As Kimís parents sat musingly in the waiting room of Saint Elizabeth Hospital, they wondered if their 16 year-old daughter could possibly make it through yet another unbearable day. Kim, the oldest daughter of their three blessings, had been holding on to life by a hope and many prayers as her degenerative heart was failing rapidly. "Sandy, I just donít think Kimís going to make it much longer," Kimís father agonizingly mumbled to his wife. She looked at him firmly and replied, "Bob, you must have greater faith than this! Where did your dreams of Kimís receiving a donor heart go?" she questioned with almost a tone of rebuke in her voice. He said nothing and grasped her hand and leaned forward in what appeared to be intense reflection.
--- Copyright © 2001 Brian G. Jett
On the way home she asked him what he was doing when heíd leaned forward pensively in the hospitalís waiting room. "Honey, I asked God to give me wisdom and strength. Thatís all--just more wisdom and strength." As they arrived home, they entered the front door of their suburban home surrounded by the White Maples Kim had helped him plant on her ninth birthday. "Daddy!" his youngest daughter, Maddie, who was now nine yearís old exclaimed, "I had a dream and I know God told me how we could get Kimmie a good heart!" He ushered her over to the kitchen table and asked her what God told her. "Mr. Rule showed us how to make paper planes in Ďkindiclassí yesterday!"
Mr. Rule was a kind older gentleman with a graybeard, her kindergarten teacher and also an associate pastor at their church in Cincinnati, Ohio. "Well honey, I think paper planes are wonderful but how can a paper plane give your sister a healthy heart?" he pleasantly inquired. "You see daddy; all we have to do is get a bunch of paper and make planes and then put notes in them telling someone to give Kimmie a good heart! We just have to be sure to put our phone buttons on the notes so people can call us with the good heart! Then we throw them and someone will read the notes and give Kimmie a good heart!" she stated with much vigor. "Thatís a good idea honey, but let daddy think about this a little while, okay?" Maddie got up while nodding her head affirmatively--headed straight to the stack of computer paper her father had beside his desk.
He watched her little hands begin to create perfectly wrought glider fashioned paper planes. He dismissed this as a cathartic thing for Maddie to do and only wished he had something equally as cathartic to occupy his mind during this hurly-burly filled time in his life. Memories flooded back to when Kim was born. He remembered all too well being there beside his wife, stroking her forehead and soon after, cutting the umbilical cord that separated nine months of a motherís love and devotion.
He did what he always would do when distressed over any given situation as he began to put his running gear on for a five mile run. He grabbed his Walkman as he exited quietly out the back door. He prayed as he walked down the gravel driveway that God would give him an answer. As he began to slowly stride down the tree-lined street lit up by neighborhood lights, he tuned in his favorite smooth jazz station. Roughly three miles into his circuitous route he was captivated by the lyrics of an Oleda Adamsí remake of a song entitled, "Get Here" which was very popular during the Gulf war.
As Oleda blended soul and lyrics, suddenly a particular line sharply affected him. She sang... "You can make it in a big balloon, but you better make it soon...." He walked into the house exhausted but with a renewed sense of focal point. Bob, having served in the Gulf war, had several connections as a distinguished F-16 pilot. He hurriedly picked up the phone and called Richard "Mad Dog" Mansfield who was his life-long friend and too, flew many missions as his wingman some nine years earlier.
"Hey Rich!" still breathing heavily from his run, "You still fly hot air balloons donít you?" he asked with less than an expectant attitude.
"Yeah Bob, I still get her up about twice a month when I can find the time. Why do you ask?" Bob caught his breath and continued, "Can you possibly take Maddie and me up as soon as possible?" he apprehensively asked. "Well, I suppose I can Bob, but what is soon to you?" Without hesitation he blurted out, "Tomorrow!? Please Rich?!" he desperately begged. "I donít know whatís going on Bob, but Iíll be out in the field with my balloon--the one near Hyde Park tomorrow morning at seven." "God bless you brother! Weíll be there my friend!" Bob replied with much thankfulness.
The next morning, Bob told his wife that he and Maddie had some things that must be done, and to go to the hospital and further asked that she be sure to take along her cell phone. "Bob?" her interest overpoweringly piqued, "What in the world are you two up to now?!" she inquiringly asked. As he reached down to pick up the box full of paper planes with the contact information notes lightly stapled to the middle of each one for greater camber, thus creating more lift for longer glide time, he asked that she simply remember his earlier dreams of finding a healthy heart for Kim. Although confused, she shook her head befuddled, as she was used to his compulsive nature having been a fighter pilotís wife. "Good luck you two!" she vivaciously remarked with a snooping grin. Maddie skipped into the foyer and whispered in her motherís ear, "We donít need luck, Ďcause weíve got God." Her mother kissed her nose and urged them both out the door. "Iíll have the cell phone and be at the hospital in an hour or less!" she shouted as they made their way to the mini-van with box in hand.
When they arrived at the open field that Rich leased to launch his balloon into the air, typically for leisure time spent over the skies of southern Ohio, Maddie and Bob noticed the balloon was almost ready for flight. "Iíll take the box honey, and you run over there and stand by Mr. Mansfield." "Okay daddy!" she belted out as though she was being asked to unwrap a Christmas gift. "Bob, sheís ready to take off so hand me Maddie and then hand me the box and hop on in."
All settled into the hot air balloonís basket, Rich fired up the gas and the big bastion of flight slowly began to rise. "How high do you want to go Bob?" Rich asked decorously. "As high as you can get this thing up, if thatís okay with you Rich." Rich glanced at the box and asked Bob where he wanted to stabilize the craft after theyíd reached ultimate altitude. Before Bob could respond, Maddie broke in and stated, "God will let us know where to stop!"
More than curious, Rich used the same navigational discernment he used when he flew fighters. "The box has to do with Kim, doesnít it Bob?" he pryingly asked. "I can guide the balloon long enough for you to open the box, Rich. Go ahead and open it and that should answer your question." Richís eyes said it all but he went further verbally. "I knew it!" he asserted proudly.
"Daddy, I think itís time to throw out the planes we made last night!", Maddie stated with uncanny confidence. Rich stabilized the balloon as best he could with the considerable wind sheer they were experiencing which was most unusual at their current altitude. The three of them began to gently toss the balanced paper planes in three different directions. With each toss of the paper planes, Maddie would say, "God, please find Kimmie a good heart!"
After all of the roughly 250 paper planes had been released in hopes to find their mark and find a healthy heart, Rich eased off the gas and navigated his big balloon back to the 10 acre spread of land heíd leased. They got out of the balloon upon landing and Bob and Maddie hugged Rich, said their salutations, and got back into the mini-van--headed straight to the hospital.
When Bob entered the waiting room with Maddie on his coattail, he saw his wife, Sandy in tears with one hand held close to her quivering lips, and her other hand tightly gripping her cell phone. He hurried over to her and asked what was wrong. Wiping her tears away, she informed him that nothing was wrong, but that all was miraculously going to be all right. "Mommy!" Maddie exclaimed, "Kimmie got a good heart! She did, didnít she?!" Her mother hugged Maddie tightly, kissed her on both of her rosy angelic cheeks, and tearfully stated, "Yes sweetheart, Kimmie is in surgery now with her new heart being transplanted so that she can live a long time so that you two can keep laughing and playing together."
As Maddieís mother regained her composure, she explained to her husband and daughter that someone had discovered one of the paper planes and called her about 35 minutes before they had arrived. "Sandy, who called you and from where?" her husband asked softly as he sat down next to her. Through an uncontrollable stream of tears again, Sandy gratefully responded by saying, "The paper plane was found at the scene of a car crash near Hanover College in southern Indiana." Maddie injected, "Who had the good heart to give my sister, Mommy?" "Honey, a policeman called me but didnít tell me the personís name."
The following Monday, Maddieís mother walked her into her kindergarten class so as to thank Mr. Rule for showing her little girl how to make the life saving paper planes. Sandy quickly noticed that Mr. Rule must have taken a day off or the like, as a substitute teacher had clearly taken his place for the day. The pretty blue-eyed woman observed them enter into the class, and asked if she could be of any help. "Hi, this is my daughter Madelyn, and my name is Sandy Owen. I had some news I wanted to share with him and was wondering if, by chance, you knew where I could find him or even call him." she restlessly asked. "Itís a pleasure to meet you Sandy, and my name is Dawn. I normally love to substitute for a child your daughterís age, but regarding Mr. Ruleís circumstances, it makes it
very hard for me to teach effectively." she forlornly replied.
Maddieís mother asked a teacher walking by the classroom if she would watch her little girl for a moment so that she could talk with Dawn for a little while. Kindly, the teacher agreed and took Maddie by the hand and led her to her small office made up of cubicles. "Okay Dawn, could you please tell me what is going on with Mr. Rule?" she softly uttered.
"Mrs. Owen, all I can tell you is that Mr. Rule had to attend his grandsonís funeral." Sandy asked Dawn if she knew any specifics regarding how this happened. "Mr. Ruleís grandson died in a terrible car accident a couple of days ago just a few miles from Hanover College in Indiana. Mr. Rule was his grandsonís legal guardian and has such a good heart. From what the kindergartenís Principle told me this morning, Mr. Rule allowed his grandsonís heart to be donated because of his awareness that a teen-age girl here in Cincinnati really needed it to survive." she concluded with tears in her eyes and a voice weakened with emotion.
Sandy began to weep and left the classroom and Dawn followed her out into the hallway. Sandy cried on Dawnís shoulder for a few minutes, and asked her what the core curriculum would be for the day. "Mrs. Owen, as odd as this may sound to you, Mr. Rule left a note on his desk and asked that I let the children practice what they learned early last week. Iím not really up emotionally to do much teaching, so I suppose making paper planes all day long wonít hurt anyone."