Triumph Over Tragedy

How do Todd Beamer's parents support newly widowed Lisa and their fatherless grandchildren?

By Greg Asimakoupoulos

When Todd Beamer's father, David Beamer, first heard about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he was in a meeting in California. His wife, Peggy, was at home in Maryland, running errands. Neither of them had any reason to think that their only son, a 32-year-old husband and father, was involved. 

After hearing of the tragic events, Peggy drove home. While watching the televised coverage of the ongoing events, she learned that a fourth plane had crashed in a rural field in Somerset County, Pa. 

Lisa Beamer, Peggy's daughter-in-law, called to tell Peggy that her husband, Todd, was ticketed on the doomed United Airlines Flight 93. For several hours Peggy waited with family members and church leaders. When confirmation came that her son was indeed on Flight 93, Peggy, amazingly composed, called David in California with the tragic news. 

"My heart was breaking, and my mind was in denial," David confesses. "Gratefully, I, too, had friends surrounding me. I also sensed the Lord's strength sustaining me." 

In spite of their heartbreaking sorrow, Peggy and David would not allow their personal grief to consume them. They had a daughter-in-law, who was five months pregnant, and two little grandsons to comfort. Todd's sisters, Melissa and Michele, also needed comfort. 

A Faithful Family 

David and Peggy's determination to provide a steady presence for Todd's family was nothing new. Whether for emotional support or babysitting when Todd and Lisa needed a weekend getaway, the young couple knew they could count on his folks. 

When Todd died, Lisa and her preschool-age boys, David and Drew, looked to Todd's folks for support, given the great gap his absence caused. David and Peggy showed their love and support for Lisa and the boys by being available to them. Great Ways

Grandparents Can Care

When an adult son or daughter dies and leaves children at home, grandparents can reach out with loving concern in practical ways: 

Call or send notes, cards or e-mails regularly and mention something about your son or daughter that you especially loved. 

Compile a scrapbook of photos and memorabilia for each grandchild that celebrates his mom's or dad's life from childhood to adulthood. Add written comments that tell about special memories. 

Create a handwritten biography for your grandchild. Using a journal or blank book, write about the highlights of her mom's or dad's life. 

Make bookmarks that include a Scripture verse your son or daughter loved. Give one to each grandchild.

"If she needs us," Dave says, "she knows one of us will be there. When little Morgan Kay arrived in January, we made a trip to New Jersey. And truth be told, we went as much for our sakes as for Lisa's." 

"Not all the support is the hands-on kind," Peggy adds. "I believe the most significant way we can help Lisa in her journey through the valley of the shadow of death is on our knees. We pray for our son's precious family daily." 

A Faithful Father 

In addition to the practical support of spiritual encouragement and the comfort of their presence, the elder Beamers are reaching out to Lisa's children by reaching back into the past. Todd's boys were only 4 and 18 months when he lost his life. For that reason, their memories of a man who has been elevated to hero status by his bravery aboard Flight 93 will be almost nonexistent. In light of that, as grandparents, they are committed to keeping the legacy of their son alive. 

David and Drew will certainly grow up knowing that their daddy used to get their attention when they were little by saying, "Let's roll!" Todd was overheard repeating that expression normally reserved for them when he and other passengers attacked the terrorists who had seized their plane. But there is more about Todd his mother wants her grandsons to know. 

"I plan to tell stories to the children about their daddy when he was their age," Peggy says with a smile. "I have mental snapshots I long to share with the kids. Each one calls to mind things Todd did that endeared him to us. I'll encourage Todd's sisters to describe what their brother was like. Our family album is filled with pictures of Todd that the kids will love to see. And thank God for video." 

David adds, "He wasn't a perfect kid, but he was an ideal son. I want my grandchildren to know his habits, passions and the positive attitude he brought to everything he did. That's a tall order, but I think I can do it. For Todd's sake, I must." 

He admits the most difficult part of Todd's death is knowing his kids won't enjoy having Todd as their father. 

A Faithful God 

"The Lord has been gracious to us," Peggy says. "The heart-ache is real, but the loss of Todd has not devastated us. God has been the refuge we taught our children He would be. David and I have found that Isaiah 26:3 is true: 'You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.' " 

Because no parent or grandparent is immune to losing an adult child to death, the Beamers believe it pays to take precautionary measures. They are convinced that their ability to keep their footing is related to their years of a guarded devotional life that preceded Sept. 11. 

"Since you never know when tragedy will strike your family, it pays to know the Source of your strength and build your faith today," Peggy warns. "I found the following statement by Billy Graham in his book Unto the Hills to be particularly helpful: 'If you are not strengthening the inner man now by daily walking with God, when a crisis comes you will quake with fear and give in, having no strength to stand up for Christ.' " 

Without question, David and Peggy understand they have a unique role to play in the lives of Todd's young family. They recognize their responsibility to remain on stage as Lisa choreographs the cadence and rhythms of her home. As grandparents they know God desires to use them through their example. 

"One of the wonderful factors in Todd's faith," his dad recalls, "was his two sets of grandparents, who were committed Christians. Because they were not content to be in the background, my son learned from them what it meant to be sold out to God. That's the kind of influence I desire to have in the lives of Todd's kids." 

Greg Asimakoupoulos is a freelance writer in Naperville, Ill. 

Reprinted with permission.

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