by-one and say “good-night” to John.
  • Later in the week one of the ER doctors brings in the obituary attached to the letter and gives it to the Chaplain and says, “This is guy that we all talked about the other night, the one that had such a different feel. I brought this in for you because I thought you might want it.”
  • The interesting thing for the chaplain was that doctors don’t usually acknowledge some type of spiritual experience; it’s usually all explainable in medical or scientific terms. She chuckled as she said this. Then she said, “I saw your website and now I think I understand.” “Yes,” I said, “It was the Holy Spirit.” She said, “I knew it.”
We spoke about the fact that there is a Holy Spirit and He works in places and at times that we don’t expect.

For Pam and me we were blessed again; it wasn’t that we didn’t have faith or peace, but there are those times in the back of your mind where you just are trying to figure it all out, and you can’t. People are complicated, as well as we know our children, we never know all of a person, but there is One who does. As we looked back on the last number of years of John’s life, they were filled with many low points and poor choices that compounded life’s problems; just like all of us have. This communication a year later convicted us more than ever about what a loving God we have.

The age old question in Christianity is whether or not you can lose your salvation once you accept Christ into your life. I have always believed on the side that God does not give up on us, but we often give up on Him. In John’s final moment on this earth, I realized that what happened in the ER that early morning was just another example of God at work in our lives. John was most likely dead at this moment but He used John to bless The Chaplain, He touched the medical staff and He touched our family, an entire year later. He is a creative God whose love we cannot stop. Praise Him!
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Joy: "The quiet confident assurance of God's love and work in our lives; no matter what happens"