Abiding in the Almighty's Shadow
The following article is a guest post by Emory Mangan, daughter of Gentle Reformation author Barry York.
He who dwells in the Shelter of the Most High, will abide in the Shadow of the Almighty.
Chaplain Holland read aloud as I sat silently in my scrubs at the conference table, hands folded in my lap. I knew my precious husband, shot in the line of duty, currently in surgery and in critical condition, had never left the Shadow of the Almighty.
At 10:00pm the cafeteria opens for the night shift crew at Methodist Hospital. That is usually when I get my second cup of coffee for the night. I had finished an admission note and was walking down to the cafeteria from the 4th floor. I remembered a message from Keith, a friend who is a police officer in Kansas. He had written several weeks ago and I had forgotten to respond. So I stopped on the stairwell and replied:
“The police academy went well- very busy but it went by so quickly! He (Tommy) is now with a FTO and will have 4 months of rotations in different districts on different shifts around Indy. It’s been challenging, but he’s really enjoying it! And I’m practicing growing in peace in the Lord and casting my anxieties on Him.”
I sat down with a fresh cup of coffee at my desk when my phone rang. The caller ID was not a known contact but it gave a suggested name. The name was familiar to me and I thought it was possibly one of the doctors at Methodist.
So I answered and heard:
“Hello Mrs. Mangan, this is Sgt. Adam Chappell, I was one of Thomas’ training officers at the academy. What is your address?”
I gave him my home address.
“I’m here, where are you?” he asked urgently. My heart, which had quickened at his first statement, began pounding.
“I’m not at home, I’m working at Methodist tonight.” I replied as calmly as I could.
“Ok, I’m coming to get you.”
I stood up. My whole body was shivering.
“Thomas has been hurt.”
“What happened? Is he ok?”
“Thomas was hurt responding to an incident and is in critical condition. I am coming to pick you up and take you to see him.”
I don’t remember what I said next but he must have detected the hint of panic in my voice. He firmly repeated he was coming to pick me up and to meet him at the ER entrance. His voice calmed me and redirected me. “Yes sir, I’ll be there.” I called for my coworker and told him with a shaking voice and body that Tommy had been hurt, I did not know what had happened, and I had to leave now. I asked him to pray as I grabbed my backpack and rushed to the elevators.
“God, please keep Tommy safe. Please help him to be ok.” I mouthed again and again as I waited for the elevator, rode it down to the ground floor, and began walking quickly and then running down the hallways to the ER. Sgt. Chappell was waiting for me outside. I threw my backpack in the back of his cruiser and we took off.
“Thomas has been shot.” My worst fear. My greatest anxiety.
“Where was he shot?”
“I don’t know that yet.”
“Is it ok if I pray out loud?”
I prayed as I was whisked through the downtown streets of Indianapolis that connect Methodist Hospital to Eskenazi Hospital. My prayer was simple, nothing profound. Just the simple pleas of a wife that her husband would be saved, that God would protect and rescue him.
“Now, Emory, when we get there it’s going to be overwhelming. There’s a lot of police officers there, but I’m going to stay with you.”
We pulled up to the ambulance bay which was barricaded.
“I’ve got the wife.” And we were ushered through.
From the moment we entered the ambulance bay I was immersed in a sea of blue uniforms. While I was overwhelmed as they watched me walk through their midst, I was comforted to feel surrounded by Tommy’s family in blue. We got in the elevators and were on our way up before I noticed two of Tommy’s classmates Brown and Gillings were flanking me. Another comfort to see their familiar faces.
In the hallway upstairs, a female officer gave me a warm hug and asked if we had kids. A thoughtful question, I know IMPD will take care of them like their own children during critical incidents. Tommy and I wished we had kids and I wondered if we ever would as I replied, “No, no kids.”
They took me to a conference room where Chaplain Arnold sat down with me. He told me Tommy had been shot and pointed to his sternal notch to show where. Tommy was in surgery now. He asked if there was anyone I needed to call, any local family. I did not want to alarm anyone until we knew more of Tommy’s condition. He prayed with me. Then we sat together in silence and waited.
Chaplain Arnold asked again if there was anyone I should call to come be with me. I realized his family should know so they could pray. So I gave them Tommy’s parents' address and contact information.
They moved me to a private conference room. Brown and Gillings stayed by my side, providing a silent comfort I needed. I did not cry. I did not want to overreact to imagined horrors, I wanted to save my emotions to deal with the facts once I had them. Was this numbness or peace? I truly believe it was a simple peace. The scripture speaks of a “peace that surpasses all comprehension” that is ours through the Holy Spirit. The Lord gave me His holy peace that night.
They asked if I wanted to let my own family know. My shocked mind again realized my family should also know and pray. So, knowing it was close to midnight, I called my dad and told him Tommy was shot. I actually told him Tommy was shot in the upper chest even though I knew that Chaplain Arnold had pointed to his neck. I knew what shot through the neck could mean and it was too awful to admit out loud. So I changed it to something different, subconsciously trying to convince myself.
The chaplains brought me coffee. I shared with those present how I was married to the most thoughtful, kind, and selfless man in the world. I wanted them to know what an incredible man Tommy was.
Chaplain Holland read Psalm 91 out loud at my request. Psalm 91 was our theme psalm going into the police profession, given to us by my dad. When Tommy started the police academy last August, I would read it every day. Words such as the following comforted me and I clung to them that night:
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone (Psalm 91:5-12).
People began arriving. Our beloved Police Officer Support Team member Libby who knew I needed to go on a walk outside. Then Chief Taylor who visibly was burdened. Tommy’s parents whose grieving eyes I could not meet. Tommy’s classmates Duell, Vanover, and Strange who made me smile. Our pastor James whose presence was consolation. Then Tommy’s Field Training Officer Majors, who was with Tommy when he was shot, arrived. He was shattered. I hugged him. I knew in my heart and now know in fact he had done nothing wrong. Hugging him and hearing of Tommy’s bravery gave me the assurance I needed.
After 3:00am, the trauma surgeon Dr. Sherman and ENT Dr. Sowa came back and updated us on Tommy’s condition: shot through the larynx, has a trach and a feeding tube, and could have brain damage. Honestly I do not think I absorbed much more than those facts. More overwhelming was the realization that they had saved Tommy’s life. I thanked them again and again. I could now after over 4 hours of waiting see my precious husband.
They walked me back to his room and left me alone with my sweet Tommy. I had walked into many ICU rooms previously but never with such fear and anticipation of what I would find. He was still sedated and ventilated, vital signs perfect on his bedside monitor. I walked up beside him and let my tears fall on his pale and handsome face. Tears of relief that he was alive, tears of grief for the suffering he had endured. But no tears of anger.
I felt no anger towards God. All that filled my mind was gratitude that Tommy was alive and I was with him. All that mattered was being there for Tommy no matter what the future held. God had protected him. How could that be true? How could I believe that God was Tommy’s Shelter even when Tommy was shot?
Because even if man hurts our body, God preserves and protects our souls eternally. While we pray for physical protection and God does grant that so very often, living in this broken world means we will get hurt and we will perish. Yet God is still our Shelter and Protector. We know that because even though his Son died at Calvary’s cross, he died for our sins, and then was raised powerfully to be our Refuge and our Fortress. By faith in Jesus, we know he will raise us one day as well. God’s presence in our lives is so tangible. I know that we never left - and never will leave - the Shadow of the Almighty.