By Lorain Buck Moyer
(Note: Merlyn and Lorain Buck were married for thirty-seven years. For some seventeen years, brother Buck was an elder of the Lassen St. church in Sepulveda, CA. This is an account of his tragic death and how trust in God sustained Lorain through such a trying time. Lorain is now married to Forrest Moyer, a gospel preacher, and lives in Morro Bay, CA.)
It was Wednesday, August 8th, 1984 – much like any other day. We were having a gospel meeting with Rodney and Carla Miller which would end that evening. The day was a good one. We were full of excitement. The meeting had given a new zeal to us, and our vacation was to start that evening. We were busy with last minute preparations to the motor home and checking our list of last minute things to do. It had been a hard eleven months that had passed. Satan had tried to steal the joy from our lives earlier when Merlyn had fallen eleven feet and broken his back. He had worn a brace for five months but had recovered reasonably well, and we were thankful to God that we had won.
That evening as we drove our motor home to services, we were filled with anticipation. When services ended, we said our goodbyes and with our friends following us we drove out into the desert. It was a beautiful evening, crisp, clear and it seemed that you could reach out and touch the stars. But the thing that I remember most was the moon — it was full, and we were holding hands laughing. It seemed we always picked a time when the moon was full, and any fisherman knows that fish don’t bite well when the moon is full. Our favorite tape was playing. Merlyn would look at me and say, “Babe, I wonder what the poor people are doing?” (A private joke of ours.) We drove for several hours finally stopping around midnight at a rest area. We said our prayers and gave our usual good night kiss, then closed our eyes in sleep not knowing what the morrow was holding.
Morning came quickly, but it was a beautiful morning. On to Bishop. We had breakfast at our favorite place, even a deep dish berry pie. It was mid morning and getting very hot, nearly 100 degrees, and the men were eager to get to our fishing hole approximately 20 miles out of Bishop. Around eleven a.m. it began. Going up the grade about 15 miles out of Bishop a problem developed that we thought was a vapor lock. Oh, it was so hot by then. We were on a steep grade with no way to turn around – only asphalt and desert like ground.
Changing clothes, the men began to see what they could do. With the cap removed from the gas tank and the carburetor off inside, the men worked. I got gasoline on me and I was told to quickly wash it off. My Merlyn wasn’t so lucky. For some reason gasoline sloshed out of the gas tank and saturated his clothing. The next thing I remember is him lying in the bushes on fire . . . he was, on’ his side and not moving. I screamed and screamed! I was barefooted and they wouldn’t let me go to him. I ran to the middle of the highway and would let no one pass. I told them we needed their water – my husband was on fire!
He walked into our friends’ motor home and lay on the floor – the smell of human flesh filled the small space the pains inside my body were indescribable as I would look at him. His clothes were gone; his hands lay open like someone was filleting a piece of meat. Without a cry or raised voice he would say, “Hon, please put my hands in water . . . put some on my arms.” You don’t know what to do. You’re confused. It’s overwhelming. Finally, some man who had stopped took over. Someone was invading our grief by taking movie pictures and saying, “That’s his wife.” How cruel, I thought.
It seemed the paramedics would never come. What was 20 minutes seemed like 20 hours. Merlyn walked to the ambulance with help. The drive back to Bishop was an eternity. I rode with them. Our lives had turned into a nightmare. The thing that always happens to the other person had just happened to us. I didn’t know he was going to die. Satan was hard at work again. He tries every way he can to rob us of our soul. Merlyn’s face and feet had been spared by the fire. His long eyelashes, eyebrows and hair were partly singed off, but his big blue eyes and infectious smile were still there.
I phoned Colorado. Our daughter (Linda Houchen) and family had just arrived there for a vacation. They immediately made arrangements to return home. Merlyn’s only reply when I told him I had called was, “Why did you do that for?” I must have sensed the severity of things. I had friends call our son in Montana.
Waiting At The Hospital
The hours were long. I was in the emergency room with him most of the time. His strength was giving me the strength I needed. The decisions we were sharing together were with his ever calm, logical approach as he still thought of others first. I knew that was the way I was to handle the situations that were to follow. He was wrapped like a mummy. His knees and arms he kept bent as he would roll from side to side in pain ever saying, “Hon, have them put water on my legs, now my arms.” The room was flooded with water from a hose that was running continually over him as fast as they could move it. Towels were every where to keep us from slipping as we did what we could. He would ask me for water. I explained why he couldn’t have it. He never asked again. He was on a morphine drip. His friend Theron (Theron Bohannon) who was with us went in to see him. Merlyn quipped, “Well, the big one got away. We’ll get him next time.”
Flight To Van Nuys
Beyond the curtain that divided the small emergency room lay a small child five years old, an auto accident victim. She was unconscious and in great danger of losing her sight and having brain damage. A medical airplane was on its way to take Merlyn to the burn center in Sherman Oaks. The doctors asked to talk with me. They explained the situation to me – that the little girl needed the plane to be flown North for emergency surgery or there would be permanent brain damage. They wanted our plane! I replied, “I need to talk with my husband. I can’t make this decision alone.” He had heard them with the child only a curtain apart. I explained the situation and that it would mean waiting a few hours longer. He asked, “How old is she?” I replied, “Five.” His very words were, “Oh, let them take her first.” I knew he would say that, but to hear him say it was like someone was tearing out my heart, and I could feel the ligament pulling away from my bones. The doctors and nurses came out to talk to me again. They said they had never seen a person like this with such composure – no yelling, no crying out, so thoughtful of others. They said they could tell he was a special person, and he was. What strength! What trust in Whom he believed.
The day was long and drew into evening. He was put into critical care in a sterile room. From then on I had to wear gowns and a mask. I went to him in my sterile gown and told him it was me under the garb. His favorite expression to me was, “You look good to me, Babe,” and smiled. The morphine had been increased and he was drifting some. The plane was due back within two hours. I was told there wasn’t room for me on the plane – only two people and the gurney. It would take seven hours to drive and $800 to fly. I told Merlyn. He said he would put me in his pocket. I knew in my mind that I was going to be on that plane. The nurses called ahead to the plane in route and explained the situation. I believe they knew he would not live, but I still had not allowed that thought to come into my mind. I had realized that he would never use his hands again, but wouldn’t think any further. The nurse came to me and told me it had been arranged. I could go. It was really late – 11 or 12 p.m. when they came. Merlyn was taken by ambulance to the airport with a male R.N. and me on board. A small jet was waiting. The moon was full. My dress still smelled of smoke. The jet was the only plane there and the engine was running. It took such a long time to get him on. He was large. I couldn’t bear to watch. He was in such pain as they handled him. The mosquitos were enormous. I could feel them biting as I sat on the ground covered with plastic, staring at the full moon, dazed. The noise of the plane and wind from the jets – I was living a nightmare. I was finally called to board. Merlyn was moaning. The flight took one hour to the Van Nuys airport. I sat in silence listening to Merlyn and touching him. The pilot and co-pilot quipped at my back. The R.N. talked incessantly about this and that. I remember only Merlyn moaning and watching from the window the full moon that had always made me feel good but now would be a reminder of tragedy. Once at the airport, we were taken to the burn center at Sherman Oaks. As we drove to the burn center the town was asleep and unaware of the horror in my life and Merlyn’s pain. Our friends and my daughter were waiting for us. It must have been one a.m. We were all following to the closed doors and from there he went alone. I begged to go. I told them I had been with him all the time. Their reply was that they didn’t have time to care for me as if I couldn’t handle what was to be done to him.
In an hour or so the doctors came to the room where we were all waiting. They sat down hesitating to talk in front of everyone. I explained he belonged to more people than just me. He was an elder and was loved by many. They began to tell of the severity of his burns. Third degree over 90 percent of his body and some fourth degree burns. I immediately asked, “Is he going to die?” They paused saying, “We’d rather discuss that tomorrow.” But I wanted to know then because I knew they knew. I told them he was strong and had a good heart, very healthy. I was grasping for straws. They explained that a young athlete in perfect health would not survive a burn such as he had, that he would die. A long silence came. The only thing I remember was me saying, “Oh, pooh, I don’t want to be a widow.” It was out of my hands and at that time I gave all control over to God. I went home for a while to be called to come quickly, the end was near. The decision had been made by Merlyn and me long ago that we wouldn’t use life support systems for prolonging life when death was imminent. The doctors and friends helped me with the decisions. They would not let Linda and myself go into the room because of infection. I talked with the doctors and told them I could see no reason all our friends shouldn’t be in the room with him and it was too late to be concerned with germs. After a moment we all went to him and circled his bed. He was in a semi-coma but I knew he knew we were all there. I was told to be careful what I say because they felt he might understand what was being said and cause him concern. I knew he was suffering so and laboring to breath even with oxygen. The monitor was slower and slower. I whispered to him in his ear and told him to “turn loose, let go, to go on. I know you don’t want to leave me, but I’ll be fine. Let Jesus take you home.” Linda and I saw a little tear fall from the corner of his eye. She said, “Mom, I think he heard you.”
The monitor stopped. The sleep of death came. Dark fluid came from his mouth. I kissed him and covered his face. Everyone left the room. I asked to go back alone. Oh, what emptiness!
Strength In The Lord
Isn’t it wonderful when the Lord comes and carries our loved ones in His gentle arms to take them home? My Merlyn worked all his life to go where he is. He trusted God that He was able to do all that He had promised as Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:12: “for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
When Satan robs us, God will bless us again. Satan brings death into our lives and all kinds of evil. He tries at every corner to rob you of your soul. He attacks when you’re at your weakest, turning the fire higher under the crucible wanting you to doubt, lose heart, lose trust in the joys God has prepared for us. God wept when I wept. His heart was broken when Merlyn suffered. I was determined that Satan was not going to win this victory. I knew I had drawn my strength from Merlyn and that I could do no less. My children were watching and my grandchildren. My mom, my friends, they would be as strong as I would be. How would my God and my Merlyn want me to conduct myself?
Our influence as parents is stronger than we can fully understand. Our children begin to learn trust from the moment they are born. They are watching our every action and reaction to situations in life, in our trust in God’s ability to help us handle problems and tragedies with a peace of mind that only God can give if we but reach for it. If you are strong, they will be strong. If you are weak, they will be weak. We must show in our action that we do believe and trust in His promises that He will help us through that nothing lasts forever but eternity.
Perhaps you may ask, “What is the difference between faith and trust?” I saw this illustration, that is helpful. There was a man about to push a wheelbarrow on a rope across Niagara. Someone asked, “Do you believe that he can do it?” “Yes, I believe he can.” That’s faith! “Well, will you get into the wheel-barrow and let him push you across?” Now, that would be trust! This is what our trust in God should be – willing to get into the wheel-barrow and let God take us across.
I’ve wondered when I first began to trust in God. I realized that it first came from my parents. I’ve heard my mother tell of her mom dying at her feet when she was eleven years old, of being given out to different ones to raise her, of beatings, but she trusted. What a radiant lady she is! I watched my grandmother with nine children outlive her husband and all but two of her children. She trusted. My Dad was a tower of strength watching him as the deaths would occur, deeply pained, but steady and logical. I watched as my sister died at age four when I was eight and again I saw trust in God from my mom and dad. When I lost my first child of nine months the trust was there – not just from the example of my family, but now backed by my own knowledge of faith in God’s promises. Then the strength I gained when I was 23 and my Dad explained to me that he could die because of angina and very logically told me how I was to handle things and what I was to do. This showed me again the great trust he had in God’s plan. He died two years later. Above all, the strength from my Merlyn of 37 years was the greatest, and never wavered even in death. But when I look at this to think upon it and realize it doesn’t even touch the hem of the garment as to what Christ did for you and me – how He suffered – how pained His body was as it tore continually with the nails driven through His flesh – no morphine, no oxygen, no pain relievers. I have to look on beyond and from that I gain peace. In trust there is an element of risk but with faith the risk is taken out. God is in control. God is not the author of evil, but uses that which is evil to do good. God uses things that seem bad to us for the good of all of us if we allow it. It’s not so much what crisis comes into our lives but how we handle it – how we allow God’s will to work in us. God used Satan’s devices to cause Job’s faith to be stronger. Can we do less? What happens to your life has to be less important than what God’s purpose for it is – it must be for His glory (Isa. 55:9-8). We have the responsibility to trust Him as Job did (Job 13:15): “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” We may not always understand but the object of our trust must be in Christ and His promises, not in men or earthly matters. God is always there, unmoveable and steadfast, as an example of how He wants us to be. God cannot change the crises that comes into our lives, but it can change us for God’s glory thereby not allowing Satan to win one more for himself. We must put the circumstances of our life, whether good or bad into His hands. I don’t always know how best to handle them, but God does. Let Him take control, trust Him. What a comfort to know that “if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31; read 8:35-39)
God is a fact. On that we must rely. Approaching this from a Bible standpoint, everything starts with God. Faith rests on the fact of God. In times of real crisis, you don’t feel, you act. Feelings come from our emotions. We must trust the Lord to do what He promises in our life. We trusted Christ when we submitted our lives to Him through baptism. It was not that intellectual assent to His claims, but the action-backed step that goes forward by faith. With every decision in life we make comes responsibility for that decision (as in giving our life to Christ) and we are directed how we must conduct ourselves in all things. Trust is accepting His standard of conduct for my life regardless of the circumstances. I know that my God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20).
When I trust in God, I open my heart and life to His influence and control, turning to Him completely. As a little child will say, “Daddy can fix it. He can take care of it.” So we should have that trust in God that He can fix it. A little child trusts in his parents. When you say, “Jump into my arms,” the child jumps trusting you to catch him. This is what our trust in God should be – willing to jump into His arms and let Him hold us and mend our aching hearts and soothe our hurts. What a wonderful blessing we are missing when we turn into ourselves for comfort and not to God. Everyone has trials, problems, etc., obstacles to overcome, circumstances that seem to overwhelm us. We can choose to wallow in our own self pity, or we can get up and move on with a life of trust in God. The choice for our lives is up to us. We can let our past hurts weight us down like an anchor or we can let these guide like a rudder in the rough seas that come. Trust causes us to move ahead and be a rudder for others as well. God is in control of everything – even crises. God uses even the darts of Satan for our ultimate good. We, as His children, must trust Him even when the way seems dark, for God’s ways are perfect.
Let me tell you what trust is. It’s when you see your husband burning and you cry to God to help you do the right thing and you trust Him to do it. It’s when you see the flesh hanging from his body as you cut off all the remains of his clothes which is the neck band of a shirt and waist band of pants and trust God it will work out for His glory and trust God that He’ll give you strength. At that moment you become numb; something else takes over. You begin to do what has to be done as if you’ve been programmed. Hunger leaves your body; your desire for thirst is gone. Everything is put on hold.
It’s when you trust however it turns out it will still be for His glory and you will work God’s plan toward that end. Trust in God sustains us when we can’t see around the corner but know that God can. I trusted completely on God at this time. I knew in Him was my hope. I knew that He understood (Deut. 29:29). 1 knew that God sympathized with me. But He used Merlyn’s life, through his death, to do things that in his living would not have been done. As a result of this, I am stronger.
Strength Through Suffering
I have been made stronger by such Scriptures as 2 Corinthians 4:11-5:1. “. . that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh . . . we having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. . . For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward men is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Proverbs 16:3 also helped me: “Commit thy ways unto the Lord; and thy thought shall be established.” My thoughts of trust in God were established as I turned everything over to the Lord. All of us have different problems to face and different crucibles to go through. I may never knew the difficulties that may come into your life, but I can whole-heartedly urge you to put your trust in the Lord and to turn everything over to Him and He will keep you like He keeps me. Do not let Satan rob you of your salvation or of your joy. God will walk with you through the valleys into the bright light of His glory. I truly believe that Merlyn is in God’s beautiful presence. My trust is that 1, too, will be with Him some wonderful day. You can live above the depression that the devil wants to cast upon you. You can live in God’s glorious sunlight!
Said the Robin to the sparrow,
“I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush around and worry so.”
Said the Sparrow to the Robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father,
Such as cares for you and me.”
— Elizabeth Cheney
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 3, pp. 80-83
February 5, 1987