I have the opportunity to serve crime victims on a regular basis. And that includes people that have lost someone who have been murdered. The depth of grief that such individuals experience is beyond my comprehension. All of us struggle to determine how we can best meet a grieving person’s needs in the aftermath of such a horrific event.
By now many of you have read the story about the Southwest Airlines pilot who delayed takeoff as a way of ensuring that a grandfather makes it to Denver to see his 3 year old grandson one final time. The little boy was murdered by his mother’s live in boyfriend. Medical personnel chose to leave him on life support until the grandfather could arrive, and say his goodbyes. But there was a timetable for all of this to take place, because organ donation was involved.
The journey to Denver was complicated by long security lines and other typical traveling issues that were totally out of the grandfather’s control. (He arrived at the airport two hours before departure.) When he finally got to the gate, this is what happened according to the news report:
“Are you Mark? We held the plane for you and we’re so sorry about the loss of your grandson,” the pilot reportedly said. “They can’t go anywhere without me and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”
That commercial airline pilot possesses better pastoral care skills than some ministers I know. His mindset toward one desperate passenger reveals an important life lesson for all of us inclined to serve those that are grieving. People that have experienced a loss need to know that they are not going to be abandoned.
Their world has been rocked. They are shaken to the core of their being. Their life is chalked full of confusion. But life goes on around them as if nothing happened. Security lines at the airport are still ridiculously long. Airlines must still meet their schedules. Unfortunately people in a public setting like an airport are generally oblivious to the excruciating emotional pain of a fellow human being.
But thankfully there are angels among us. There are people among us that are willing to allow their world to stop long enough to extend a hand of compassion and security. That pilot told the distressed gentleman that he wasn’t going anywhere without him. And I think that is precisely what we too must communicate both verbally and by our actions to those around us who have experienced a loss. After clearing the security line, the grandfather found real security through the loving actions of a Southwest Airlines pilot. Now relax.
We’ll get you there….