Chaplain Branislav Dedic, a Bartlett resident, was an ordained pastor for 27 years before joining Adventist St. Thomas Hospice in Hinsdale. It is work he says he feels blessed to perform.
"I have the privilege to visit terminally ill patients every day, either in their homes or in a nursing home," Dedic said. "I hear about their pain, their fear. I pray with them and their families and often officiate at their funerals."
Hospice is a difficult assignment for anyone, said John Rapp, Adventist Midwest Health vice president of ministries and mission. A chaplain working with hospice patients is with people at the end of their life's journey.
"He's very ecumenical, open to all faith traditions. He knows how to navigate all of that," Rapp said. "He's extremely popular among the staff at St. Thomas Hospice and with his patients."
Before joining St. Thomas Hospice as chaplain 11 years ago, Dedic worked first as an ordained Seventh-day Adventist pastor in his home country of Yugoslavia. He later became a missionary in Cameroon and a pastor at Yugoslavian Church in Chicago.
The moments Dedic spends with the patients he sees can be bittersweet. He remembers one patient in particular, a 76-year-old woman in the final stages of congestive heart failure. As he walked into her room, she greeted him with a smile.
"Despite having to use oxygen and her labored breathing, she wanted to talk," Dedic said. "I learned about her strong faith, her many years of dedicated work in her church and her more than 10-year struggle with her failing heart."
And then, Dedic said, she began to cry. She told him of her husband, with whom she had spent the past 11 years in the independent living wing of the facility she was now in. She had only just moved to the health care wing after her doctor told her there was nothing more to be done for her.
She had accepted the news, but she worried about her husband, who had Parkinson's disease and rheumatoid arthritis. He was alone now, she said, no doubt scared.
"She was very emotional," Dedic said. "We prayed for her and her husband."
Dedic, worried for the man, took it upon himself to visit him, to calm his fears. The man was initially upset, but after speaking with Dedic, came to talk of his love for his wife. The next day, it turned out, was their wedding anniversary.
"We said a prayer, and I told him, 'Chuck, I'll be back tomorrow with an anniversary card for your wife and I'll take you to see her,'" Dedic said. "He was happy and grateful."
When he returned, Dedic brought with him a hand-painted anniversary card and a red rose. He helped the man to write on the card, dressed him, and got him into a wheelchair.
"We came to his wife's room," Dedic said. "She was sleeping. I tapped her and said, 'Look, someone is here to see you.'"
In one hand, Dedic said, the woman's husband held the card. In the other, the single red rose.
"She couldn't believe what she was seeing," Dedic said. "Both cried and repeated to each other, 'I love you, I love you.'
"I gave them some privacy until they called me back to the room, thankful for giving them that special moment."
Rapp said that when he and his team heard this story, all were in tears.
"He goes out of his way to do all kinds of things like that with people," Rapp said.
Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital.