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Cathy Hendrick hopes story of faith through tragedy helps others

BY Maya T. Phabhu
mprabhu@thesunnews.com

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. Cathy Hendrick reflected after a morning of sharing with a full church in Cherry Grove the tragic story of the day her husband – then the president of Hendrick Motorsports – and their twin 22-year-old daughters died in a plane crash.

“It was a very warm reception,” she said of the congregants at Chapel By The Sea Baptist Church in North Myrtle Beach’s Cherry Grove Beach community Sunday morning. “I heard a lot of sniffles [while speaking]. You can tell when it gets working on people’s hearts.”

Hendrick shared her story, speaking about “Faith In The Midst Of Tragedy” taking those in the room through the day her husband and daughters died almost 10 years ago.

Kissing her daughters and husband goodbye Oct. 24, 2004, as they went to board a plane and fly 35 minutes from Concord, N.C., to Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.

“My God could not have given me a more precious memory,” she said. “That memory has helped to heal my heart.”

She recalled going to church that morning. Returning home to find her oldest daughter frantic because the plane disappeared on its way to Virginia. The fog on the mountain that made it difficult for search and rescue to find where the plane crashed. And then the difficult words she heard from her brother-in-law, Rick Hendrick.

“There are no survivors,” she remembered Rick Hendrick telling her.

The Hendrick team, fielding four Chevrolet drivers in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series drivers – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne, was founded in 1984 by Rick Hendrick, whose 24-year-old son, Ricky Hendrick, also perished in the plane crash.

For Ray and Rebecca Jones, visiting North Myrtle Beach from Madison, Wis., Cathy Hendrick’s words hit close to home. They first visited Chapel By The Sea two weeks prior and made sure to return once they saw who would be speaking.

“We had a plane tragedy in the family,” Rebecca Jones said, saying her family had experienced similar feelings as the ones Cathy Hendrick described. “It’s always encouraging to hear how God can bring his light in through a tragedy.”

Ray Jones said he agreed.

“It was a very powerful service,” he said.

Hendrick said she began her healing process by going on mission trips overseas and in the United States. After about four years had passed, she said God called her to share her story.

“For years I couldn’t get through without crying,” she said. “But everybody has gone through something. … We all deal with things that are hard.”

Hendrick said there were times when she questioned why things happened the way they did, but urged those at Chapel By The Sea to trust God and be ready for God’s plan.

“Scripture tells us his ways are not our ways,” she said. “Our days on earth were numbered by God himself even before we were born.”

Hendrick said she’s found solace in knowing that her husband and daughters are in heaven because they knew God. She said four days before her husband died he taught a Bible study lesson titled “Are you ready?”

Her husband was, she said, and she hopes her story helps prepare others.

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