8 / Lift-Off

Departure from Miami Shores Presbyterian Church

Hallie preached at the 10 am worship service at MSPC. The service culminated in a commissioning for my journey. I stood in the middle of the church. Everyone laid praying hands on me. Hallie said a prayer. We all prayed. It was a heartwarming and surreal experience.

I felt like God’s hand was surely in this journey of mine. “Let’s hope I keep following Him,” I would think to myself. I knew with certainty that everything (whether it be good or bad) would work itself out for the best as long as kept my eyes focused on God. That would be my biggest challenge. You can only see how things worked out in hindsight– glorious, revealing hindsight. Hindsight conjures our greatest praise.

Following the service a band played songs– “King of the Road” and other appropriate tunes. People gathered around in celebration. Hallie made a speech. I made a speech. There were hugs and smiles. My son Ben, friends and many from the MSPC congregation came to see me off. Gourmet food trucks lined up in the church parking lot– we ate, we talked.

People looked at me. I could feel their eyes on me. This made me feel both wonderful and quite self-conscious. The event gave me the opportunity to speak and connect with people I’d never met before. There was something for us to talk about. Overall, I was left with the perception that this was a celebration of what God was about to do– something quite special and we all felt thrilled to be a part of it.

12:15 pm. Nervous, a slight knot in my stomach. Feeling a little shaky

Helmet on, gloves on, I started the bike while people gathered outside at the Start Line.

I rode out of the church breezeway and drove around the building to the street alongside the church. There, perhaps a hundred cheering people lined the street. I could see my son, Wendy, Mark, Jody, Hallie and so many other friends. My MSPC family. All smiles. Beaming.

Twenty or thirty yards ahead the youth group held up a big pink “Start” banner across the street. Beyond them sat two waiting Miami Shores police cars with their engines running– a police escort!

I waited for a few moments before lift off, taking this scene in and waiting for two other motorcycles to roll up in position behind me.

Among the smiles and cheering a fleeting realization crossed my mind that I was seconds away from being alone on the road for thousands of miles. I had a fleeting sense of the big, empty hole where Evie should have been. Evie, she wasn’t there. A sadness and kind of anguish. I had bid her farewell at home, as much as she would allow me to. She was sad too. It wasn’t the same as having her beside me at the Start Line. Her support was not there.

But the crowd, the smiling, the waving, the cheering, the two waiting motorcycles behind me, the two police cars in front of me, the big purple paper Start Line banner stretched across the street in front of me, all of this buoyed my spirits. I was about to tear through that banner– the beginning! 

“Ben, I love you!”


This was it! The moment it would all begin! Excitement. I felt on top of the world. Because I was wearing a full-face helmet no one could read my expression but they would have seen a big smile and perhaps heard the internal, “wooohooooo!” welling up inside of me.

Motorcycles at the ready!

Police cars at the ready!

Crowd cheering, blowing kisses, waving waves!

Start line ready!

Go, go, go!

I revved the engine, let out the clutch and the bike took off.


Through the start line as it broke in two.

The police cars proceeded to the first street to clear my path, followed by myself, two motorcycles and Ben who was now in his car.

Miami Shores Presbyterian Church receded in my rearview mirror. Euphoria coursed through me. I laughed– a heightened sense of thrill and pleasure bursting out.

After a three-year wait my journey was finally happening. I’d had the guts to take the first step and put the wheels in motion. 

Miami, we have lift off!


By Andrew Hayward Smith © 2015 All Rights Reserved. Copyright Andrew Hayward Smith. No part of this manuscript may be reproduced without the author’s written consent.