That’s a Wrap

imagesThe pastor at the church with which we are affiliated in Denver doesn’t have much of a sense of humor, I’m afraid. He’s pretty important, at least within our archdiocese. He’s a monsignor, and told us Sunday that he had been appointed by Pope Francis to be some kind of muckity muck for our archdiocese during the pope’s Year of Mercy. But he doesn’t seem to laugh much. To his credit, when he does laugh, it’s usually at himself.

Nevertheless, he started his homily Sunday (on which we celebrated Christ’s ascension into heaven) by saying that Jesus could have shortened his remarks to the apostles prior to his ascending to heaven by simply saying, “And that’s a wrap.”

I’m not sure why, but that tickled me.

That’s a wrap. I’m all finished with everything. I successfully did all the stuff my Father asked me to do. I came; I saw; I conquered.

And it wouldn’t have been a wrap at all if he hadn’t ascended into heaven, because that, like the rest of his human life, is a model for our own lives. We are born. We live a good life. We die. And through the grace of God, we go to heaven. At the end of the day, just as Jesus, we are only here for a short time. And though we feel as though we are in control of the world, the world belongs to God, and we are only in the world, not of the world. We are really of God.

We flew home from Chicago on Saturday after spending a few days with Bill’s mom. We knew the weather in Colorado was going to be iffy, but the plane left on time and we kept our fingers crossed.

A few hours later, the pilot came on the intercom with words to this effect: Good afternoon. This is your pilot speaking. The good news is that we are only 80 miles away from Denver. The bad news is that the airport is socked in with a severe thunderstorm and DIA is closed until the storm passes. So we are going to fly around Colorado until it reopens or they send us elsewhere. It’s going to be bumpy, so suck it up.


I began my usual panic.

What if the plane runs out of fuel? What if we run into one of the other planes that is flying around Colorado awaiting the reopening of the airport? What if the turbulence is so strong that one of the wings falls off? Does this mean I’m going to miss watching the Kentucky Derby?

Poor Bill has his hands full.

But behind us was a mother traveling with three children. One was a babe in arms who slept through the entire thing. The other two were maybe early elementary school, and found the whole thing to be very exciting rather than scary. Oh, to be a child again.

At some point they began to entertain themselves by singing, in rounds, a song that they must have learned at church or maybe from a Christian school.

Praise be the Lord, we sing hallelujah. Praise be the Lord, we sing hallelujah. Praise be the Lord, we sing hallelujah.

That was it. There might have been other words, but those were the only ones they sang, over and over and over.

At first I thought, “Oh no. They’re going to drive me crazy because I’m already stressed.”

But suddenly I realized what they were saying, and I realized it was a prayer, whether they knew that or not. So I began singing it quietly to myself.

Praise be the Lord, we sing hallelujah.

We made it down safely. The plane had enough fuel. The wings remained firmly attached. I didn’t see a single other plane.  I missed the Kentucky Derby, but so what. We lived.

He is risen and is back with his Father awaiting all of us.

Praise be the Lord, we sing hallelujah.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Airplane 2015

Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Surely you can’t be serious.
I am serious and don’t call me Shirley. – from Airplane

Airplane_screenshot_Haggerty_NielsenEveryone who has flown more than a couple of times has a horror story about flying. I’m not talking about lost luggage or a seatmate who needs a shower or a child kicking the back of your seat relentlessly for three-and-a-half hours. I’m talking about one of those experiences where you’re pretty darn sure you’re going to die midair.

Here’s an example: On September 11, 2002, Court was flying out of an airport in NYC. The plane had only been in the air a few minutes when suddenly the cabin began filling up with smoke. As you can imagine, he (and likely everyone else) FREAKED OUT. It turned out to be some sort of kitchen problem. (Flight Attendants, please remove the aluminum foil from your breakfast burrito before you put it in the microwave. Thank you for your attention to this matter.) Unfortunately passengers weren’t made aware of this fact until the plane had turned around and was heading back to the airport. Since it was the anniversary of 9/11, you can imagine what they were all thinking. Yikes.

The flight between Phoenix and Denver, while only an hour-and-a-half long, is notoriously bumpy. Either the plane encounters the 115 degree air of Phoenix or the windy conditions of Denver International Airport or the warm air meeting the cold air over the Rocky Mountains. Somewhere, somehow, the plane bounces.

Jen and I have made that flight together many times, and there have been many instances where we have held each other’s sweaty hands as the plane bounced around. One flight in particular bumped without stopping for nearly the entire flight. There was more puking than fraternity pledges at the first party of the semester. Not Jen and I, though. We were too busy saying Hail Marys.

Bill and I flew from Phoenix back to Denver yesterday on a Southwest Airline flight. It wasn’t a good sign when, even before taking off, the pilot began warning us that we were going to encounter turbulence near Denver due to extremely high winds. Awesome.

It also wasn’t a good sign when the flight attendants began collecting trash nearly an hour before we were supposed to land, explaining to us that the pilots made them do it.

And as expected, suddenly, as we neared Denver, the plane was hit by what I presume was a gust of wind that knocked it to hell and back. At that moment, while everyone else was shouting in terror and reaching desperately for their loved ones, I grabbed my guitar and began singing Bridge Over Troubled Water in an effort to calm everyone down.

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all.

Yeah, well, of course that’s not what really happened. What actually happened is that I grabbed hold of Bill with enough force to send pain shooting down his legs and began to cry. I couldn’t help it. One by one, my grandkids’ faces flashed before my eyes. I was 78 percent sure I wasn’t ever going to see them again. Addie, Alastair, Dagny, Magnolia…..

Bill, who is a trained pilot (who thankfully no longer flies small airplanes) patiently explained to me what was happening. It had something to do, he said, with the snow on the ground and then patches where there was no snow and so warm air met cold air and ….. Kaiya, Mylee, Cole…..

“We’re not going to come around and check to see if your tray tables are back in place and your seats are fully upright,” said the flight attendants as they clung to their seats. “We’re on the honor system today.” Joseph, Micah…..

Well, I posted this entry on my blog, so you have surmised that we survived the plane ride. As we taxied towards our gate, I asked Bill if he had been nervous.

“Naw,” he said. “Not at all.”

“Really?” I asked him. “Not even a little bit?”

He finally admitted that he had been a little bit nervous.

I’m pretty sure the only thing that kept him from panic equaling mine was that he was more concerned with the fact that he had no blood flowing from his left extremities.