Published May 12, 2009

Paul's Epistle...
"One Year Later"

First, "thank you" to everyone who wrote with comments about my column last week on the classic hymns and regarding the all-hymns broadcast that aired the previous weekend. I received more mail (all positive) about those than about anything else I've done in quite a long time. Next week I'll share here some of the comments I received.

This week, though, I'd like to recall the passing exactly one year ago (May 11, 2008) of singer and songwriter extraordinaire Dottie Rambo in a tragic bus accident. It was, of course, an inestimable loss to the Christian music community. However, its effects linger on a personal basis for Dottie's manager, Larry Ferguson, and his family, all of whom were traveling with Dottie in the bus when it crashed.

As you heard on last weekend's Headline Update, I spoke with Larry – one year later – about his ongoing ordeal. As you probably would surmise, we talked much longer than what wound up on the air, and I wanted to share some of his comments with you here in more detail.

First, health issues: "I still have some surgery ahead of me and I am still, on doctor's orders, to be on bed rest... It's very hard to keep me that way because I just get too bored and I want to get out and do what I can. But I'm supposed to walk with a walker and [get around] with a wheelchair... I pray God gives me the strength to get through it and do it. I feel like I'm a hundred years old if I go out on a walker.

"The children have good days and bad days. My youngest child, Pierce, he was the only one that didn't get knocked out during the actual collision. So he remembers everything and he has nightmares nightly and both him and my oldest son, Christian, have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Their [bodies] have healed well; they just had bad contusions. My wife, Judy, had broken her shoulder, but it's healed good. She still has a lot of pain with it."

Have they recovered emotionally? "No, I don't think I'll ever recover emotionally because Dottie was like a mother to me. We lived next door to her... I miss our long talks everyday that we had. I can't even tell you how hard it is. And not to have that complete closure. I didn't get to see her after she passed...because I was still in the Missouri hospital... My wife and children, they go visit the mausoleum about once a week or every two weeks, and I have just not been able to go. I don't know how I'll react [when I finally get to go]. When you love someone that much... And I know she's not in that mausoleum, but you just think someone that special...and all you can do now is go pay your respects to a graveyard or to a mausoleum and it doesn't seem fitting because she was just my life, in a way.

"Dottie had a very hard life, as everyone knows, and lived alone. Really, she didn't have much family. She had a sister in Iowa, but that was her closest relative that really...looked after her, you know, and called me all the time to check on her and everything, and they spoke everyday on the phone and such.... And the biggest hurt of everything involved [is] knowing that you can't have that anymore. But I do know that she's in the great cloud of witnesses [Heb.12:1] and she sees me everyday and she's my biggest cheerleader and I feel like a lot of great things will come because I planted good seed in her life and she in mine and I know that something good's going to come out of all this tragedy."

What has Larry learned through all this? "I tell you the biggest thing I've learned through this tragedy was [that] by showing so much love to people, trying to keep a good name, and planting that good seed in Dottie's life, people came out of the woodwork to care for me and my family and help try to meet our needs. I haven't been able to work since the wreck and I don't have any employment, I don't have any income coming in. And people like Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin and Lulu Roman and so many people...there were so many people that wanted to help us. I don't receive any kind of disability check... But other than those people, and the sales of my "Driving Miss Dottie" book (I get a little royalty off of that)... other than that I don't have any income.

"So I've learned to really just depend on God and have learned that through the goodness of treating other people, planting good seed in other people's lives, that God will make sure that He'll cover us through the hardest times. That's what I've learned more than anything..."

So, Larry says, he remains optimistic, despite all of the negatives he's faced in the past year: "It's been a struggle, it's been hard. But we remain optimistic because the Lord is going to do something great through all of this. I don't know exactly everything and what it's going to be, but through all of this turmoil there has to be something extremely wonderful at the end of it all for God to have allowed us to go through it. I always believe like Dottie said, ‘He takes us through the valley.' So He's there with us through it all, and we've always felt His comfort through it."

Most of us have not faced the depth of physical and emotional disaster that Larry and his family have faced in the past year. But some of us have. I think of Joni Eareckson Tada who was left a quadriplegic from a 1967 diving accident. But, even though she's wheelchair-bound, look at the ministry God has given her!

I often wonder, "How could anyone get through such times without believing — without knowing — that God is in complete control?"  He can use our most difficult times for His honor and glory, and for our ultimate good. He refines us in the fire (Rev. 3:18). It's all in His loving hands. And we can be confident in this, even through the most difficult of times.

"Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord." – Psalm 31:24.

- Paul

PS: Please remember Larry Ferguson and his family in your prayers. If you'd like to send Larry a personal message of encouragement, you can send it to us (Subject line: "For Larry Ferguson") and we'll be sure he gets it. Also, his book, "Driving Miss Dottie," is available from our webstore at this link:

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