Crashing and Surviving
Updated: Jan 6
Losing my wife was a crash that I never anticipated. Surviving that crash has now become a very big part of my life.
I recently heard a pod cast, where Dave Sanderson, the last passenger off the back of the plane when US Airways flight 1549 landed in the Hudson, was speaking. Dave’s comment that got me thinking was “Everybody can benefit from a personal airplane crash”.
Now, I am a private pilot, and I would never wish an airplane crash on anybody. As I was learning to fly, my instructors would constantly drill in me to always have an out; to have a place to land should the engine quit. The pilots mantra is to aviate, navigate, communicate. Aviate – fly the plane. Navigate – determine where to go. Communicate – talk to the controllers; they may be able to help.
When I lost Terry, my life changed forever. Those of us that face such a tragedy as losing our loved one (and many other personal tragedies) can liken this experience to our own personal airplane crash.
Dave was in the back of Flight 1549, and he had a choice to make. Despite the hazards to himself, Sanderson made sure he was safe and then thought of helping others and emerged from the wreckage with a mission: to encourage others to do the right thing. The choice he made was to lean into the moment and help others survive.
Losing Terry has resulted in a lot of “crash and burn” for me. For 45 years, we had built our life together. Now, in one flash of time, that 45 years of time came to an abrupt end.
Many thoughts have (and continue to) cross my mind. Setting the grieving thoughts aside for a moment, I end up with thoughts about life, purpose, what am I going to do with myself?, where to go?, how to spend my days (and nights), how to get together with other people?, and above all, what is my purpose.
For 45 years, my sole purpose was taking care of Terry. When I first told my dad about our engagement, his wise words to me were, “Keep Her Happy”. These words, I took to heart and I tried my very best to fulfill the wisdom my father had imparted me.
Now, I no longer had that purpose. Or, do I?
After Terry had just gone on, I can remember, in one of those times when I was crying out to her, that I promised to her that I would commit myself to fulfilling the love, compassion, strength, and commitment that she had. Now, more than ever, I feel that this is becoming the basis of my purpose.
In the moments following our loss, what will we choose. As we grieve, we will be in a fog, we will be completely debilitated, we wander through this crash site while seeking; why, how, where should I go, what should I do, I miss her (him), …. so many questions along with the flood of emotions. But, what will we do as we process these moments and with our life.
Will we aviate ourselves to a safe landing? How do we navigate our way through the situation we are now confronted with? Must we communicate with friends, family, pastors, other persons that have experienced similar tragedy?
As I travel the “Grief Flight”, I have heard God tell me that He is using this moment in my life to change me and my life. It is providing me a new focus in my life. This focus centers on “Reimpact”. Reimpact means using the difficulty, pain, discouragement, successes or failures, and all of my life experiences to reinvest back into others.
As a grieving widower, I now have a new perspective on the pain and loss in life that a tragedy such as this brings. God is speaking to me to use this pain, use this loss, and use my life experiences to lift up others.
As a husband and wife team for 45 years, we have had many, many experiences, successes, and failures. God is telling me that those, too, can be a tool for reimpact. We have all seen scenes on a movie or TV about plane crashes and watched the survivors work through the troubles to be rescued. In our own personal plane crash, we can choose to lie down, and accept the fact that we have crashed and cannot do anything about it. Or, we can become a survivor. Use the shambles of the wreckage to build a shelter. Use the elements of the environment to survive. And, once that we have survived, use the experience to build a better life.
This is what I choose to do. I choose to fulfill my commitment to my sweetie. Instead of a 45 year hole in my life, I have 45 years of life that I can draw from. In my journal, I share many of these. There are many more. Some will not even come to light until God opens my eyes, just at the right moment, to use them for His glory.
Another word from Dave Sanderson – “Moments Matter”. We have and experience many, many moments in our lives. Each of these has their own significance. When they do occur, its our choices that will direct the next steps.
What will we choose?