I have never been more grateful for helicopters than I was this week. Within a span of three days, helicopter ambulances came to the rescue for two of my friends. Each situation was unique and completely unrelated to the other, yet for both of the victims life hung in the balance and it was the prayers of others and the quick response of medical teams that allows me to write this blog with a smile on my face.
One helicopter rescue occurred right at the commencement of my friend's wedding. This was truly a wedding worst nightmare, the kind you only hear about on TV! The setting was serene and picture-perfect: white chairs and hay bales lining a grassy knoll nestled in the hills with blue sky above and nothing but good thoughts on everyone's minds. The weather was perfect, the surroundings could not have been more beautiful, and the furthest thing on anyone's mind was tragedy. After all, we were here to witness and celebrate entrance into the life-long covenant of marriage.
Suddenly from behind the trees we heard intense screaming and knew something had gone wrong, terribly wrong. To make a very long and complicated story short, the groom had collapsed with a heart attack. Being so far out in the bush, many miles from any paved roads or electricity didn't help things. A traditional ambulance was called, but how would it navigate the narrow windy passages up into the hills? And who knows how long it might take to get here?
Two women in the crowd who, like the rest of us were anticipating a day of joy and relaxation, happened to be nurses. When the groom's family urgently asked the crowd if anyone had medical expertise, they sprung into action, peforming CPR over and over again. No response.
This was getting really serious. Suddenly the food, decorations, and photo ops didn't matter anymore. Everything was put on hold.
It was so serious that I wondered if we might have a funeral and a wedding on the same day. I literally felt sick for the bride, my very dear friend, wondering how it felt to be her and imagining the terror in her heart. She was fully dressed in her wedding gown; the guests were seated, decorations in place and the ceremony due to start in seconds. And now this. . . her future husband hanging by a thread between life and death on the ground in front of her.
Amidst the chaos I began to pray. We were desperate for God's immediate intervention.
As we prayed and waited, the nurses cared for the groom, the bride talked to the groom, and we all anxiously wondered how the day would end. After what felt like an eternity, the groom regained consciousness and we all rejoiced. A happy ending to this story was on it's way.
It was decided that they would exchange vows and sign the papers right there on the ground before being whisked off to the hospital via helicopter. I guess it was the perfect opportunity to test the commitment, " . . . for better or worse, in sickness and in health. . .".
As they ascended into the sky, the rest of us down below waved them off with many prayers and well wishes, wondering what to do about all the food, musical items and games prepared for the reception. A hangi* was in the ground ready to be unearthed and enjoyed, and masses of marvelous food stared at us, ready to be eaten. So. . ..we ate it. We played games. We paid tribute to the bride and groom, despite their absence.
We tried to enjoy the rest of the day on their behalf and were rewarded with a personal phone call from them at the hospital later in the evening, assuring us that the groom was alive and though he had surgery and struggles ahead, would be okay.
Family and friends melted with relief at the sound of their voices, and spontaneous cheers broke out in the crowd.
After the dust cleared and I could gather my thoughts, I was encouraged. This whole experience was clear evidence that God's grace still permeates every part of our broken world. People do still, in fact, value human life above all else in creation. When someone's life is in danger, it is nothing less than grace that we drop everything else and put their life in first priority, doing everything possible to preserve it.
Grace is that which says, "May God treat you better than you deserve." It is the undeserved kindness and favour of God that empowers us to do great things and live beyond the bounds of our selfish nature. When we put someone else's life before our own, we are operating out of grace.
So. . ..in the story of the "wedding gone wrong", something went very right. Grace.
* "Hangi" is a traditional Maori method of cooking where food is buried in a pit in the ground with hot rocks and left to cook for many hours. It is still used regularly for special occasions. I personally love hangi and jump at any chance to eat it!