Marie, the Pastor's wife has been keeping me well informed. Doug is home and recovering from surgery. He continues to improve. Our hope is that he will return to pastoring his flock before too long. I want to personally thank you all for joining in a prayer chain. Your prayers were heard and answered. And a special thank you to Karen Watson for knitting a beautiful prayer shawl for the Pastor. It's warmth and magic are palpable. I'll keep you all posted.
Some of you asked about the picture of the St. Christopher's Medal that I posted here and on my earlier request for prayer. Here is the story of this particular St. Christopher's Medal.
Ten years ago, Joann was awakened by a dream. There was a vivid, driving need to go to the Catholic Store and purchase a St. Christopher's Medal, which she did. Saint Christopher is the Saint of travel. She asked me to wear it. I never question these sorts of premonitions.
Fast forward a few weeks...
We were just coming out of Syracuse Stage after a wonderful performance of the play "Wit" by Margaret Edson. I'd tell you what the play was about... but, it would freak you out... as this story progresses. We were sitting with some of the cast and audience members in the foyer of the theater when I received the phone call. It was from Pastor Doug. It was time to go. The lungs, which he needed to survive were on their way to Pittsburgh. We needed to get him to Pittsburgh in a hurry. His life depended on it.
There is a man I respect more than just about anybody I've met on this Earth. His name is Bruce Stouffer. He is the Angel of Mercy. For many, many years, this now retired pilot, flew patients in his own plane, at his own expense, to wherever they needed to go to get their life saving surgery. He is a story unto himself. He helped me get through flight school and taught me more about flying (and life) than I will ever be able to repay. And that cold winter's night, my first call after speaking to Doug was to Bruce.
Joann knew what this meant. I was going to co-pilot a plane through the night, in the middle of a winter storm, to get my friend to his appointed surgery. And the Pilot was a man who made his own rules. I will always love Joann for what what she did next. Without fear, whining, crying or complaint, she dropped me off at my car, made sure I was wearing St. Christopher, and kissed me good-bye. Faith is a beautiful thing.
I picked up Doug, Marie, and enough Oxygen tanks to sink a battle ship. Bruce was already preparing his plane for the flight.
Speaking of faith... You know... Doug had to go. So did his tanks. But, there was no real good reason for Marie to get on that plane. Such is the faith of a Pastor's wife. We got clearance from the tower, taxied and took off into the night.
I noticed ice on the pitot tube and the windshield. The wings... sure, they were covered. That's what wings do. They collect ice. The trick is to find an altitude where the ice won't form so fast. And of course, coming through the closing altitude FAST, so you don't pick up too much more of it before you speedball a landing. I reassured Doug and Marie... quite a few times, that everything was fine. They both knew that I was lying. But, then again... I WAS wearing a St. Christopher's Medal.
Bruce Stauffer had the skill and the daring to make this landing, and that he did. Fast and smooth. I'd like to tell you that it was a textbook landing. But quite frankly, they don't teach you this stuff in a textbook. You've just got to fly your way through it.
I got Doug and Marie into the ambulance, which was waiting for us on the tarmac, along with his oxygen tanks. Then I turned to see Bruce pounding on the wings of his aircraft. I joined in. It took us a little time to break off the sheets of ice. I'll never forget that moment. Nor will I forget the next one, when we jumped back into our seats and took off for home. We landed in snow drifts at an all but closed Hancock International Airport. That was my last Medevac flight. Not long after that, Bruce Stauffer, the angel of mercy, turned in his wings.
That night Doug Brushell received a transplanted lung from a woman who had died hours before. Her gift is still breathing life into the Pastor as I write this. I still have that St. Christopher's Medal. It reminds me often of the power of prayer. And of faith.