THE CHAPLAIN Series

 

Florentine Marriage

On Marriage:  

Who Will I Live With In Heaven?

“Hello, I’m Lydia Jackson, the chaplain. Did you request to see me?” Lydia entered the hospital room to find two attractive, mature people, holding hands – a gentleman and his lady.

“Yes, we called you,” the gentleman began. “We would like to be married. Could you marry us?”

“Well, possibly so,” Lydia answered, “but wouldn’t you rather wait until you get out of the hospital?”

A spiritual Presence, childhood friend and adult Companion, often accompanied Lydia on her hospital rounds.  At this point, the Presence shook his head.

Listen a little longer, Lydia. Just listen.

“I’m afraid we can’t do that,” the gentleman said. “I am dying and won’t be leaving the hospital.”

“Oh,” said Lydia, pulling up a chair and glancing from the gentleman to the lady.

“We would like to be married tomorrow,” the lady added.

“It might take a little longer to get a license,” the chaplain ventured.

“That’s something else we would like to discuss with you,” the gentleman answered.

Politely taking turns, the couple explained that they had lived together as man and wife for many years, but had never married. They wished deeply to be married before the gentleman’s death which was imminent, but there was a problem. The children of both the man and the woman, and the attorneys for each, strongly advised against such a course of action. The attorneys had visited with them that very afternoon.

Lydia had no idea why this legal advice was given.

You don’t need to know, her Counselor whispered.

“We would like a spiritual wedding, not a civil one,” the gentleman explained.

“We want a marriage valid only in heaven,” the lady added.

“Of course,” said Lydia.

With eyebrows slightly raised, the Presence smiled.

The couple continued to talk with the chaplain for sometime, then Lydia left to collect what she would need the next day. The Presence followed.

~~

On arriving at work, Lydia packed her basket -- new white candles and a new white linen cloth. She included her small,white, but bedraggled, Bible from childhood, and some fresh flowers.

"Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's," she quietly chanted as she began writing a blessing for a long term relationship.

The observance was scheduled for that afternoon. To Lydia’s surprise, the families of the couple had gathered for the ceremony. Some brought flowers and cards. The radiant bride stood beside the bed of her groom. Lydia placed the linen cloth over the bed table, set up the candles and flowers, and lit the wicks.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God to ask His blessing upon this gentleman and his lady and to honor the years which they have spent together in love and companionship,” the chaplain began.

“O Eternal God, Lover of all humanity, send Thy blessing upon this couple. Look graciously upon the love that they have shared together and grant that they may ever remain in perfect love and peace together,” she closed.

The couple kissed and family members embraced. The groom died the following day.

Lydia was asked to officiate at the gentleman’s memorial service, which she did. Several days later, she received a written thank you note from the groom – thanking her for officiating at both his wedding and his funeral.

“He must have written the note before he died, knowing that I would agree to do his service,” she commented to the Presence. “His wife must have mailed it after the funeral.”

A thoughtful gentleman, commented the Presence.

“And a lucky lady,” Lydia answered.

~~

“Am I going to die?” asked the boy.

“Affirmative,” said the chaplain.

“Good,” the kid responded.

This year’s disaster preparedness scenario simulated a bombing at an elementary school. All the medical facilities in town, the local police, fire and other governmental agencies would be involved. A great deal of planning went into these events and the hospital itself was a total flurry when they occurred. The staff informed the real patients about the exercise and everyone generally looked forward to the activity.

This year, several classes of youngsters were enlisted to participate in the “school bombing.” Stage makeup was applied to each kid showing severe to god-awful injuries. The patients would be brought to the hospital by ambulance, school bus, and other moving vehicles that could be commandeered for the disaster. Lydia did not know who decided which kids went to which hospital, but the whole thing was exquisitely orchestrated.

Medical staff prepared in advance for the triage system.

            -- The cafeteria was set aside for family members awaiting news of their injured child’s condition.

            -- Patients who could be treated and released were placed in one area.

            -- Patients whose injuries would allow them to wait would be housed in another.

            -- Patients who could be saved with immediate, intensive medical attention were, of course, moved to the front of the line.

            -- Patients who were going to die no matter was done were assigned to the chaplains.

Lydia was called to sit with a little boy lying under a “bloody” blanket. His Halloween makeup was exceptionally well done and he looked like a soon-to-be-goner for sure.

“Am I going to die,” the boy asked the chaplain weakly.

Taken back, Lydia asked, “You know this is a game, don’t you?”

The boy looked horrified. This silly adult was ruining everything.

“Well, hon. your injuries are pretty severe,” she corrected herself.

“Am I going to die?” The boy wanted a straight answer.

“Affirmative,” the chaplain barked, suppressing a wink.

“I know. I’m going to die,” he happily groaned. “What happens when you die?”

“Well,” the chaplain began tentatively, “all the pain goes away. And you rise and leave your body behind. You’ll get a new one, you know. A spiritual body.”

“Will I see my dad?”

“What?”

“My dad. My dad died. Will he be there?”

“Yes, your dad will be waiting for you,” the chaplain said, beginning to feel the tingle of tears rising in her eyes.

You know this is just a game, don’t you, the Presence reminded her.

“This kid is pretty good,” Lydia silently replied

He has something he wants to ask you. He’s wanted to ask ever since he knew he was going to be in this disaster game. He hoped he would get to die. In fact, he volunteered.

The chaplain turned her attention back to the youngster. “How about my mom?”

“Did you mother die, too?”

“No. She is alive. But she married James. Will my dad still be waiting for her? What about James? Who will I be living with in heaven?”

Deep breath. This is a kid. You only have a few more minutes for this exercise. Good Lord, Lydia prayed.

Hang in there girl, came the Voice.

“God sorts these things out pretty well,” she began. She was going to say that the Bible tells us that in heaven no one is given or taken in marriage. But then she remembered that some faith traditions believe quite differently. She’d better ask.

“Do you go to church, hon? What church do you go to?”          

“We don’t go to church,” he answered, “but my mom talks to me about God and heaven. She talked to me a lot after my dad died. Not so much anymore.”

Well, let’s take a shot at it, Lydia thought.

In heaven,” she began, “everyone is contained in God’s love. Jesus taught that in heaven no one is married like here on earth. I don’t know exactly how it works, but I think maybe that your dad will be welcoming you, your mom, James, everyone when it is time. You will all be together if you want to be. However it happens, God will make it okay.”

The kid smiled, closed his eyes, and stuck his tongue out the side of his mouth. Lydia laughed. The exercise was declared over and the youngster jumped up, gave her a quick hug, and left to meet his mom in the cafeteria.

Not too bad, the Presence chuckled. How much of what you just said do you really believe?

"I don’t know,” Lydia answered. “I believe what I said contains part of the truth. I think life after death must be a little different for each person. Truth is a very individual experience.”

So is Marriage, observed the Presence.

 

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