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Meadowlark Hospice

Dawn's Notes

Climbing Higher Above the Storm - September 2017
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW

I could see the wings of the plane bouncing, up and down, up and down, as our airplane flew through a thunderstorm that seemed to have no end.  My husband Tom and I were over the Atlantic Ocean; the year was 2012.  We were on our way to Wales to see my daughter and her family who we had not seen for about a year since they moved there.

We could see the billowy, angry clouds outside the aircraft.  Lightning was flashing.  Our seats were right beside the wings of the plane, so we could see the wings clearly, bouncing as they were buffeted by the wind.  Tom and I talked about how amazing it was they were staying attached!  We wondered if one of them would just break off! 

The plane bumped and dipped in the storm.  I was frightened and thought about how badly I wanted to see my daughter Misty and her family.  I thought to myself that I would rather go down on the way home after seeing my family if it were going to happen—as if I had a choice anyway.   

As our plane was jostled along, Tom and I watched our progress symbolized by the small airplane projected on a screen in the front of the aircraft.  We could clearly see that we were over the Atlantic Ocean with no place to land.   

Before we left home, I had written an article for our local newspaper about the fatal voyage of the Titanic that attempted to cross the Atlantic from the U.S. to England many years ago.  I knew approximately where the Titanic had sunk.  I knew some of the bodies that were recovered from the icy water were buried in Nova Scotia.  

The little plane on the screen showed that we were just south of Nova Scotia, probably very close to where the Titanic had actually sunk to the bottom of the ocean, where it still rests.  Grim thoughts and fear filled my head.  Tom and I held hands, and I silently prayed for safety while the plane was challenged by the storm.    

The pilot came on over the speaker and said, “No one is to get out of your seat!  It’s going to get worse before it gets better.  I am going to try to climb above the storm.”   I wondered how it could possibly get worse—it was already awful!

We could hear the strain of the engine as the pilot pulled back on the throttle, heading the nose of the plane upwards through the storm.  The engine roared as we climbed higher.  Even though it was a rough ride, contrary to the pilot’s prediction, it did not get worse, and the weather calmed above the storm.  I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked God for His mercy.

Maybe you have gone through some rough storms in your life—real storms such as floods or tornadoes. Or maybe you have experienced times after the death of your loved one that has felt like you were flying through an enormous storm. Just as the captain predicted, perhaps your grief has felt like it was “getting worse before it gets better,” especially after the reality and loneliness of your situation set in.

Many years ago “life got worse before it got better” for one of my dear friends after the sudden death of her husband.  About six months after her husband died, her 17-year-old son also died.  

I watched how her life changed course after her losses.  She had to leave the farm.  She went back to school and got her master degree in special education.  She moved to a larger town where she touched the lives of many young students through her teaching.

I admired her strength, her will to go on when life was so hard.  One day I asked her how she had survived two devastating losses so close together.  Here’s what she told me—I wrote them down. 

“You have to decide to live.”
“You have to decide to survive.”
“You have to go on.”
“The losses will always be with you.”
“You have to try to find a new purpose.”
“You have to do what you can to survive.”

My friend grieved the deaths of her loved ones—a rough ride.  She had to re-invent her life.  She became a special education teacher and impacted the lives of hundreds of students before her death in 2016.  She was my dear friend.      

She did everything she could to survive.  Like the pilot in our plane on the way to Wales, she pulled back on the throttle and climbed, higher and higher above her storm. You can too—do what you can to climb.

Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice
709 Liberty, Clay Center, Kansas
(785) 632-2225
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator