MANY, many decades ago while my grandmother’s knee I was told a story of how her son, my uncle an air force pilot found his plane was on fire, “He jumped out!” whispered my grandmother, “and angels brought him safely down to earth!” It was much later I learnt it was a parachute she was talking about!
A few days ago my cousin the same air force officer’s daughter sent me this lovely article: Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison.
He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience. One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Chuck Plumb. You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down.” “How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb. “I packed your parachute,” the man replied.
Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude: The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked” Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If you chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers.
I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.” Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spend at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.
Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute?” Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important, we may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. We forget to greet the people who pack our parachutes.
I wonder whether it was just her simplicity that made my grandmother say that angels brought my uncle down safely or that she was calling angels those who packed his parachute.
Whatever it is; they are angels, those who pack your parachute, and equip you each day to overcome life’s challenges: Is it your mother, father, brother or a friend, a husband or your wife you have to thank for the care they have put into your life to see you are having safe landings?
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