I stepped into the ambulance to comfort my terrified daughter. At that time, we thought Kayla’s arm may have been broken. Medical personal would not tell Kayla or me anything about Tammy. Once assured that Kayla was in good hands, I stepped out into the humid sunshine to go and see about my precious wife. I was stopped by a medic. I pulled away and continued on my way to her. A patrolman motioned for me to step back, because I was standing where the helicopter was about to land. I went back into the ambulance. At this point, Kayla was crying for me not to make her fly in the helicopter. I assured her that it was safe and that I would be with her.
Mike and a highway patrolman motioned for my attention. "Mr. Litton, you need to sit down." "No,” I said, “shoot straight with me." My dear and courageous friend Mike said, "Pastor, Tammy did not make it. I am so sorry!"
I do not know how to express what I felt; it was shock and I knew it was shock. I was numb, yet fully aware that what I had just been told was true. The helicopter landed and a tall medic, in a blue flight suit, said to me. "Mr. Litton, come this way." He escorted me to the passenger side of the helicopter. The seat-belt was trapped and snapped in place. I shook hands with the pilot and thanked him for his help. I heard noise in the back and felt the cabin pressurize, as the back door was closed. "Stand by." The pilot announced to the crew. "Ready!" was their response.
As the helicopter lifted upward, I took note of my emotions. No tears yet, no panic, but I wouldn't call it peace. It was peaceful, but it was simply a still moment. The kind of moment God has used in my life many times when He was about to punctuate a truth in me. As we lifted, I could see those men--those sweet helpless helpers who had come to my wife and daughter’s rescue. They stood awkwardly around Tammy's body, now covered with a blanket. Two men attempted to shield my view of her with a blue tarp. I remember thinking, "Don't do that. It's okay."
As the helicopter lifted swiftly up, I could not take my eyes off of her petite frame lying beneath that blanket. Then suddenly, clearly the Spirit of God spoke to my shocked and wounded heart. He said, "This is the path Tammy just took just a few minutes ago." Peace flooded my soul and for the next fifteen minutes, as we made our way to the trauma center in Mobile. I knew God had sent His holy angels and they had lifted her up on wings like eagles and she rose, as if raptured, into His holy presence.
You may call me a mystic. Perhaps I am that, but I believe God graces us with moments of insight. I believe He occasionally allows us to stand so close to the edge that we see His glory and hear the fluttering of angel’s wings. I cling not to my experience that day; I cling to the Word of God, by which I judge my experience and I find nothing inconsistent with God's Word in my experience. I believe and long for the coming of the Lord, either in my life or in the Second Coming of Christ.
Psalm 90:10 tells us, “The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” My sweet wife did not get seventy or eighty years in this life. From my earthbound and sorrowful perspective, my bride of twenty-five years of marriage and over twenty-eight years of friendship suffered a sudden and tragic death. At the same time, I am confident that because of the grace of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, in whom she trusted, Tammy did fly away.
Regrets are usually created by the things we delay, or put off, until such a moment that we become aware that we cannot now do what was needed. Psalm 90:12 teaches us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. There is a joy that comes from knowing you have numbered your days and prepared in advance by trusting Christ as Savior and Lord. Be ready. For in an hour when you may least expect it, the Lord may say, "Quickly, come home." Then you too will fly away.
Three and one half years later it is still a painful experience to read these words. God does not promise that all our tears and sorrows will disappear quickly. Tim Keller said: "The Western church is caught flat-footed by suffering." I am afraid he is right. Weak teaching and easy beliefs in some corners have left us reeling in the face of suffering and pain. There is however hope. It is more than consolation; it is a great hope and it is JESUS.
I have chronicled parts of my journey in the form of a blog. http://elitton.blogspot.com.
I would encourage you to begin reading in August 2007 and read forward in time. May the Lord give you the grace and insight he gave to me and may you know that He alone transforms our heartache into glory.