Saturday, April 5, 2014

Highway to Heaven


Do you recognize this highway?

Probably not.  Not at first, anyway.  But I think we all have traveled on it - or one like it - in our lives.  It is the path of life.  Our highway to Heaven.  Or to Hell.

I have actually traveled this road - it is the road we live on.  Nothing spectacular about it, really, beyond the fact that last year, at precisely the time I am writing this post today, I was on this road headed home.  I hadn't been on this road for 3 months, and while it may look rather bland and uninteresting to you, it was profoundly beautiful to me.  Heavenbound.

Three months before this photo was taken, on January 8, 2013, I had traveled this road in the opposite direction, not sure whether I was headed towards what felt like the flames of Hell.  Riding shotgun in an ambulance, we headed to a nearby elementary school where a medical helicopter awaited to take my son to the hospital in Tulsa, OK.  I remember nothing of the ride.  Just the prayers.  And the one stop we had to make because they could not keep Fulton stabilized as we bumped along the road.

"Jesus, I trust in You.  Mother Mary, help us."  Over and over these prayers rose from my heart and streamed down my face.  "Jesus, I trust in You.  Mother Mary, help us."

Finally we arrived at the school, most likely ruining recess, and I anxiously waited while they tried to get my son stable enough for the 28 minute helicopter ride.  "Where are we going?"  Hell.  This has got to be Hell.

"We are taking Fulton to Tulsa.  But you cannot go with.  You will have to find another way and meet him there."  Panic replaced the prayer. How can I get there?  My husband was also burned and was headed in the opposite direction to a local hospital, and I was unable to drive.  "The pilot never takes extras.  We are so sorry."  The EMTs continued their work inside the ambulance while the flight medics went from ambulance to pilot, exchanging information and making plans.


Would he even be alive when I finally got there?  Tulsa was over 2 hours away.  What if he didn't make it?  He would be all alone....


I shivered in the January breeze and prayed.

I had caught a glimpse of the helicopter when we first drove onto the school's field.  To keep myself moving, I walked around the ambulance, wanting to see what my son would be riding in.  At the door, standing sentry, was the pilot.  Dark shades covered his eyes, and he had an expressionless face.  But I was struck by how similar he looked to my father who had passed away from cancer in 2008.  A fit and healthy version of my father - and it left me breathless.  "Dad," I prayed, "If you are somewhere where you can hear my prayer, please help me now.  You know the situation we are in.  I have to be with my son.  Please, Dad, pray for us!  Pray that I may go on this ride!"  I followed this with prayers for the repose of his soul and went back to the other side of the ambulance, to sit on the step.  And wait.

Before long, one of the flight medics came to me and announced in complete amazement, "He says you may go!  He has never let anyone ride along before!"

Praise God!  Our first miracle!  "Thank you, Dad!" I whispered as they began moving my son to the helicopter. I was allowed to go with - invited to follow Fulton on his journey, never once leaving his side.

Indeed the first 2 weeks were a spiritual agony - a hell of sorts - the worst times of our lives.  But soon there were glimmers of hope.  Over the course of the next few months, Fulton and I stayed the course, keeping our eyes on the ultimate prize:  Home.  Every day, every moment was dedicated towards the day we would return home.

There were speed bumps.  There were detours.  And a few times we feared the end was near.  But by completely trusting in Our Lord, I knew that someday, somehow, we would be coming home again.  I did not question.  I did not force my will.  I became like soft clay in the holy hands of Our Lord, and He shaped me, strengthened me and set me on the path I needed to be on to get us Home.  For during that time, I had renewed my faith, grown closer to Our Lord and Our Lady and learned to embrace each cross with which I was blessed.  God had a plan - not just for me, but for Fulton and my entire family.  And I trusted Him completely.  But, with my husband's help, it would be up to me to help guide my children through it.

Then finally, the day for which I both prayed and dreaded had come. The surgeons gathered around Fulton and I and unanimously agreed that it was indeed time to go home.  We were ready.  We were strengthened by their care and armed with what we needed.  Not only the medical supplies and medications, but more importantly the prayers and continued support from all of you.  Without you all, I truly believe we would not have come through as well as we did.  And I am so very grateful.

It was a journey - an adventure of sorts - not knowing where it would lead, but knowing that as long as I stayed faithful to the path that was set before me, it would all be alright in the end.  For strength, I feasted on the fruits that grew alongside the road - the struggles and miracles - the bitter and the sweet - and my eyes opened to the power that comes from completely surrendering to the will of God.  Letting Him lead me where He willed, and slowly becoming the kind of wife, mother and woman I never would have become, had this road not been set before me.  A path to holiness.  A highway to Heaven.

Sure, I stumbled a few times while I was so far from home.  There are many things I wish I had done differently if given the chance.  But even through my failures I have learned how to better respond to the crosses and graces set before me in everyday life, and find ways of giving God the glory He so rightly deserves in all things.  Hindsight is sometimes the best lens through which we try to see how to better respond.  And I pray that I am able to apply what I have learned to whatever future roads Our Lord places before me.

One year later, I look at the picture I took of our road and recall how I felt as we traveled those last few miles.  Excitement.  Apprehension.  Joy.  And I see how, even after returning to our happy home filled with cake, balloons and streamers, and after our new 'real life' has settled in, I am still on a journey.  Firmly set on the pathway to holiness as wife and mother, guiding all my children as they embark on their own journeys, as they stumble along the roads He has set before each of them.  None of us have made it yet.  But by the grace of God, one day, we will finally make it Home.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6

Fulton at his Welcome Home party April 5, 2013
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6


  1. Oh my gosh. My heart was breaking for you reading your story. What a beautiful and honest recap of a mothers worst nightmare. What a blessing you were able to travel in the helicopter.

  2. "I became like soft clay in the holy hands of Our Lord, and He shaped me, strengthened me and set me on the path I needed to be on to get us Home" What a testimony of faith! God bless you and yours on your journey Home!