SILVERTHORNE - Valerie and Paul Jungck's 2-year-old son died Sunday when a filing cabinet fell on the toddler in the family living room. Some medical officials say Zion Jungck died immediately. But the family's faith is so strong, they have turned his fate over to God. Miracles, they say, still happen.
"Nothing happens if we don't ask," Paul Jungck said Thursday. "I know confirmed stories of people who have been raised from the dead. We have really prayed for that. I know that he can bring him back to life again.
"We're not basing our faith on whether or not this happens. We've surrendered him back to the Lord (saying), "You gave him to us in the first place. It's really in your hands.'"
Zion Jungck was pronounced dead Sunday morning at Summit Medical Center. At the family's request, coroner Dave Joslin then turned the boy's body back to his parents. By law, a body must be cremated or otherwise preserved within 24 hours of death. So earlier this week, the Jungcks took the boy's body to Idaho Springs' Hegmann funeral home, where the child was embalmed. The Jungcks then brought him back to their Silverthorne home, and since then, have spent most of their time praying for his resurrection.
The family has broken no laws. Once a body is embalmed and decomposition has stopped, it is not deemed a health hazard and the family is then responsible for determining its final resting place, according to Chris Hegmann of Hegmann Funeral Services.
"It's legal," Joslin said. "But it doesn't happen every day."
Thursday, Paul Jungck said they are making tentative arrangements for a service to be held Sunday or Monday.
Jungck, who describes himself and his family as charismatic Christians, said he is well aware of what other people might think about the way they are dealing with their child's death.
"It's much safer for your reputation when your child dies to bury your child, do the conventional thing," he said. "I'm sure people who don't understand would look at us and say A, we're in denial, and B, these people are just whacked. Even when you start talking about hearing the voice of God, a red flag goes up. We're not ashamed of what we're doing.
"We believe God still does the same miracles today he did in the Bible. We would see more miracles if we would just pray and believe."
Silverthorne Police Chief John Patterson said the practice of bringing a deceased love one home is not unusual, "particularly when it's a death like this - not a long-term illness but a very sudden, unexpected thing."
"Parents expect to go before their children," he said. "When something like this happens, particularly with a child, I've seen this happen in Jefferson County (where Patterson previously worked). Parents will take the child home, read the child stories, talk to the child. They just have to get through the denial and grief."
Jefferson County Coroner Carl Blesch said the practice is "not commonplace, but not unheard of."
"I have not personally seen that happen in the last 20 months I've been in office," he said. "But I have heard that it has happened in the past in the Denver area."
Blesch referred to a Nederland man who has kept his grandfather's frozen body in a shed, hoping cryogenics someday can restore the dead man to life, but he said the Jungck case appears to be different.
"There are many people who hope for miracles and sometimes miracles happen," he said.
Absent their faith, Jungck said, his and his wife's decisions would not have been much different. Years ago, he noted, viewings and funeral services were typically held in family homes.
"My wife hates funeral homes. She hates wakes," he said. "Instead of leaving him in a funeral home, we would have brought him home anyway.
"This happened in a moment. We would still be doing this to process it, to say goodbye."
If the family's youngest child is truly lost, Jungck said, their faith is unshakable.
"If there were nothing beyond this, I would say yeah, the whole thing just sucks," he said. "But what we have waiting for us is better. We're the ones left here without (Zion).
"I think there's a lot in the big picture," Jungck said. "If we think in our little pea brains we can understand it all and it has to make sense, we'll never understand that God's ways are higher than ours. Some things we'll never understand. But God is still good."
Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org