Let Me Grieve, but Not Forever

Let Me Grieve, but Not Forever

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by Verdell Davis

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On June 28, 1987, four Dallas-based Christian leaders were killed in an airplane crash as they were returning from a Focus on the Family retreat in Montana: George L. Clark, chairman of the board and CEO of MBank; Dr. Trevor E. Mabery, a surgeon who helped found Humana Hospital-Medical City; Hugo W. Schoelkopf III, an entrepreneur and sporting goods


On June 28, 1987, four Dallas-based Christian leaders were killed in an airplane crash as they were returning from a Focus on the Family retreat in Montana: George L. Clark, chairman of the board and CEO of MBank; Dr. Trevor E. Mabery, a surgeon who helped found Humana Hospital-Medical City; Hugo W. Schoelkopf III, an entrepreneur and sporting goods manufacturer; and Creath Davis, founder and director of Christian Concern Foundation.

Among the losses their families shared, Creath's wife, Verdell, also lost part of her identity: No longer was she a pastor's wife, and no longer was she sure what she believed. This deeply moving book, gleaned from parts of journals that she kept during the loss of her husband, offers a source of hope and healing for anyone experiencing grief. With remarkable honesty, courage, and generosity, she shares how to examine grief and ultimately find healing in the process.

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Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
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A Journey Out of the Darkness of Loss
By Verdell Davis

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2007 Verdell Davis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8499-4533-5

Chapter One


When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. ISAIAH 43:2 O joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain That morn shall tearless be. GEORGE MATHESON "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go"

Please, God. Please don't tell me my greatest fear has come true! I begged God as I paced the backyard so my twenty-one-year-old daughter, back in the house, could not see me shaking.

The plane should have been home hours ago.

As I paced I began remembering flashes of conversations Creath and I had had recently, conversations he had started with, "If anything should ever happen to me ..." I shook my head and cried aloud, "No, God! Please, NO!"

The morning of June 28, 1987, had started bright and expectantly, full of anticipation of Creath's coming home. My life was much as I would have chosen it to be. I had a minister husband I adored, three grown children, a precious granddaughter and a five-week-old grandson named after his grandfather. I enjoyed a profession that gave me a great sense of accomplishment and good health that I never took for granted. I was content.

That evening was a different story. I was with three other wives, making phone calls to alert the proper authorities that the private plane carrying our husbands had not arrived from Montana. Fear gripped our hearts, but hope cleared our minds enough so we could do the things that had to be done. Friends began to pour in, and shortly before midnight the first of many private planes and corporate jets left Dallas for Montana. The search had begun.

Somehow we made it through the night by staying together, and the next morning I hugged my two grown sons as they, too, left aboard yet another corporate jet with some of the other sons to join in the search for their fathers. As my daughter, my daughter-in-law, and I embraced these young men and whispered prayers for their safety, every muscle in my body ached terribly from the intensity of each passing moment.

Later that day the crowd that had gathered at one of the homes stood in front of the television, silent in our disbelief. Flashed on the screen were the pictures of the four men. We listened as the news anchor told of their faith and friendship and of their returning together from a Focus on the Family men's retreat at a ranch in Montana. He described the Cessna 421, saying that the small, private plane was presumed down in the mountainous region of the Montana-Wyoming border. He told of the massive air search that was being mounted, and as the cameras scanned the Billings airport headquarters I saw my two sons heading for one of the planes on the runway. The pain in my heart at that moment has no words.

I wanted to scream, "This can't be happening!" and I knew the other wives standing there were thinking the same. The friends surrounding us were stunned at the thought of losing four of their friends at one time-the pain was on their faces. We all needed each other.

As Monday turned into Tuesday we kept our vigil by the phones and the television. Calls were coming in from all over the country as the search began to attract attention far beyond our community. We tried to comfort hurting friends even as they tried to comfort us. Food and flowers and telegrams reassured us we were not alone. We hugged and cried, laughed and prayed, encouraged and consoled, read from the Scriptures and clung to the promises that in our weakness he is strong and that his grace would be sufficient. The lives of those four men, and indeed of all of us, were in his sovereign hands.

Tuesday became Wednesday, and someone handed me the Dallas Morning News. The front-page lead story carried a picture of my daughter, my daughter-in-law, and me sitting in our church beside one of the ministers at a large gathering for prayer the night before. The article said authorities held out little hope. I looked at that picture and read those headlines and felt the life drain out of me.

This was not happening to someone else.

The telephone call came as all the wives, our children who had not gone to Montana, and many of our friends were together at one home. The wives and a few others went into a smaller room and sat around a speaker phone as the message came: The plane has been found. It is a positive identification. It is about ten thousand feet up on a mountain peak just outside Cody, Wyoming.

There are no survivors.

Rogue wind. The sailors' term describes a wind that comes with no warning out of a clear blue sky, blows across a placid sea, and in moments is gone, leaving devastation in its wake. That is the storm that blew across my life on June 28, l987. A storm with no warning on a day of sunshine and happy thoughts. A storm that forever changed my life.

But just as I look back and see the rogue wind, I must also see the rainbows that appeared in my gray and cloudy skies and etched my horizons with the assurance that God would walk through the storm with me. Storms come in many forms. Some, indeed, come with no warning. Some we see brewing and know it is only a matter of time. The storm may be the death of a spouse, a child, a parent, a very dear friend. It may be the loss of health or the loss of a home to flood or fire. It might be financial reversals that take away the security and comforts we had grown so accustomed to, or a major move that takes us away from the familiar and the loved. The storm may be family or relational crises that sever the ties that bind us to one another, leaving us with bleeding emotional wounds.

Whenever a storm blows into our lives, it brings along its own store of heartaches; and all pain, from whatever source, is an intensely personal experience. Most often we cannot choose what happens to us-our choice lies in what we do with what life brings our way. Will we see only the devastation left by the rogue wind, or will we also see the rainbows that promise life will not always feel so oppressive?

The pains, the heartaches, the losses of our lives can become the altar on which we offer up to God all the things that keep us relying on our own strength. It is then that God can truly do a new work in us and show us himself in ways we have never seen before.

So, when we find ourselves being forced to walk in a way we did not choose and to shoulder a burden we are sure we cannot bear, what do we do? Where do we turn? How do we stay steady in the storm? What is the hope of our faith?

Lord, the storms come, and we cry out in our agony that life is unfair. We doubt your love and question your goodness. And the pain often blinds us to the rainbows of your presence. The fear that life will never be good again keeps us clinging to the shreds of what we had instead of allowing you to build a new and deeper life out of our brokenness. Help us, Father, to remember in these dark days the things we know to be true about you, the things that seem so easy to believe when life feels good. Help us to cling tenaciously to the promises that your love is unfailing, your strength is made known in our weakness, and you will never leave us or forsake us. Give us the grace to offer up to you our tear-stained praises for being our anchor in the storm. Amen


Excerpted from LET ME GRIEVE but not FOREVER by Verdell Davis Copyright © 2007 by Verdell Davis. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Verdell Davis is not only an accomplished author and speaker, but also a long-time educational consultant. Before penning her timeless classic Let Me Grieve But Not Forever, she was the headmistress of a private Christian school. She has also served on the boards of several organizations, including trustee Howard Payne University, and is currently on the board of SonScape Ministries and Caring People Network. Since leaving the field of education, she has spent time writing and speaking at Focus on the Family's Pastors' Wives Gathering, Praise Gathering with Bill and Gloria Gaither, and many other conferences, retreats, and seminars nationwide. After being widowed for fifteen years, Davis married the second love of her life, Bill Krisher, in 2002.

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