Softly, softly the spring comes o’er the tired land
All men awake refreshed;
They rise to greet the world with joy
And birds sing, and all becomes new-born.
Gloom is but a shadow of the night long past;
Hope is the light,
—Laurence Rochon "Laurie" Owen
Laurie Owen was an honors student at Winchester High School in Winchester, Massachusetts, when she wrote this poem. She planned to attend Radcliffe College where her mother Maribel had attended. She wanted to be a writer.
First, Laurie would have to continue her skating career which was a family tradition. In the 1960 Olympics, she placed sixth in ice skating. She was 15.
Then in 1961, at the age of 16, she won the U.S. National Championship and the North American Championship. From there, she was going to Prague to compete in the World Championship with her mother Maribel and sister Maribel, a student at Boston University and a champion skater.
Laurie and Maribel’s father Guy had died suddenly from a perforated ulcer in 1952. He was a skating champion in his native Canada as well.
On the morning of February 15, 1961, the 707 (Sabena 548) carrying Laurie and her family, along with the entire 31-member U.S. Figure Skating team, crashed in Berg-Kampenhout, Vlaams Brabant, Belgium. All passengers and crew perished in the crash.
Ironically, in the wreckage the February 13 issue of Sports Illustrated with Laurie on the cover survived. On the cover was the title “America’s most exciting girl skater.”
So many dreams and hopes were lost that February day, especially the young lives which held so much potential for the years and decades ahead. The tragic loss still touches people, especially family members and friends.
In King David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29, he uttered these words in his old age as he realized the end of his time on Earth was near:
And now, our God, we give thanks to you and offer praise to the name of your splendor. And indeed, who am I, and who are my people that we retain power to offer according to these offerings willingly? For everything is from you, and from your hand we have given to you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners like all our ancestors. Our days are like the shadow upon earth, and there is no hope of abiding.” —1 Chronicles 29: 13-15, Lexham English Bible (LEB)
Our lives on this planet are so transitory—“a shadow.” Human life is fragile, and we never know when death will encompass our fragility.
However, our cherished hope is a promise that Jesus gave in John 14. There is a place in the Father’s house for each of us, and He will return for us one day.
Regardless of the vicissitudes which lie in our life’s journey, our future is secured. We are the children of the Son’s promise.
G.D. Williams is recently retired after working in Adventist higher education for 30+ years. His pursuits include photography, genealogy, collecting antique books, and working on his old farmhouse. A previous version of this essay appeared on the author’s blog, Lochgarry. It is reprinted here with permission.
More about the life and death of Laurence Rochon "Laurie" Owen can be found here.
Image Credit: Pexels.com
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