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Mary E. Johnson

Mary E. Johnson grew up in a pretty little river town in the Midwest. Her father was a country doctor who often took her along on house calls. They visited his patients in their homes, on their farms, in nursing homes and in the hospital. These experiences exposed Johnson to the cycle of life and death at a young age and prepared her for a life of human service. She made her career in hospital chaplaincy, spending more than three decades at the bedside. Johnson was fortunate to receive recognition as a chaplain and educator. She had the opportunity to conduct grant-funded spiritual research to better understand how people cope with life-threatening illness. Johnson taught medical students, nurses, physicians and chaplains. During her years at the bedside, she saw the resiliency of the human spirit—the love of family, the faithfulness of friends, the brokenness of old hurts, the grace of healing, and the courage to face the truth. This was most evident as families and friends kept vigil as the end of life approached for someone they loved. After retirement from chaplaincy, Johnson began interviewing people who wanted to talk about their vigil experiences. She completed a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of South Dakota and a master’s degree in pastoral ministry from Seattle University. Johnson now lives in Saint Paul, Minn., and Cumberland, Wis., with her partner and their cat.

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