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My family was touched by a terrible tragedy this week and the only response most anyone could make was: “Prayers, you’re in our prayers.”
A month and a day since my dad’s death, my brother-in-law Mike, my sister Diane’s husband, boarded a small plane headed for a couple of days of skiing with five colleagues. The plane made it off the ground, then circled to land, obviously in trouble… and crashed. When they put the fire out, there were five guys who hadn’t survived and my brother-in-law Mike, barely alive.
I got a flurry of calls on my work phone: “Rick, pray… Rick, we need your prayers now more than ever… Rick, I’m in my car driving to the hospital, please, please pray.” As the extent of the tragedy became clear, the urgency was also clear. But I confess that if my first prayer were written down, it would have been a yelp and groan: Nooooo, God, noooooooooooo...
All those guys with families and wives — it was too much to take in, and for our own family, lucky or unlucky, it was hard to know how to cope. Prayer more than anything was a yearning for understanding launched to the sky.
The prayers continued on websites, on Facebook, on OurPrayer.org, in phone calls, in the silence of the night when sleep was hard to come by. I hate crucibles of pain that are supposed to lend their learning, but in this crucible, I could see how prayer was the only possible response.
The prayers held us together. They provided a common language for people of many different faiths and some with no faith at all, just this longing for God to be present in unfathomable suffering.
For 24 hours it was touch-and-go, Mike kept alive by some combination of medical knowledge, drugs and those very prayers we’ve been saying. He was taken to a burn unit, where he is now getting top-of-the-line care. Is he out of the woods? Not by a long shot, but we’ve seen our prayers turn to gratitude: that his heart is OK, that his lungs are clear, that he could wiggle his toe when asked.
He’s a strong guy and a man of strong faith, but I’m sure when he leaves that hospital he will be a different person. My prayer is that we will be different too, closer to God. No use walking through a tragedy without being touched by it.
Prayers. Keep them coming. They’re the thing that keep us going.