All that I have seen teaches me to
trust God for all I have not seen.
A young wife & mother of three, it was obviously difficult for Georgia to speak of their deaths: her husband, Bill, and two of her three children. Few people knew the story. As a matter of fact, I'd known her several years before I learned of the tragic event myself. For a long time, I knew only that she was a widow with one grown son.
Georgia was a co-worker AND my personal champion during a particularly painful segment of my own life's journey. Little did I know that her comforts were born in the depths of her own losses. Life and experience - and God - had well endowed her to be an encourager.
It was Georgia's birthday, and the children wanted Daddy, a private pilot, to take them all flying in celebration. Billy (14), Clayton (12) and Delana (8) - the treasured princess - couldn't wait to soar above Washington State's Cascade mountains. They'd done if before, and often. The plan was put in place.
At the last minute, Georgia had to back out of her own airborn adventure due to the onset of the flu. She insisted the family continue on without her. And so they did.
Hours passed, and long beyond the family's anticipated return was nothing more than silence. Georgia began to grow worried. It wasn't like her husband, Bill, to not call when delayed. She stole courage by envisioning him extending their flight to marvel at the forested wonders of the Cascade range, or to avoid weather.
By late afternoon she could no longer set aside her growing alarm. She called the airport to see if the plane had returned. It had not. She queried anyone and everyone who might have spoken with Bill. None had.
After calling her parents to summon support, Georgia next called Search & Rescue. Within hours, a team was formed to locate the missing family.
For the next five days men, horses, helicopters & dogs combed the area they believed the plane may have landed or, worse, crashed. Days & nights grew long for Georgia, and terribly woeful.
While teams of men & women searched for the flying foursome, tragedy had already unfolded.
Not long after take-off something went terribly wrong, affecting the lightweight Piper Cub containing the family. It was later determined that wind & blinding rain was the culprit; that, and "pilot error". But on that day, and on the forested slopes of the Northern Cascade mountains a catastrophic crash occurred, three of the four celebrants were killed instantly on impact: Bill, Clayton & Delana. Billy was tossed from the wreckage alive. But barely.
For hours & days Billy moved in-and-out of consciousness. At first he could see the plane's fuselage containing the inert bodies of his father and siblings. Mercifully, a wind caught one wing, flipping the plane and changing its resting angle. Billy could no longer see those lifeless forms. He slept, gaining & losing consciousness as he fought the pain of his terribly broken & bloodied body. He knew he was dying.
About the time Billy was nearest to giving up, of letting go of the ebbing life he clung to, two men - hunters dressed in hunting camouflage & boots - walked into the crash site. Tenderly they spoke to Billy, comforting him and assuring him that help was on the way: "Stay put, son; your mother is looking for you; she's not far away. Help will be here shortly."
Then they were gone.
Billy clung to that hope, and it wasn't much longer before the Search & Rescue teams made their way to him. Five days had lapsed. He was air-lifted to a Seattle hosptial, where for many long months - even years - surgeries and other medical procedures were applied to repair his broken body It would be many more years before either he or his mother would recover from the deepest of their wounds. In such matters, the heart heals slowly.
Peace is not the absence of affliction,
but the presence of God.
I share this story for several reasons.
- I hope never to forget it, or the largess of Georgia's heart. When I needed it most, she spoke of this tragedy, but never again.
- To validate Georgia's losses. Her life, though meaningful & precious to her, was never to be the same. The wounds were simply too deep for her to ever let go, or forget. Each year, when her birthday drew near, she would steal away to mourn yet more.
- Those two camouflaged hunters were even better-camouflaged angels. Had they not been they would never have left a severely wounded child to await help alone. Georgia knew that. Billy knew better still.
- Though Georgia didn't personally discover the wreckage, she felt it. On so many levels what the angels told Billy was true: Your mother is looking for you; she is not far away.
The fact is (and I comfort myself often & always with the truth) that: God is looking for us; He is not far away.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is
common to mankind. And God is faithful;
He will not let you be tempted beyond
what you can bear. But when you are tempted,
He will also provide a way out
so that you can endure it.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:13