I had never heard an explosion like that on an airplane! I had never seen a more anguished look on my husband’s face. What had happened? And what is about to happen? We had been looking forward to our Ireland bicycling trip with three other couples for quite sometime. It quickly faded from our minds.
The pilot eventually got on the speaker and said, “Folks, you might have noticed a loud boom at take off. Our tires exploded and we are trying to decide if we should dump fuel and return to Denver or if we should dump fuel on the way to O’Hare. I will keep you informed.” A while later the pilot spoke again: “Folks, we have decided to proceed to Chicago.”
I looked down at the sampler that I was working on and could not believe the verse that I was stitching. Yesterday it seemed fine, but today, at this moment of such uncertainty, I felt near tears.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come
Again and receive you unto myself that where I am there ye may be also….”
I thought back at the past two days. My mother called while we were packing and said that she had had a dream of a plane crash. She even went as far to say that maybe we could change one ticket so at least we were not on the same plane. I was surprised with her clarity and her voice that was not apologetic. How could she do this so soon to our departure?
Oddly, that same day Dan’s personal assistant called Dan to see if he was home. She wanted to come and talk to him, and it sounded urgent. She came to our home and told Dan that she had a bad feeling about our trip. Did we really have to go? We both eventually fell into bed, but during the night Dan had a dream and saw a plane catch on fire after a heavy landing. It had shaken him so severely that he got out of bed and went to his study and wrote a letter to each of our children in case something did happen. He placed the three letters in envelopes with their names on them and put them in his desk drawer without telling anyone.
An hour before we were scheduled to land the pilot got on the intercom and said that the flight attendants were going to pass out free drinks. The carts quietly appeared and with stunningly solemn voices people began telling the attendants what they would like. Many people asked for more than one drink and I wonder if that might have included me. My breathing became louder as the magnitude of our plight sunk in. At one point Dan put his hands on my face and whispered, “Becky, you are hyperventilating and you are really loud. You have got to quit this and breathe normally.” I didn’t know how I was going to do this but somehow, because of his touch, I quieted my breathing.
The time ticked on and we had not said much. Dan looked at me and held my hands and said, “You have been the best wife any man could have ever had.” Thank you.
How do you begin to speak of gratitude to a soul mate?
How and what could I ever begin to say to Dan to let him know of my gratitude that we had shared the past thirteen years together? It was awkward. My words were childlike and my heart was bursting with fear, and yet I was thankful to not be sitting alone on this plane.
My husband is an articulate man who has lived with words not only as the tools for his occupation, but also as a lifeline to save him from the complexity of his family. He spoke to survive. But I could tell he was stumbling as he spoke. His eyes filled with tears, and we both tried to tell each other what we had meant to each other. Was this to be our end?
Our words felt too simple. “Thank you for working so hard.” Thank you for bringing such kindness to our children.” “Thank you for getting us a dog.” Everything we spoke was true, but far from the truth we wished to say. How do you speak from the deepest part of your heart when life is so frail? We looked at each other and began what Dan has eventually called the echo of gratitude. “Thank you.” “No, thank you for thanking me.” “No thank you for thanking me for thanking you.”
There is nothing in life comparable to being grateful. The more grateful I am for someone the harder it is to find words to express what I feel. It is not easy to acknowledge my need. I can’t be grateful without being in need. But far more than the humility to acknowledge that I am needy, I must also admit that I am speechless. The truest words of gratitude were spoken through our eyes.
We were eventually taught how to assume the brace position. The pilot told us to look out the window. There seemed to be over sixty bright yellow emergency vehicles lining our runway. At the command, “Assume the brace position” Dan shoved my whole torso with such force that my forehead scraped the seat in front of me! Then he pressed so hard that my face ended up between my legs. We forcefully landed and bounced up and then came down with a huge thud and sparks were flying from the metal which should have had tires connected. You would think we would have been cheering, but the plane was deadly silent.
When we got off the plane I was shocked that no one was there to offer any consolation. At least when we had been stuck on a gondola at Vail we were given lunch vouchers! Nothing was spoken about the trauma we had just been through. I really wanted to find a place to stand in the sunlight and pray. Dan, however, really wanted to get french fries and eat! Guess what? We got french fries and lots of ketchup and salt packets and laughed. It felt so good to be alive.
I trust if I am on my death bed with Dan sitting next to me the only words I will be able to say would be, “Hold me, I am scared and thank you.” So simple …and so childlike.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of almost 40 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living! bs
This story brought much-needed tears that had been waiting and needing to fall. Thank you.
Well, Julie…that is good! I think that is just what I need too and not sure how to make it happen!
“The truest words of gratitude were spoken through our eyes.” Yes. Sometimes words are not sufficient and the wealth of love and life we have shared is communicated best by looking into the eyes of the one who looks back with knowing. I love the knowing with which my husband looks at me. Thank you for reminding me of that today.
Christine, you are so right. What we have seems normal but it is really extraordinary. How easy a day can go by and not until we put words to it do we see the wonder and majesty of it all.
When my friend Jim was dying from brain cancer, he was deeply grateful that I took him in and cared for him. We created a “litany of gratitude” that we recited often–reflecting twenty-five years of friendship. After a while of “thank you” and “no, thank you,” we decided to change the response from “no, thank you” to “It was my pleasure.” That line seemed to help take our gratitude even deeper. Thanks for sharing.
Madeline, I love you wisdom. I love the sacrifice of loving you elegantly live. I think you both were awesome to come up with “It was my pleasure.” Seriously, your gift to Jim was not normal. It speaks multitudes to me.
I can’t be grateful without being in need. But far more than the humility to acknowledge that I am needy……
I am grateful that in the past few years I have allowed myself to be needy and then receive love that creates in me a grateful heart.
Thank you Becky for sharing. I always look forward to your writing. You say Dan is gifted with words, but you are as well!!
Jaimi, your allowing yourself to be need and then to receive love is a treasure some people never learn how to do! You are awesome and what a gift you must be to others who want to give and bless you. Thank you for your kind words! I feel like I am really “late to the game” with writing and expressing my heart. So, again, thank you.
Wow Becky. Thanks for this post. It gave me chills. I felt as though I was on the plane with you, invited into a really tender potential last encounter between husband and wife. Feeling uncomfortably close to death makes life so pronounced, so vivid. Your words, “Everything we spoke was true, but far from the truth we wished to say. How do you speak from the deepest part of your heart when life is so frail?” touched me. I often feel as though language fails and I’m constantly in search for other languages to mind the gap of that disconnect. Music helps. Human touch. Visual art. Poetry, even though it’s words, captures that sometimes. I feel like you captured here in words the magnitude of that moment and the weight of gratitude. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank you, Libby, for your gracious and kind words. I love how you listed other ways than language: music, touch, art, poetry. YES, YES, YES. I had not thought of that traumatic incident for so many years and it was good to be reminded that our lives are in His hands…
What a descriptive and captivating post Becky! I loved all of it. Such an honor to marriage and life to name the simplicity of saying “hold me, I’m scared, and thank you.” Yes! So thankful your life did not end that day…
Thank you, Bethany. As you know when you write something often is communicated that you had not fully seen. I have been surprised with the comments about our marriage. It has caused me to pause and begin the many sentences of gratitude to our heavenly Father.
Wow. I don’t remember this. Did you bicycle in Ireland?
Judy Coles 4747 Clubpark Dr. Hilliard, OH 43026 614.582.1985
Thanks, Judy. Yes, we bicycled the Ring Of Kerry and crossed over quite a few mountain ranges. I trained every morning with Kathy Beach at 5:30 with Andrew in the bike seat behind me! Helped get me ready for the heavy panniers that carried all of our luggage!
Now I understand more deeply the mantra Dan has often quoted … “thank you, No, thank you. No, thank you”…and on and on. What a life changing, marriage honoring story. I could feel the apprehension through your words. Becky you remind me how blessed we are to have our sole mates still at our sides. Thank you for reminding me to express gratitude and love to Dane. And to God for sustaining you and Dan and Dane and me. Valerie
Dear Valerie, yes, we are so very fortunate. And I am grateful that
“your” comment just now has made me aware to speak gratitude and blessing. I think the older we get the more insecure we become and blessing and gratitude is more important than ever. By the way…I love the Facebook posts of your amazing store.
Thank you, Becky. I just had an ah-ha. I’ve never connected gratitude to need. I often feel deep gratitude but am uncomfortable expressing it sometimes because it feels so very young. But now it makes sense – the need is often from a young place in my heart so it’s logical that the gratitude is to. Thank you for offering a higher level of freedom and blessing in offering gratitude.
Timari, yes…you are so right. Dan actually helped me understand that because I had not connected that either. Our neediness…our childlikeness is such a gift. Over and over again that keeps us from self righteous. We are so needy and need one another so very much to be fully present and fully alive. Then, I believe, we are able to embody Jesus to others….
i stumbled into Red Tent Living by way of the Allender Center podcast. I have been so blessed by Dan’s wisdom and after getting a glimpse of who you are, Becky, I am thankful to have you both speak into my life. This is the good side of our crazed, obsessive digital world! This story brought tears to my eyes. Thanks so much!
Thank you Peggy! Yes…it is true…our crazed, obsessive and digital world! Thank you for your kindness. I am grateful for Dan’s wisdom too.
Becky ~ your last paragraph is such a beautiful ending ….simple, clear and real.
Thank you, Elaine! I hope I am able to speak before I die.