By Rick Hamlin
Praying for a Direct Flight
“When you get to be my age you start praying for a direct flight,” Mama Cropp, the beloved wife of my first minister, said those words to me years ago, and she was not talking about flying—at least not in any material way.
She must have been in her late seventies at the time, and I was in my mid-twenties. She was wise, down-to-earth, thoughtful, generous. She had worked so hard at caring that it had simply become a habit. She had a life so focused on others that it was sometimes hard to get her to converse about herself.
Except in this one respect. Death was a close companion. Her adored husband had died, many of her friends were dying. She lived in a retirement home where there seemed to be a funeral every month.
She assured me that she didn’t worry about death itself and as a woman of faith, I took her at her word. It was an extended exit that concerned her, a long wait on the tarmac. “When the time comes, I’ll pray for a direct flight,” she said.
I was a couple thousands of miles away, across the country, when she died, but others told me that her prayer had been answered.
Since then I’ve often echoed her thought, and I returned to it recently. Not long ago my 88-year-old father-in-law went into the hospital with what sounded like treatable complaints. He’d get fixed up and go home. The last time we saw him, he was entertaining a hospital room full of visitors, including his trainer from the gym. He might have been short of breath, but he wasn’t short of words. Then in a matter of days he was gone.
Mama Cropp would have understood the grace of an exit like that. It can leave a family reeling, but it offers its own blessings. When the time comes, the time comes. Death is full of its mysteries and life of its wonders. If the transition from one to the next comes swiftly, it can be a prayer answered. A direct flight.