One more flight

By Carolyn Underwood | Dec 21, 2013
Carolyn Underwood

It had been a difficult trip filled with family conflict and disappointments. We were ready to be home.

With a four hour nonstop flight ahead of us, our prayers were already flowing before we found ourselves seated on the last row of the airplane. You know — those immovable, upright, stiff chairs up against the back wall by the bathrooms. Those seats.

We sighed. I said, “Ah, me” and settled in to await the stream of information and the “jabber, jabber” of preflight protocol.

Suddenly, there was a different tone in the voices and we heard, “Ladies and Gentlemen we have two passengers who need to get home now because of a family emergency. This flight is full, so we are asking any two of you to give up your seats. You will be reimbursed for the flight, receive tickets at our expense for the next flight out…” And so on.

Apparently everybody else on the flight felt their return home or trip to our destination was equally important because no one volunteered to give up his or her place.

The couple needing to get back home was insistent as was the person asking for two people to please give up their seats. The offers grew in value. My husband and I leaned over to confer about whether or not we could stand one more hour in the same country with our estranged family members when the announcement overrode our discussion, “Thank you all. We have a couple who have given up their seats. It will be a moment or two more while we move luggage around, then we will be on our way.”

“Well, good, that’s settled.” I opened the book I’d intended to try to read and resigned myself to the flight home. Most times when flying I try to read, listen to music or watch the in-flight movie.

Sometimes, such as this flight, I spend my time in prayer. Pilots, pilot. Stewards and stewardesses, steward. I pray. Somehow God has my full attention when I am hundreds and thousands of feet up in the air in a big tube hurtling through a “no-stop” zone.

The vocabulary itself for flying puts me on edge: “final destination” (not so much, thank you); “terminal” (I hope not); “final descent” (Uh, no. I was anticipating a final ascent) and so it goes.

Remarkably, the time passed rapidly with no “Pray now!” events such as turbulent weather or oddly behaving passengers which are additional miracle stories in their own right.  It seemed such an uneventful flight that I remember thinking, “I wonder why we were impressed to stay on this flight and not give up our seats?”

The pilot’s announcement that we were descending into the central valley garnered my “coming in for landing” prayers. Stewardesses were moving throughout the plane gathering last minute items and straightening seat backs when the pilot’s voice broke through the landing procedures to say, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have wind shear. We are attempting to go around.”

Jerked back into a sure reality of exactly why we were on this flight, I reached for my husband’s hand at the same time he reached for mine. We prayed together as our heads touched. Tears poured down my face as our prayers mingled with the prayers of others at that moment — prayers for our flight, for God’s grace and mercy, for a safe landing, and most especially for the pilot’s capabilities.

Some excruciating minutes later the wheels touched down and the passengers erupted in enthusiastic applause. I could hardly wait to say, “Thank You!” to the pilot as we exited the aircraft. As we waited our turn in the line to deplane, I caught a glimpse of the pilot who was wiping his head, face and neck with a towel. “How on earth could someone so small have pulled us out of that steep approach in time to get us up and around the airport?”

The answer came in an instant. The pilot of us all had His hands on that flight from its unusual beginning of asking for assistance for two passengers through its safe landing and the asking once again for assistance, this time for all passengers

 

Carolyn Underwood lives in Clyde.

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