Another TEXAS Tragedy

 

I have been trying to think of what to share about what happened this weekend. It was horrible. And beautiful. A terrible thing happened. And we saw God work. We were a part of His work. God worked in a beautiful way.

This is a long post. Before you read it, you may want to get a cup of coffee. And maybe some tissue. Get comfortable. As I share my heart.

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Weekend Plans

Ron had meetings scheduled in Colorado Springs for Monday, August 3. We didn’t want to drive the whole way on Sunday and be tired Monday, so we decided to drive on Saturday. This would allow us to attend church in Colorado Springs and then explore the area and even ride our bikes. That was the plan.

We had been planning for weeks. But early last week I felt like we should go Friday night. We should drive part way and stay the night in Amarillo. It would mean paying for an extra night in a hotel, but I felt like God was showing me we should go Friday.  Now I know why.

I told Ron I would like to go to Canyon to see some of the kids from TEXAS, the outdoor musical our Andrew was a part of. He was okay with that.

We have stayed close to Kris Miller, the executive director, and to many of the kids from the 2013 season. You may have seen pictures they sent me. I love when they send me pictures. I enjoy seeing what is happening in their lives today. They loved our son and the others killed in The Accident. They love us still. They message me with stories and tell me when they think about Andrew. We are excited to see them graduate, get new jobs, and live. We enjoy getting to see them a couple of times each summer.

Ron and I discussed our options. We have a “lifetime pass” to the show. All we have to do is call ahead to let them know we are coming. But we didn’t call to tell them we were coming this time. We never made reservations for the show; we just felt like we were not supposed to see it. But we wanted to love on the cast and crew. We did not understand it, but that’s what we knew we were to do.

We planned to leave the house around 2:00. This would allow us to go to the Canyon and see folks before the show. Then we would head back to Amarillo to sleep, get up early the next day, and drive to Colorado. We would arrive in time to ride bikes in Colorado Springs. That was the plan. Or so we thought.

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Weekend Reality

Those who know me know that if we plan to leave at two, I want to be on the road by two. I sometimes get upset if Ron is late when we are leaving town, even if it isn’t his fault. This is something I have been working on for years. (I never claimed to be a perfect wife. This is one of my many failings.)

Friday afternoon Ron’s meeting at work ran late. We would be late leaving town. And I did not care. I wasn’t upset at all! This should have been a sign to me that something was different. Something was very different, but I did not notice it until much later.

We took our time packing. I read a book. We fed the dogs. Etc. We finally left the house about 6:00. Four hours late … and I was just fine with that. We were not going to make it to Canyon that night, but we hadn’t yet told anyone we were coming; they wouldn’t miss us.

We were talking and laughing and having a wonderful time as we drove towards Colorado via Amarillo. We stopped to grab a bite eat. We weren’t in a hurry.

Then I checked Facebook a little before 8:00 pm.

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Another Death, Another TEXAS Tragedy 

I saw the news. It had been posted by one of the cast members more than an hour earlier. There had been an explosion at TEXAS. One person was missing. The show was cancelled for Friday night.

I turned to Ron and said, “They are dead. I know there is another kid dead. We have to go.” He agreed that we should go if we were needed. He set the GPS to Canyon. We were two hours away.

Ron told me to call Kris Miller to ask if we could help and ask if we should come. We didn’t want to be in the way. He said, “YES! Please come! We need you!” We did not know what we could do, but knew we had to go.

We knew Kris would be dealing with investigators, media, parents, and a devastated cast and crew. The cast and crew are mostly kids ages 19-25. We thought we might be able to help Kris by simply showing him love. We would be available for whatever he asked of us. He asked us to go where the kids were.

We know many of the cast and crew. They were Andrew’s friends. Some have stayed in our home. One young man, Austin, grew up with my boys. I am friends with his mom. He went to West Texas A&M University (WT) in large part because of his friendship with Andrew. He took his first ballet class there after The Accident. Now he is majoring in dance and dancing in TEXAS. Now he had lost another friend.

I love these kids. I knew they were hurting. They are so young! They were far away from home, some for the first time. They had lost five friends just two years ago. And now they had lost another. They would be in shock. They would need comfort. Ron and I wanted to love them, hold them as they cried, listen to them, and pray for them. We wanted to be Jesus with skin on for them. So we drove to Canyon. We arrived a little after ten Friday night.

 Blue Ribbon School Award

Hugs

Within moments of my posting on FB asking for prayer, I began getting texts from mommas all over the country. They were concerned about us. These were mommas whose children worked at TEXAS. Their children were facing another horrible tragedy. And yet, they were concerned about me! They were sending me virtual hugs. I assured them Ron and I were okay. It was a shock and we were upset, but we were going to be okay. We were not reliving the events of 2013. We have experienced healing from God. We knew this was not about us or what happened two years ago. They reminded us to take care of ourselves. I told them we were driving to Canyon to help in anyway we could.

We were concerned about their kids and the staff of TEXAS. I contacted Austin’s mom to see how she was doing. I told them each that I would give their child a hug. Lots of hugs. And I would let them know what was going on.

We arrived at the WT Baptist Student Ministries building where the cast and crew had gathered. And I did just what I told those mommas I would do: I gave each of their kids a huge hug first from their own momma and then one from me.  Many of the kids had already left, but we stayed and talked with those who were there.

I had posted on my FB page asking for prayer for peace and wisdom as to what we should say. We felt a great peace. We mostly said, “I’m sorry. I love you. You will get through this. We will help.” Then we listened as they shared and held them as they cried.

And I received a beautiful “hug” from Laura Husband. Her daddy was killed in a space shuttle accident when she was very young.  She was part of the show in 2013. She has experienced too much death. But she has a beautiful faith. She told me stories of my Andrew from their Bible study two summers ago. I will be forever grateful for “hugs” like that which I get from our TEXAS family. I love hearing new stories about our son from his friends!

After a couple of hours and many tears, we left and headed to the hotel. It was past midnight.

While driving we got a call from Kris. We had not yet seen him. He had been at the office dealing with the press … and calling Peyton’s mom. He had had to talk with five sets of grieving parents two years ago. He never wanted to do that again. But he made another call Friday night. This time to the mother of the 21 year old stage manager who had died in an explosion a few hours earlier.

Kris asked me to call a grieving mom. I did. I’m glad I was available. It was hard. And that is all I will say about that. It was a private conversation between two grieving moms.

We also turned around and went to the office instead of going to the hotel. Kris sounded like he was hurting. Bad. We went to see him. We hugged him. We told him how much we loved him. We cried with him. He and Ron talked. He asked us to come to the meeting of cast and crew scheduled for ten Saturday morning on the WT campus. They would be talking about what happened and if the show would continue. Kris wanted Ron to speak to the kids. And to everyone else.

At the hotel, I sent a message to the parents of the other four killed in 2013 and to the young man who survived The Accident. I expressed our love for them. I told them we were in Amarillo and would keep them posted.

We were not going to be in Colorado Springs early enough to ride bikes on Saturday. We were going to be in Canyon, Texas. Just where He wanted us.

Exploring The Desert

Saturday Mourning

We arrived at the fine arts building at WT for the meeting. We saw a number of kids we hadn’t seen the night before. More hugs. More tears. And a bit of laughter as they shared their memories of Peyton and the Texas Angels.

One of the other Texas Angels moms had called me that morning. “Where do I go? What can I do?” She had asked. She drove in to be with the kids.

The meeting started. On stage, men in charge of the organization that produces the show spoke to the group. Kris spoke. They talked about stuff that had to be discussed. Details. Information. More details. What they knew at this point.  What would happen this morning, later today. Who was investigating. Etc. Everyone was hurting, still in shock. Many had not slept. They had lost a friend.

The crew had worked hard putting out the fire just after the explosion and had worked late into the night. They had lost a fellow crew member. You can read about what a great job they did. They had done what needed to be done. A group of young people who did exactly what they had been trained to do and were now grieving.

A few kids stood up in the audience and expressed their thoughts. At times it was tense. Everyone was emotional.

Then Kris asked Ron to speak. He got up, turned and asked me to join him on stage. We had prayed. During the night Ron had carefully considered the message he wanted to share. I had not planned to speak. I planned to stay in the audience. I was hurting too much to help. But my husband asked me to join him, so I did.

He spoke a bit about our son, even drawing some laughter as we remembered Andrew’s antics. And he shared some of how it hurt to lose him and the four others. He shared our pain, our grief. He also shared that we have found peace, joy, and comfort from a loving God. He spoke to the cast and crew. He spoke of their pain, their grief. He connected with them. He spoke of a God who can heal and help.

“A teacher I like to listen to once said, ‘well off (blessed) are those who mourn,'” Ron shared. “He meant that those who mourn can be well off – we can all be well off (blessed) – because the Kingdom of God is now available to everyone. The Kingdom of God is not just for a special group of religious people.  Even spiritual losers (poor in spirit), the meek, and those who mourn can find peace and joy in Christ. The kingdom is available to us all.”

Ron spoke of not going it alone, but reaching out to each other and helping each other get through this. He also spoke of feeling it all. Feel the pain. Grieve, cry, hurt. And then walk through it. Walk through it together.

He encouraged them to LIVE! “Honor your friend by living well and doing what you are passionate about,” he told them. “Dance, sing, do what you love. That is how we heal from tragedy: we live!”

He reminded them to eat, rest, and care for themselves. I don’t remember everything he said. But it was beautiful. It was heartfelt. It was healing and helpful.

I spoke as a momma. I encouraged them to reach out to God through their tears. I told them not to try to drink or drug away the pain. It won’t help. Really, it won’t. I shared the love of Christ with them, told them that God can and will help them through this. They can trust Him. We both testified about our own grief and healing journey. I don’t remember all I said either. I was brief. I hope it helped.

I do remember the feeling that we were in God’s will, being led by the Holy Spirit to speak words of life, words of joy, words of peace, and words of hope through tears. It was a beautiful thing. In the midst of a horrible thing. We are both humbled to think of how God used us. And how He has healed us and blessed us.

After we spoke, the other mom shared just a few thoughts Her words were full of love and pain. We hurt for these kids.

Then more business was discussed. The tech crew, who had been the first responders, expressed that they needed a day to rest but wanted the show to go on. More was said by cast and crew members. It was hard. It was beautiful to hear the hearts of these young people as they supported one another.

It was decided that the Saturday show would be cancelled and they would perform on Sunday. The show would go on and they would honor Their friend and the other “Texas Angels” by doing what they loved, by performing, and by living!

Then Cloyce Kuhnert, who plays one of the leads and teaches voice at WT, led the cast and crew in singing “It Is Well with My Soul” a Capella. The voices sounded like angels. I stood by the wall and sobbed. Ron sang out in his amazing, beautiful tenor voice. The room was filled with music. Healing had begun. God was glorified.

At the end I prayed over the group. I prayed as a momma who loves them all. Because I do.

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After the meeting

We stayed a while to talk with the staff and with the cast and crew. We stood by a wall at the edge of the auditorium and waited for anyone who wanted talk to come to us. This was not about us but about them. They are hurting. They are grieving. We were available but did not want to impose. We wanted to show them a loving, compassionate God by being loving and compassionate. Many came up to thank us for coming and for sharing. They told us stories of thier friend. We hugged and cried and listened to their pain.

Then we drove to Colorado Springs.

Sunday

I cannot adequately express how I feel. I am writing this Sunday night. I am still overwhelmed with emotion as I think about this weekend.

We attended Colorado Springs Vineyard Fellowship this morning. I sobbed through worship. It was beautiful. I have used that word a lot. I don’t have another word to describe it. “Beautiful” seems almost out of place during such a terrible tragedy. I was full of joy, sorrow, hope, pain, compassion, grief and peace all at once. I am grateful that this body welcomed us, two strangers in their midst, as I sobbed through worship. I am grateful for a loving God. I am grateful for the Body of Christ.

Tonight I hurt for the young woman’s parents. And for her siblings. For her friends. I know what her parents are facing in the next few months. I know some of what they are all facing. It will be hard. Grief is hard. But God is available to help and comfort them along they way. We are available. The While We’re Waiting family is available.

This was a horrible weekend.  A hard weekend. Yet we saw beautiful things happen. The cast and crew will go on grieving. The young woman’s family will grieve. They will hurt. And we will continue to pray for them all and will reach out to them. I will reach out to her mom, Ron will reach out to her dad. And they will, I hope and pray, heal in time. They will remember a lovely 21 year old who died in a horrible accident. And I pray they will remember her with joy.

God is good.

What an understatement! He is compassionate, gracious, merciful, and loving.

I am humbled to have been used by Him. I am grateful for the healing I have experienced these past two years. I am willing and available to share the healing I have received with others who mourn. I want to be used by God. I want to see Him move through us in the lives of others who grieve the loss of a child, a sibling, a friend. I saw a glimpse of what that might look like this weekend.

Through pain and tragedy, I have joy and peace.

I am married to a most amazing man who, through his own pain, spoke words of life from his heart to a room full of devastated young men and women.

I serve a God who loves beyond measure. I serve a God who knows we live in a broken hurting world and envelops us in His grace and mercy.

Yellow flowers. For Peyton, who loved yellow flowers.


 

Monday
I have spent the morning praying, reading and writing. I have edited this post to try to make it shorter. Trying to put into words all that happened the last three days. I am still amazed. I have talked with some of the kids and prayed for them all.

Sometimes I fell like I don’t know much. What do know is that Jesus is still Lord. Even in the midst of tragedy. He still loves, still heals, and still saves. He is the King of kings, Lord of lords, Mighty God, Counselor, and Prince of Peace. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He loves us. He IS love. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Way, the Truth. And the Life.

And for all of this I am thankful.

Yes, it is well with my soul.

19 thoughts on “Another TEXAS Tragedy

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  4. Wow, Kathleen, it’s hard to type with blurry eyes. How gracious and compassionate of God to bring you near to others in their time of need. He knew you and your husband would have wanted to comfort them. And He wanted you to be the arms of Christ to hug and love them.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kathleen, I’ve just finished reading this, and the tears are rolling. My word. What an experience, to be so clearly led by God to be in exactly the right place to be able to minister to people whose pain you both understand so well. I stand amazed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda,

      We are still amazed. As you know, our travels take us all over. Often we are 20+ hours from Texas. To be on our way to the Panhandle area when we heard the news…

      So many beautiful things in the midst of a horrible thing. That is way Our Father works.

      I am humbled. I am grateful.

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. God bless you and your husband. There are two sides to something like this, one is where you feel the need to be present for those who are suffering through unthinkable tragedy because there is comfort in sharing pain with someone who understands; the other is that at some point this may cause you to relive the emotions of your own experience, maybe even especially harder on August 13.
    We cannot simply explain away hard reality, we can only at best offer companionship. The single most important reality I would ever come to see was the sovereignty of God. From my perspective it didn’t look perfect — but in the end, the truth that held me together was knowing that God has supreme power, authority, and knowledge over all — Nothing catches God by surprise! Knowing that He was aware of it somehow made it a little easier to eventually leave it in His hands.
    I’ll be praying for you and your family this August 13th.

    Liked by 1 person

      • One blogger wrote: “The only way to understand what the loss of a child feels like is to experience it. I hope you never understand.”
        For those of us who have experienced it, we do draw comfort from each others words.
        Thanks Kathy.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m so glad you listened when you were called and that you responded to the need. I know you were sent there for a reason and I’m glad it was you and Ron that responded. Hugs to you. And my prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It is truly beautiful to see how God works through our brokenness if we will only listen for His guidance. Thank you so much for sharing, and the warning about tissues and a cup of coffee. All praise and glory to our Heavenly Father who loves us so much.

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