As I type, my heart is heavy and my stomach feels as though I’ve been dropped off the edge of a cliff. Shortly after six pm this evening, an airplane on our base crashed. Initially, all we knew was that there was some sort of fire on the installation, because there was a plume of smoke that could be seen for miles around. When an event like this occurs in a military community, we all drop to our knees. A wild panic hits us and we wonder if our worst fear has been realized. Is this the day that we’ve pretended would never happened? Information is more valuable than gold and the curse of the information age is that snippets of information, whether true or not, spread like a brush fire. Frantic phone calls are made by wives; if there is a spare moment, the service member will call home with a short announcement, “I am okay.” No other details are given so that proper identification and notification can be afforded to the families of those fallen.
We all buckle down and wait….very carefully. As the mushroom cloud of a tragedy expands, it can very easily envelope you and collapse your world. I sit knowing that I could be those women and these could be my children. My life is the one that could have been torn in two and I could be the one receiving officials notifying me of my loss. After four agonizing hours that have crawled by at the pace of a glacier, the public is informed that all four on board perished.
From the instant I learned of the accident, my first thought was of a bereaved wife. In my mind, I can see her silhouetted in the door of her home waiting for the calvary (a.k.a. Daddy) to ride in and save her from the hour at which all children morph from innocents into trolls. How will she hold up when she has to do this parenting life alone? What will she do with her broken dreams? Who will comfort her? And what about the beautiful children who are waiting for a Daddy who will never come home again? There are so many heartrending questions and precious few, if any, answers.
As my heart aches for the loved ones and prays for angels to comfort them, I wonder at the fragility of life. How can a soul be here one second and gone the next? Astronomists say that when a star ‘dies’ it collapses in on itself and creates a vacuum that pulls other planets and matter into the void. I think death is like that sometimes…it rips the joy and security out of the lives of those affected by it. Death marks people with an ugly scar as it passes them by.
I also ponder the immediacy of the body and the timelessness of the spirit. Bodies wear out and expire, but the soul lasts forever. It is almost as though a spirit goes through a phase contrast or shift. Somehow, they are transparently embedded in a body and inexplicably, almost invisibly, find release from the body and flow into eternity…from Here (the body) to There.
There are times when meeting death is a welcome event; quiet and lulling in nature, almost like meeting an old friend for coffee. Recently, I watched a friend lose his long fought battle with Leukemia. After ten years of battling, he was spent and I remember telling him that he would be able to pick out his wallpaper for a heavenly mansion soon. When he left his body, it was a remarkably peaceful event as though he finally decided to let go of his own accord. I was there as he left his body and I found comfort in those final moments of peace. Today’s events were totally disparate, cataclysmic. Lives were violently ripped from this world, and that fact seems so inherently wrong, unfair, purposeless.
As I pray and mull over these thoughts, I’m reading the account of Lazarus’ death in the book of John. Thomas (you may know him as the doubter) was so overcome with grief that he said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go that we may die with him.” Even though Thomas was in the presence of Jesus, the man whom he had seen perform miracles and healings, he was ready to give up on life altogether. His mind was completely unable to find hope in those dark moments. The thought of facing the future without his friend was more than he could bear. Job, another one of God’s greatest men in the Bible,lamented that it would have been better if he had not been born. He had lost everything in his life; all of his wealth, his health, and worst of all, he’d lost his children.
I know I’d have these feelings if my husband was torn from me. I’d want to lay down and refuse to live! I am certain I would fight my way forward and continue for my children, but I don’t think I’d be able to see beyond the next sixty seconds. Despair would be like an ice fog and I would be running from it.
In this time, I ask myself “How is my faith in Christ relevant?” It occurs to me that I should meditate on the fact that of all the things God created, He didn’t create death. He meant for us to live and walk with him eternally. His entire purpose in sending Jesus to the cross is to save us from death so that we might find LIFE in Him.
My next question, is “How do I share Christ’s love from where I sit?” The only conclusion I can reach is that we must mourn with those who mourn. We must weep with those who weep. And we must pray for strength to be ‘present’ in these painful, opaque times. Perhaps the hardest task is to trust God’s sovereignty; to know that He IS; His grace is sufficient even when it doesn’t feel like enough.
I must remember that our God is big enough and strong enough to handle our doubts and fears. Almighty God cares so much about us that he listens to the whisper of each and every prayer and counts every hair on our heads. We are not forgotten here while he has gathered our loved ones there on the other side of eternity. He has not abandoned us HERE either and promises, “I am with you always, even unto the ends of the earth.” Truly, some days the ends of the earth sound like a welcome place to be, but we must strain to find the hope amidst a situation that feels truly hopeless.