He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Psalm 91:4 (NLT)

With an “I’m fine, mom, love you”, I felt comfort and thanks to God for allowing me that brief but powerful message to know my son was okay after the attacks this weekend.  

At the same time, my heart goes out to those families who are being visited by  the men and women in the black sedan, bearing the fatal news about their loved one.  I can’t imagine having that job.  I wonder how one deals with the immense sorrow that must come from delivering those messages.  I have confidence that the right people are chosen to do this. 

I hope I never meet one, but I know I met a great one a decade ago.

When my sister, Rosie, was in Good Samaritan/Phoenix Children’s after her final open heart surgery, we were visited by a chaplain named Sharlene who had come to meet with the family of the little girl next to us.  Sharlene was curious to see an adult in the Pediatric CICU and wandered over to introduce herself.  Both of our parents and I were in the room with Rosie and Sharlene adroitly ferreted out who was who and the history of Rosie’s medical condition.  She was easy to talk with and seemed impressed with the Scriptures and drawings from the kids that  we had hung on the walls of the room.  We talked about our beliefs and Sharlene commented, as did most who entered Rosie’s room, that the feeling amongst the family seemed to be joyful despite the dire situation.  After handing us her card, she easily passed to another room and began again with another family.

Rosie was the only adult on the unit.  Most of the patients were babies awaiting recovery from their own heart surgeries.  The little girl next to us was about seven or eight and had been brought to the United States by a benevolent group of physicians to have heart surgery.  None of her family spoke English and Sharlene was, at times, their interpreter.  Whenever she passed our room she’d drop in and say hi and read the day’s Scripture. 

One day we heard the sounds of a code from the room next door, bells, dings, running, controlled orders given.  This was followed by silence and then the keening of the little girl’s parents as they grieved her loss.  Sharlene came running into their room and as the door closed I saw her take the parents in her arms and hold them.  

We cried silently in Rosie’s room for the little girl, for her family.  There but for the grace of God…

After awhile Sharlene made her way over to us and plopped into the only chair.  Her face was streaked with tears and I put my arms around her.  This precious woman who ministered to so many so often in her job was in need and she held on to me as she regained her emotions.  She told us she had never had to do that, never had to run into someone’s room like she had come into Rosie’s.  She said the felt the Holy Spirit there and knew she had no more to give until she could be filled again.  She told us this was the third death that day. 

I can’t imagine how hard this would be.

As the weeks and months passed I saw Sharlene every day she worked at the hospital.  She shared how she had become a chaplain and why.  Her story was amazing…from a school teacher to chaplain because she wanted to be able to share more of her faith with others in a time of crisis.  She had her own crisis years earlier and knew the impact of having the right person with the family.  Her care and concern for others, her easy conversation and simple way of sharing her faith did have great impact.  Everywhere she went someone reached for her, asked her to pray with them, gave her pictures children had drawn of Jesus or angels or Heaven.  She knew the story behind every one that lined her office wall and as she shared those stories, her earnest love for each and every one came through.

A few minutes with this lady was like a drink of cool water…refreshing, sustaining, comforting, and hopeful.   Every hospital chaplain should be like Sharlene. 

When Rosie passed on to be with the Lord, she was in Alabama but Sharlene called us and coordinated with the doctor’s and nurse’s to prepare a service for her at Good Samaritan/Phoenix Children’s.   We were told that after someone had been there as long as Rosie (ten months), they, the staff, needed closure, too.  Working with the nurse’s and doctor’s, they put together a beautiful memorial service that we attended. 

The doctor’s, nurse’s, therapists, meal service providers, technicians, janitors, other healthcare workers, and Sharlene were there to stand beside us as they had done during the months and months of Rosie’s many hospitalizations.  One of the nurse’s sang Amazing Grace.  Everyone, including the doctor’s and technician’s, wept.  And Sharlene was there, giving comfort to her co-workers and to us. 

Even through the worst for us, she and the others offered comfort…in sharing the loss, in sharing the memories, in sharing her faith, and in sharing herself.

Comfort comes in many forms…sometimes through the heart of a hospital chaplain, sometimes through five short words.  And for some, it’s a long time coming.  I lift those people to you, Lord. Keep me focused on the comfort of your promises.  Give me your grace in providing comfort to others.   Cover our troops with Your righteous right hand and give them the comfort of You.

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