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Canadian father shares grief and hope with parents of Olympic Luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili

Nodar hoped to win gold. Instead, he won a prize which was more than gold.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nodar Kumaritashvili

by Don Schiemann

Before the 2010 Olympics had officially begun, tragedy struck. Young Nodar Kumaritashvili, a competitor from Georgia in the Luge event, was killed in a horrific crash during a training run at the track in Whistler, B.C. By all accounts, he was killed instantly and all attempts to revive him were futile.

According to reports, Nodar had recently spoken to his father and indicated he was concerned about the last turn on the course. On that turn Nodar lost his life.

Nodar was only twenty-one years old. Relatives outside the family home described him as a devoted athlete, a respectful young man and a fervent Orthodox Christian believer who prayed at the local church just before leaving for the Olympics.

If you have ever received a visit from the police in the middle of the night who are there to deliver a death notification; if you have ever received a phone call telling you that your loved one has suddenly and unexpectedly met a tragic end, then you have an idea of what Nodar’s parents are going through. I pray very few of those who read this will know what I am talking about.

Nodar hoped to win gold for his country in the Luge event. Instead, he won a prize which was more than gold.

His parents had raised him in the Christian faith. The custom in the Orthodox Church is to baptize infants. In his baptism, Nodar received the victory won for him by his Saviour at the cross. More than that, in his baptism, he was raised with Christ. His sins were washed away and he received the gift of eternal life. In his twenty-one years, he experienced that eternal life in part. Now he knows that life in all its fullness and glory and eagerly awaits the day of resurrection.

In my experience, there is nothing more painful than losing a child. Whether that death comes by disease, by accident or at the hands of another, the pain and grief can be overwhelming. David and Dodo Kumaritashvili, Nodar’s parents, have many difficult days ahead. Over time, the pain will diminish, but the scar will always be there.

Yet, Nodar is safe in the arms of Jesus. He is no longer subject to sin, temptation, disease, sorrow or pain. What a gift! What a comfort for his parents to know that they are separated from their son for time—but not for eternity.

David and Dodo, may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.

The Bible records St. Paul writing: “Now, there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

Nodar had hoped to win gold at the Olympics. His parents had hoped to welcome home a victorious son. In the midst of his tragic death, God gave him the goal of his faith—to be with Jesus for all eternity. Through Christ, Nodar has received the crown of righteousness.

Rest well, Nodar. We will see you one day with all those who are now in the Church Triumphant.

Rev. Don Schiemann is a Lutheran pastor and father of RCMP Constable Peter Schiemann who was killed in Mayerthorpe, Alberta in March 2005. He lives in Stony Plain, Alberta and serves as as president of Lutheran Church–Canada's Alberta-British Columbia District

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