Yesterday was a day that I will remember for as long as I live. On that morning, I received the news that threatened to change everything; my worst fear was about to come true.
I live in the hills at the end of a rough and winding road. It's been home for more than thirty years. I lost my wife, Susan, to cancer four years ago and our only child, Ted is serving in the Army in Afghanistan. He's been gone for about a year. It's lonely now, without them.
It was early morning, when I heard a car coming down the road. I wasn't expecting any company; figured somebody was lost. When the car got closer, I could see it was green and had a plate on it that I hadn't seen before. The car pulled to a stop and two men in uniform got out and headed towards the back porch, where I was standing.
“Mr. Paul Marshall?” one of the men called to me.
“I'm Paul Marshall.” My heart was getting up in my throat. I've heard that when something bad happens in the military, someone comes to your door to tell you. “Lord, please don't let this be happening.”
“Mr. Marshall, my name is Captain Johnson and this Chaplain Miller.”
“What's this about?” I was holding my breath for the answer. “Please Lord, No!”
“Sir,” Captain Johnson began,“we regret to inform you that the helicopter your son was on has crashed in a remote area. There is no word at this time as to your son's fate or that of his crew. When we know more, we will let you know. Sir, are you alright?”
Am I alright? I don't think so, I thought. I was feeling like everything was going to just stop existing.
“Yes, I'm fine,” came my reply. “When will you know anything?”
“Not sure, but we'll let you know as soon as we can. Sorry to have to tell you this.”
No sooner had they arrived-they were heading back to their car. I remember just standing there, not thinking; not anything. I was numb with fear.
The sound of their car faded in the distance. Never have I felt more alone, more empty than at that moment. I remember falling to my knees, begging and pleading with God to spare my son. “He's all I have left, Lord. Please let him be alright.” I don't know how long I knelt there asking God to spare my son; it seemed like forever.
Then the strangest thing happened. There was a feeling of peace, like nothing I had ever felt before. It was so quiet, I could hear my heart beating. Then I heard a voice; maybe in my head; I don't know for sure.
“Mark, I know what it is to lose a Son, I know the pain; trust Me.”
Tears ran down my cheeks; God knew my pain. He, too, had lost a Son. “God; forgive me. You have given so much more than You ask of me.” I found the courage to say the rest. “God, if on this day You need to call my son home, I will trust you. Please give me the strength to let him go.” As long as I live, I will never be able to explain the peace that I felt at that moment.
There is a hint of sunlight through the trees as I reach for my first cup of coffee. The air is still and I can hear the distance sounds of loons on the lake; their mournful cries composing a haunting melody. I smile; the first sip of coffee is always the best one. Relaxing on the porch with this friend some call “Joe”, I listen and watch as the morning unfolds.
There is a peace within me; a peace that I have never known before. That which I feared most has not come true; my son is safe. I received word late last night that he and his crew had been found alive, with only minor injuries. God has spared my son and for that I will be thankful for the rest of my life.
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