Excerpt for Forgiveness by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Forgiveness

As Jack drove to the hospital, he was preoccupied. His mind was flooded with many thoughts. He always took the same route from his house to the hospital. On this evening, however, he turned off onto a different street and pulled into a gas station. He pulled up to the pump, put the car in park and switched off the ignition. He felt drawn to the minimart/gas station office by an unseen force. As he got closer, he could see somebody standing behind the counter, pointing a gun at the cashier.

Jack began backing up very slowly and very quietly. He took out his cell phone and punched in 911. When the operator answered, Jack told her about the robbery. The operator told Jack to stay away from the building, which Jack planned on doing anyway, until he looked in the window, and he saw a group of teenagers in the back of the store. They were headed towards the cashier.

Jack knew that if he didn’t do something, those teens could be injured or killed by the robber. He noticed that the glass front door opened inward towards the front counter. As he got closer to the door, Jack saw the gunman turn his head and make eye contact with the teenagers. Jack was close enough to see the glazed over look in the guy’s eyes and he became very scared. Jack had been an ER nurse for over twenty years and he recognized that look. He knew that the guy was strung out on drugs, probably Meth. John knew that if he didn’t do something to get the girls out of there right away, the guy might start shooting.

Jack slowly pushed the door inwards and held it open with his left hand as he motioned to the girls with right hand, waving them towards the exit. Jack kept his eyes focused on the gunman. He began to talk in a quiet non-threatening voice. He tried to get the guy to lower his gun. Just as the last of the girls left the mini-mart, the gunman noticed them leaving and he pointed his gun towards them. Jack yelled at the guy to distract him. Jack’s voice startled the gunman and he turned back towards Jack and began firing his gun.

Jack felt one of the bullets hit his left shoulder and he was glad that the guy’s aim was off because only one of the ten shots hit him. Jack knew that the guy’s gun was probably empty, but he never got the chance to tell that to the cop that entered the minimart behind Jack. When the gunman aimed the gun at the cop, the cop fired two shots first, killing the gunman.

The police officer had been to St. Anthony’s ER on several occasions and he knew Jack. He noticed the blood on Jack’s coat. “An ambulance is on the way, Jack” he said. “Just hang on. I have to ask you some questions.”

“It’s just a flesh wound, Mike,” said Jack. “I’m on my way to the hospital now. I’ll just drive myself there. Two nurses called in sick, and they are short staffed, so they called me in to work. Come by the ER later, and I’ll answer your questions.”

Jack got into his car and headed towards the hospital. When he was a few blocks away, he stopped for a red light. As he waited for the light to change, he felt his car lurch forward, as another car rear-ended him, and pushed him into the middle of the intersection. At that very moment, all four sides of the intersection had a red light. Two cars, one coming from each side of Jack’s car, chose that moment to run the red light, both hitting Jack’s car at the same time. The impact of that crash pushed Jack’s car into oncoming traffic where a fourth car hit him head on, and then a fifth car also hit him.

Officer Tom Duncan was sitting in his patrol car in a corner parking lot, drinking coffee at the time. If he hadn’t seen the accident with his own eyes, he would never have believed it. It seemed to happen in slow motion, but it was over in less than two minutes

Jack’s car was smashed in from all sides and he was the only car of the six that was not at fault. Officer Duncan was amazed that Jack was still alive. It took thirty minutes for the fire department to extricate Jack from the vehicle

Jack was still conscious when the paramedics wheeled him into the ER. When the charge nurse saw that the patient was Jack, she turned pale. “Sorry I’m late,” said Jack. “I had a little car trouble.”

As the two doctors, three nurses and a couple of paramedics began to cut away Jack’s clothing, to assess his condition, one of the doctors was surprised by some unusual wounds in Jack’s chest. “These don’t look like wounds from a MVC,” he said. “They look like bullet wounds.”

“That’s because they are bullet wounds,” said Jack. “Before the accident, I was shot at by some Meth-head at a gas station. But, luckily, he missed most of his shots.”

The two doctors just looked at each other, but said nothing. After several x-rays and CT scans, they talked with Jack. “Jack, you have fractures in both of your legs, both of your arms and you have fractured vertebrae in your neck and back,” said Dr. Fuller. “You were also shot eight times, once in each shoulder, twice in the abdomen and four times in the chest. We need to get you to surgery right now. It’s a miracle that you are still alive,”

The nursing supervisor asked Jack if he wanted her to call his wife. “Call Pam,” said Jack, “but don’t tell her what happened. I don’t want her getting into an accident rushing to get here. Just tell her that my ulcer perforated and that I am being admitted.”

Before he was taken to the OR, the hospital chaplain asked Jack if he wanted her to pray with him. “No thanks,” said Jack. “God and I aren’t on speaking terms anymore.”

Jack Baldwin hadn’t always been so cynical. He had grown up in a very religious home. His father was a Lutheran pastor and Jack was very involved with the church, while growing up. But, that all ended when Jack was seventeen years old. His father was working late one evening at St. John’s Church working on his sermon, when two young men broke into the church to rob it. Pastor Baldwin surprised them, because they thought the church was empty. They panicked and shot him. When Pastor Baldwin didn’t come home that evening, and didn’t answer the phone, Jack went to the church looking for his dad and found him lying in a pool of blood. He called 911 and stayed with his father until they arrived.

Pastor Baldwin made it through surgery, but remained in critical condition in the ICU. Jack went to the hospital chapel to pray for his father. He prayed to God, asking him to let his father live. He prayed constantly. He prayed, and cried and prayed some more.

Three days later, Jack’s father died. Jack’s grief turned to anger and rage. He yelled at God and he cursed at him. He couldn’t accept that after his father had spent most of his life helping other people and teaching them about God, that God would forsake him. Jack quit going to church and he quit praying to God.

When Jack met Pam in nursing school, he fell in love with her almost immediately. When she tried to get him to go to church with her, he refused. When they got married, it was by the Justice of the Peace at the courthouse.

Jack and Pam wanted children and they ended up with five daughters by the time their family was complete. Pam insisted that the children receive religious training and she took them to church every Sunday, by herself. The only times Jack stepped foot in church was for baptisms and confirmations of his daughters and for his mother’s funeral when she died ten years after his father. As the girls got older, Jack began working the night shift on Friday through Sunday, so that his daughters wouldn’t ask him why he didn’t go to church with them.

Jack’s wife, Pam was an OR nurse at Kennedy Medical Center in Philadelphia, a few miles away from St. Anthony’s. She worked day shifts and she and Jack both spent every Monday through Thursday evening with their children. By now, their daughters were older, between the ages of eleven and seventeen. Jack thought about them as he was being wheeled towards the OR. He didn’t want to think about how devastated they would be if he died, because he remembered what it was like to lose his own father when he was seventeen.

When Pam received the phone call from St. Anthony’s ER, she told her daughters to get into their van, so that they could go to the hospital. When they arrived, the girls waited in the ER waiting room while Pam met with Dr. Fuller. When the hospital chaplain joined them, Pam began to get worried. That was when Dr. Fuller told Pam the truth about her husband’s injuries.

Pam had seen many trauma cases in the OR and some of whom had died on the operating table and none of them had been as serious as Jack’s condition was. Jack knew that she had to be strong for her daughters.

The hospital chaplain escorted Pam and her children to the OR waiting room. When they got there, Pam told the girls what had happened to their father and told them how serious it was. She suggested that they pray for him. So, Pam and her daughters, and the chaplain joined hands and prayed to God asking him watch over Jack, and fill the surgeons with the Holy Spirit as they operated on Jack. When they finished praying, they say Jack’s picture on the TV in the waiting room. The chaplain turned up the volume and heard the newscaster talking about Jack. The reporter talked about the robbery at the gas station, and the reporter told how Jack had saved the lives of eight women.

Jack’s daughters didn’t care that their father was a hero. They just wanted to see him again, to hold him and to hear him laugh.

Thirty minutes later, a group of young women entered the waiting room. They told Pam that they were the women that Jack had protected when he confronted the gunman. They asked about Jack’s condition. They were all college freshmen who were home on fall break. They went to high school together, but were now attending different colleges around the country.

It was about that time when a nurse and the chaplain appeared to give them an update on Jack. The nurse told Pam that Jack would be in surgery for several more hours. She told Pam that with the amount of damage that the bullets and the car accident had done, it was a miracle that Jack was still awake when he got to the hospital. She told the girls that their father was a fighter and that he would make it through surgery easily.

After the nurse went back to the OR, the chaplain suggested that they say another prayer. This time, the eight young women joined hands with them and prayed as well.

After the prayer, Annie, Pam’s eleven year old daughter looked like she was going to start crying. When Pam told her that God would answer their prayers; Annie replied, “Daddy might die. What if God doesn’t hear our prayers? We are only a few people on a planet of five billion people.”

Pam didn’t know how to respond, and before she could think of something to say, one of the young women took out her phone and began texting. When one of her friends asked her what she was doing, she replied that she was posting on Facebook and telling her friends and family about how Jack had saved her life and was now fighting for his own life and now needed as many prayers as possible. She also added a link to the news story. She asked all her Facebook friends to forward her post to all of their friends and family as well.

The other women and Jack’s family thought it was a great idea and soon, everybody took out their phones and began texting as well.

Pam was friends with several nurses that Jack worked with, and she began texting them as well as staff at Kennedy Medical Center and friends who worked at hospitals across the country.

By the end of the night, Jack’s story had gone viral and people all over the country were praying for Jack.

Shortly after midnight, Jack was taken from the OR to the ICU. The surgeons told Pam that the Jack’s condition over the next twenty-four hours would determine if Jack would pull through or not. Soon, Pam and her family and friends were putting updates on their Facebook pages, asking for more prayers. Several people who knew Jack posted about the hundreds, even thousands of patients that he had cared for and the families that he had comforted. Slowly, the prayer requests began spreading to other countries outside the United States.

Pam sat by Jack’s bed in the ICU. She had taken care of many patients in her almost twenty years of nursing. She had watched many of them die. But, now, she was seeing the patient from a different perspective, because the patient was her husband and her best friend. She was scared that she might lose him.

An hour later, alarms started going off, a sound that Pam knew all too well. Her husband was coding. The room soon filled with doctors and nurses as Pam was led out of the room by the chaplain, so that they could try to save Jack.

At that same moment, Jack felt himself rising out of his body. He felt himself being pulled upward. Then, he found himself walking through a long tunnel. Jack saw bright glowing light at the end of the tunnel and he felt himself drawn to it like a moth to a flame. As he got closer to the light, Jack saw the outline of a person in a white robe. As he grew closer to the person, he recognized the figure. It was his father, who had died many years earlier.

“Am I in Heaven?” asked Jack.

“No,” said David. “You are not in Heaven, but you are no longer on Earth either. You are in between Heaven and Earth.”

“So, what happens now?” asked Jack.

“You will review your life with a spirit guide and the two of you will discuss your future,” said David.

“Will you be with me, during that time?” asked Jack.

“I can be there if you want me to be there,” said David

“I want you to be there. Dad,” said Jack.

Jack had no concept of time, where he was, but soon, he found himself sitting on a soft couch in front of a large white screen. His father sat on one side of him and his spirit guide sat on the other. As his life began to appear on the screen, Jack began to smile and occasionally laugh at the memories of his youth. He was a terrific kid, very involved in school and church. Jack was a happy-go-lucky kid, and was almost always smiling or laughing.

Then, at age seventeen, it all changed. Jack’s smile turned into a face with no expression. Jack watched himself as a teenager when he found his father’s body. He watched as his younger self prayed to God. He prayed so much that he started crying. Then, he watched as he cursed at God. That was the moment, when Jack had turned away from God.

David tried to comfort his son, but Jack pulled away. “Why didn’t God let you live?” asked Jack. “You did his work for many years. You were a very good person. Why did he let you die?”

“It was my time,” said David. “Ever since that day, I have been doing even more important work for God, from up here. Not only that, but your life changed the day I died, as well.”

“What do you mean?” asked Jack.

“Before I died,” said David, “you were planning on either racing cars, or playing pro basketball. But, after I died, you decided to go into nursing, and emergency medicine to help other people. Do you think that it was your idea alone, or is it possible that God put that idea into your head?”

Jack just sat there thinking as more of his life passed before his eyes. David pointed out that even though he was a great nurse, and helped many people physically, he let his anger towards God keep him from helping them spiritually. It also kept him from becoming closer to his wife and daughters.

“Jack,” said David, “you need to let go of your anger towards God. Let all of your anger melt away. I am very happy here, and so is your mother. You are a great nurse now, but you can be an even greater one. You need to start treating your patients spiritually as well as physically. You need to love your family more and let them love you more.”

Everything that David said to his son began to sink in. Emotions began to flow. All of Jack’s hatred and anger towards God began to disappear and he began to feel God’s love pour into his heart and soul. Jack began to cry for the first time in twenty years.

David told Jack that he was at a crossroads and he had a big decision to make. He could continue to Heaven, or he could return to Earth. “But, before you make that decision,” said David, “there is something that I want to show you.”

David took his son out of the building they were in, and pointed down towards the Earth. “Do you see all of those lights?” he asked Jack. They represent people who are praying for you right now. Because of Facebook, the internet, etc., people all around the world are praying for you. Look down at the southern half of the United States. Do you see that bright white light? That represents your family and friends and their friends and so on, with the brightest light coming from Philadelphia, where most of the people in the city are praying for you and your family.”

Jack looked at his father and said, “Dad, as much as I would love to go to Heaven with you and Mom, I still have a lot to do on Earth. I still have a lot to teach my daughters and I have a lot to give to the world.”

Jack hugged his father and they said goodbye. Before Jack departed, David asked his son to give a message to Pastor Mike, the senior pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Pastor Mike was the associate pastor who worked with David and took over for him after he died. Jack promised to give Pastor Mike the message.

As Jack began to walk through the tunnel of light towards Earth, his head was filled with many thoughts of what had happened to him. All of a sudden, He felt himself being pulled back into his body in the hospital room. He heard a doctor say, “He’s back. He’s got a pulse and he’s stabilizing. Great work everyone.” Then, everything went blank.

When Jack woke up, he found himself in the ICU. His wife was sitting in a chair by the bed, holding his hand as she slept. When Jack squeezed her hand, she woke up immediately. Jack pointed to the tube in his throat and motioned to her that he wanted it out. Pam pushed the call button and when the nurse came in the room, Pam asked her to get the doctor.

When the doctor came in, he agreed to remove the tube. After he removed the breathing tube, the Doctor told Jack that he was lucky to be alive and told him that he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

“No,” said Jack, “I was exactly where I was supposed to be, because God led me there.”

“What do you mean?” asked Pam.

“I was not scheduled to work that night,” said Jack, “and as tired as I was, I agreed to work that shift. I was running late, yet I drove out of my way to a gas station I don’t usually go to. My gas tank was three fourths full and I never get gas unless I have less than half of a tank. I always pay at the pump, but I chose to go into the building to pay. God was guiding me to that point in time and space. When I looked into the eyes of the gunman, I knew that he was high on something and I knew that he wasn’t in his right mind. I knew that I had to do something to get those women out of there safely. It was God who kept me calm and collected.”

Then, Jack told Pam something that surprised her. “Pam, I died for a moment, and in that moment, I saw my father,” he told her. “He helped me to realize that I have been wrong to be mad at God for all those years. I made peace with God and he forgave me. I need to talk with Pastor Mike as soon as possible.”

Ten minutes later, Jack’s daughters entered the room, and when Jack saw them, he did something that surprised all of them. Jack began to cry. He told them how much he loved them and that he was wrong to turn away from God. He promised that he would be going to church with them every week from that moment on.

Later that day, Pastor Mike visited Jack and Jack asked his forgiveness for turning away from God and from his father’s church. Pastor Mike told Jack that God forgave him and so did he. Pastor Mike told Jack that one of the girls he protected from the gunman was his niece and he could never thank him enough for that. Jack told Pastor Mike that he talked with his father and that he had a message for Pastor Mike. “My father wanted me to tell you that the missing bible is behind the safe in the church office,” said Jack. “He said that minutes before the boys entered his office, a voice in his head told him to hide the bible, so he dropped it in the space behind the safe.” Then, Jack asked Pastor Mike what was so special about that bible.

Pastor Mike told Jack that it was a Luther Bible, printed in Germany in 1534. It was brought to America, in 1640 by a Lutheran pastor into Germantown, Pennsylvania, to the church where Jack’s father would one day become a pastor; St. John’s Lutheran Church. Mike explained that the bible had been in the church ever since it was built. The bible was almost five hundred years old, and had been in that church for almost three hundred seventy-five years. Pastor Mike discovered it missing after the robbery and thought he would never see it again.

Before Pastor Mike left, Jack asked him for a favor and Pastor Mike agreed to do as Jack asked.

Over the next few days, as Jack grew stronger, he had many visitors, including the young women he had protected, and their parents, who couldn’t stop thanking Jack for what he did.

When the president of the hospital came to see him, Jack asked him if he could set up a payment plan to pay whatever bills remained after the insurance company paid their part. Jack knew that the medical bills were piling up. The president told Jack that a prominent citizen of Philadelphia offered to pay all of Jack’s hospital bills, but the president told the man that the hospital and the doctors who treated Jack would not accept any payment. So instead, the wealthy benefactor agreed to set up ten nursing scholarships in Jack’s name instead. Thus, the Jack Baldwin Nursing Scholarships were established.

Jack remained in the hospital for several weeks. On the Sunday after he was released, He got dressed up in a suit and accompanied his family to church, where Pastor Mike re-baptized Jack into the church. Then, he asked Pam to join him at the altar, where Pastor Mike performed a marriage ceremony to renew their wedding vows, since their first wedding wasn’t in a church.

When Jack returned to work in the ER, he still gave excellent medical care to his patients, but he also began giving them something else as well. He offered them spiritual healing alongside the physical healing. Jack also learned to forgive others as God had forgiven him. He also posted on Facebook a big thank you to everyone around the world who had prayed for him.

Jack was never the same after that. No, he was so much better, not only as a caregiver, a father and a husband, but especially as a Christian.

The End


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