Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Best Gift

"I'm not afraid."

It's what my friend's father told his children and his grandchildren when they gathered a couple of weeks ago for Thanksgiving. This man has been battling cancer, and while his health appears clear at this point, he knows the possibility of the disease recurring. Sitting across the table from the people he loves most on earth, looking ahead to his heavenly home, he gave his family the best gift around the Thanksgiving table.

"I'm not afraid."

In three words, he offered his children and grandchildren tremendous stability. Not just in his personal hope and confidence of eternity, but hope and confidence in God's Word and the Truth it points us to.

Sixteen years ago, a few months into my pregnancy with Branson, my parents flew to visit my older brother Trey in Atlanta. They flew in dad's single-engine airplane, the plane he crafted from scratch. At some point during their flight, Trey called me and said, "Hey Ton, Mom and Dad had to land in East Texas, but they're just fine. Dad's engine stalled, but the good thing was that they were at 8,000 feet."

I leaned back against the kitchen counter, trying to come to grips with why that was a good thing to be at such high altitude with no engine. Trey went on to describe their dead-stick landing at a small airport near Tyler, Texas. "Since Dad's plane can glide about 3 miles per 1,000 ft, it gave them time to look for a small airport or lonely stretch of highway. They landed great and rented a car from the airport to grab lunch."

Ok, ok, so no big deal. I hung up with my very non-affected brother, taking comfort in his assurance, and chewed on the events for a time. Getting the detailed version from my parents later that evening, mom and dad both described their emotions in realizing their predicament.
First, Mom trusted Dad to get them down. A Marine test pilot with a zillion flight hours, Dad had successfully pulled out of trickier situations. But even if he wouldn't have been able to land the plane, Mom said she felt a deep peace wash over her. Dad said the same. They prayed together through the headphones, asking God's protection in landing safely, but also offering their lives with gratitude if "this was the time."

They glided for about 26 miles, found an airport with a McDonald's next door, and landed with no engine. Dad radioed his normal landing into the airport, and it wasn't until they were stopped on the runway that the airport employee knew it was a dead-stick landing.

Even as my brothers and I unknowingly bustled on with our lives, even as my parents anticipated the birth of their first grandchild, in that unexpected brush with death Mom and Dad's immediate response was essentially, "I'm not afraid."

I related to my friend Ken's misty eyes as he shared his dad's sentiments.
The legacy of parents and grandparents who know the love of their Savior, and who look ahead to heaven with an authentic hope and confidence. 

Thanks, Ken, for letting me share a bit of your story. And thanks to Mom and Dad, and your parents before you, who are leaving that legacy of confidence in Eternity for our family.

It's the best gift.