Sunday, September 10, 2006

Game Day

It's been two weeks now since the Comair crash took the lives of 49 people, including one of my co-worker's daughters, Paige Winters (I figure there's no need to keep this anonymous when there were only two passengers from the KC area on the plane and the MSM has covered the story extensively; the family has even been contacted by Geraldo on numerous occasions; God help them). I've been to the memorial service * at the high school, which was beautiful (and a first for the high school which was hesitant about allowing the family to hold the service there). I've been over to the family's home to lend whatever support I was capable of lending. And I've been to the funeral. All very heart wrenching and heart warming. But all just bit parts in supporting this family through their tragedy. And to think that there are 49 similar stories unfolding across the country is just so, so sad. It's hard to find the words to convey what I feel, but I'd like to share a few moments...

There is no good in the tragedy itself, but we can all pray that much good will come out of it, that God will be glorified. The family shared with all of us a prayer that they have shared amongst themselves every night which was to ask not "why did this happen" but "how do we respond?" And they have responded with an abundance of love. They have opened their hearts and their home to their many friends and family. They have been a role model of strength and courage and faith, and yet they have freely expressed their extreme grief among the many who are there to support them. And I think what I learned in all of this is that our support does not need to be spoken or reflected in our special deeds. We just need to be there.

It is possible to see some of the Good that has come out of this tragedy already. There were hundreds and hundreds of people at both the memorial service and the funeral. It is very evident that Paige touched many lives (it wasn't just the teenagers who had wonderful stories to share; it was also her teachers, coaches and parents) with her bright smile and friendly demeanor. She loved people and it showed. God's love shined through her smile. And after watching the video of her life (chapter 7 in the memorial video linked above), it was evident that she lived a fuller life in her 16 years than I have lived in my 44 years on this earth. Her parents did everything in their power to see that she had a good life. And she did.

Paige's mother, Joan, also shared what I think was a very poignant reflection. Joan is the quintessential "soccer mom." The family is all very athletic and engaged in a number of sports at a highly competitive level. They know what it means to practice, and practice, and practice until game day comes along. Joan suggested that in many ways their weekly walk with God and attending church services every Sunday was good practice for this Game Day. She didn't know how else they could possibly cope. Indeed. It's easy to forego our daily, weekly walk with God when things are good, when it's not Game Day, when we would rather do something else besides practice our faith. But come Game Day, what will people who have not practiced do when someone passes them the ball? I talked to a number of people after these services and many were moved to strengthen their committment to God as a result of what they had experienced during the services for Paige. How is that ever a bad thing?

I kept wondering how it was that mother and daughter weren't on the same flight. If the flight was simply overbooked, then wouldn't it make more sense for the single 26-yr old horse trainer (whom they were traveling with) to stay behind and let mom and daughter fly together? And if she gave up her seat so that he could get on the flight, what kind of guilt was she feeling now? As it was, Paige's mother was not originally planning to go on the trip at all, but at the last minute booked a flight to Lexington and wasn't able to book a return flight. She knew that she would have to make other arrangements for the return flight home once she got there, so she was essentially flying stand by. Although she hoped to get a seat on the same flight as her daughter and friend/trainer, that flight was overbooked and so she stayed on the ground, as Fate would have it. Thanks be to God for that blessing!

* If you watch any of the video (it's broken up into chapters), the final chapter is Paige's father, the one I work with. I spoke to him the next day and he said that it was completely unplanned. He wasn't planning to speak, but as you can see in the video, the ceremony was concluded and nobody got up to leave. Everyone was so stunned after watching the video of Paige's life that they just sat there and sobbed. Kevin eventually stood up and went to thank those who had put it together and decided at that moment to say a few words. He said he didn't remember any of it, but felt as if Paige was guiding him. Those who weren't sobbing before he spoke were sobbing afterwards, everyone grieving a father's loss of his only daughter.

4 Comments:

At 5:29 AM, September 12, 2006, Blogger Rach said...

I'd love to watch it and get to know Paige but I'm on dial up. You and her family continue to be in my thoughts...

 
At 9:03 PM, September 12, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

Thank you, Rach! :-)

 
At 11:42 AM, September 13, 2006, Blogger Bret said...

I can't even imagine what that must feel like, to have that perverse "I should have been with her" guilt laid on top of the already overwhelming grief.

And then to read basically, "we had the wrong map" as the cause...

(head shakes)

 
At 7:44 PM, September 13, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

Bret, it is overwhelming, you're right. I don't know how people who are less strong spiritually make it through something like that.

 

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