Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's Life or Death

We all think that we will be old when we leave this life. I don't particularly want to think that way any more because, you see, I am now "old".

Well, this got me thinking the other day when I had a moment to sit in the warm sun after a cold winter and contemplate life and death. Christ lived on earth and died for us so that we could rise sometime after our own death. That's really the message of Easter--that He wakened and left the tomb on the third day. He displayed the wounds in his hands, feet, and side. He called out to those he loved and told them not to be afraid. And because of that sure message our paths in this life should be clear.

I know, I know! You're thinking that it isn't really THAT simple and what does she know about it anyway. Well, the only things I could come up with were the times in my life when I could have clearly slipped from this existence but didn't for unknown reasons. My life doesn't read like some "Final Destination" movie script, but it has had plenty of gut wrenching, nail biting, sweaty palms moments. Because I have never written them down elsewhere, I thought I would write them here, just for the record.

My very first close call was when I was about 9 years old. I was at the movies with my cousins and brothers in Murray, Utah where my dad had an interior decorating store. I had a few grunt jobs there on Saturdays, but when I could, I'd skip out for a couple of hours and enjoy a show. I remember that particular Saturday they were playing "The Incredible Shrinking Man". We were all sitting in a group and the theater was nearly full. There was a man sitting by us who kept talking to us all through the show. It was a scary show so we were kind of glad an adult was close by.

But then a very strange thing happened. I went out to the bathroom by myself and on my way back into the auditorium the man came up to me and said that my "friends" had gone out the front door and told him to let me know. Of course, I was raised in a very trusting environment so I didn't really think anything of it. When he said "we better go out and find them" I began to wonder why he would be going out there. I started out the door in front of him, but my suspicions got the best of me and I ran back in the door on the other side and past the ticket taker who was yelling at me but then stopped the man in his tracks when he tried to get in without a ticket.

I was terrified of that strange man and worried that I had been silly to trust someone who may have thought he had the perfect plan to get me to walk right out the front doors and into a kidnapping or assault or worse. I ran straight to my friends who, of course, were in their seats where I left them. I gathered everyone up and we all moved to new seats far away from where the stranger who expect us to be. I was shaking and nervous and couldn't stop thinking about what may have been my fate if things had turned out differently. I have never told anyone about that stranger and know that I was blessed and naive that day in many ways.

I was working as a flight attendant for the old Frontier Airlines based in Salt Lake City. One of my favorite schedules was flying from Salt Lake City with with an overnight in Phoenix. It was what they called a "milk run" because the airlines were regulated to carry the mail into very small airports that had few passengers but always had a mailbag to drop off and pick up. I flew on a Convair Jet Propelled 580 that carried 52 passengers, one flight attendant and co-pilot and captain. Our route was Salt Lake City, Vernal, Moab, Grand Junction, Farmington, Gallup, Albuquerque, Silver City, Tucson, and Phoenix. One day when we got close to Farmington, New Mexico the captain called me to the cockpit and told me that I should prepare the cabin and the passengers for an emergency landing. My training drills kicked in and I did just as he said then went to the back of the aircraft to my jumpseat to wait.

Apparently, one of our engines (the aircraft had two) needed to be shutdown due to a fire warning. They didn't have the fuel to just keep flying to Albuquerque where the airport and emergency response was larger. They had to land and to make it all even worse, the Farmington airfield was situated on a plateau so you didn't have enough runway to do a "go-a-round" if something went wrong. Add to that a dense fog and choppy air and it was a recipe for fright in my mind. It seems like it took forever to get that aircraft on the ground, but they finally did it and just as I was ready to open the back door for evacuation, they announced over the PA that we would be deplaning as usual down the stairs at the front door to the plane.

I don't know how my shaking knees propelled me through the cabin for the deplaning and farewell to very shaken passengers, but I felt blessed to be alive and bidding farewell to everyone because we were grounded overnight while parts and a mechanic were flown in from Denver for repairs. I flew into Farmington, New Mexico many times after that and each time I felt shaken and weak at the thought of that day.

Well, that's the first installment of my brushes with death. I hope you'll come back, if interested, as I post some more in the weeks ahead.