I received a call from the Delta Care Team requesting my assistance at Gate B12.
The Delta Care Team is a specially trained association of Delta employees, who provide Critical Incident assistance in emergency situations.
I proceeded to the gate where I was met by a Delta employee. The employee explained to me that the aircraft pulling into the gate was inbound from Orlando, Fla., and that there was a death on board the aircraft.
Seconds later, the fire department paramedics arrived, along with Chaplain Thomas Houston, the chaplain of the Atlanta Fire Department Airport Division. We entered the aircraft while the passengers were disembarking. The faces of the passengers were full of tears and shock.
As we arrived in the first-class cabin, we were greeted by the pilot and a lead flight attendant. I could see past them, into the center isle, a pale, young boy being embraced by his father.
The boy was wearing a T-shirt with Micky Mouse on the front.
Flight attendants standing in the row on either side of the father and son were trying to block the view of them, while directing the passengers off the aircraft. Passengers filing out on the left and right were rubbernecking, and gasping as they walked by the attendants.
The flight attendants, while doing an exemplary job, were also caught in the emotion of the moment. They were fighting back tears. Every passenger, who filed by, seemed to find it a difficult challenge not to break down into a full-blown cry.
A couple of flight attendants, who were unable to process the emotion, were in the galley, crying.
The pilot was a little strained for words, but managed to explain the situation with grace. He said the boy was a victim of cancer, and he had had a final wish to go to Disney World. The flight and vacation was a Make A Wish grant to the boy and his family.
I edged my way past the exiting passengers, to the seat next to the father holding his beloved son. I placed my hand on his back to provide some comfort. The father was wearing a airbrushed shirt with a Bible verse on the front, which said, "I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me." It was from Philippians 4:13.
On the back of the shirt, was: "No, In All Things We Are More Than Conquerors, Through Him Who Loved Us" -- Romans 8:37.
It turns out that the father was a Christian preacher in a small church in North Georgia.
As I began to minister to him, he ministered to me. He told me that his son, Timmy, was a Christian and that he had leukemia, but his final wish on earth was to go to Disney World.
He continued saying that Timmy had the best three days of his life in Disney World, but just before he died, told him he had one final wish -- to be in Heaven with Jesus.
He said to me that He and the boy's mother had been preparing for this moment, and he said, "This is not a time for crying, but a time for celebration, because Timmy got his final wish."
As I looked around the cabin, the mood was still very sad. The lead flight attendant came to me and said that several of the crew and remaining passengers wanted to know if we could say a prayer. So, Chaplain Houston and I gathered the grieving attendants and passengers in a circle around Timmy and the father.
As I prayed, the crew and passengers openly expressed their grief. I prayed, "Loving God and Christ, Timmy is in your loving arms in Heaven. He is a beautiful boy and he is loved. Thank you for the wonderful years you gave to Timmy, with his mother and father. Comfort all who grieve and help us to celebrate with the family, that hope of eternal life with you. Thank you for making his final wish come true. Amen."
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