Helped a Patient Experience a Sacred Moment

The Rev. Seung-jin Yun, graduate of Chaplaincy’s Pastoral Care Residency

Last November, my clinical site mentor, the Reverend Jon Overvold, referred a Korean patient to me. His doctor and Chaplain Overvold thought he might have a cultural issue that I could help with.
The patient was 50 years old and had come to the U.S. when he was in his twenties. He had suffered from cancer since March 2005, and the disease had metastasized throughout his body. His siblings and two children lived in California. Only his fiancée was able to be with him at his bedside.
I prayed with the patient and his fiancée each time I visited. It was an important part of the healing process for them to connect spiritually to God and to each other. On my third visit, we experienced a sacred moment while I was praying with them. After finishing, the patient told me that he felt like he was in heaven, and he believed that I was an angel sent to him by God. Later he told me that he had never before felt God’s presence so powerfully, even though he used to go to church. But now he knew he really believed in God and his love. After that experience, the patient appeared to be at peace, both emotionally and spiritually. He also became more physically comfortable.
Shortly after this encounter, the patient became more receptive to the palliative team members so their interactions with him were easier. When he died in late December, the palliative care team thanked me for my assistance and wanted to know what I had done to cause such a dramatic change in the patient’s attitude and behavior.
I believe the pastoral skills of listening and responding that learned at HealthCare Chaplaincy made this healing moment possible between the patient and me. Because of these skills, I was able to be with him in his suffering and help him to express his own stories and feelings. Many clergy, though well educated, are not trained to be with patients in this way and often find themselves preaching to patients rather than providing them with effective pastoral care.
Ultimately, of course it was God who healed the patient’s spirit, not me. I feel humbled and thank God for using me as a tool for His compassionate work.