My son Matt is thirteen months old when he takes his first airplane flight. His father Chris and I are heading to Arizona to spend time with my sisters and their families and to introduce Matt to his extended family.
He loves the flight and entertains the passengers as he chatters, looks out the window and stumbles down the aisle. His blond hair and blue eyes win over the hearts of the flight attendants as they willingly take pictures to document our trip. As we leave the plane, the pilot standing just outside the cockpit says, “Here you go little Buddy, you just got your first pair of wings!”
Today, I am recalling that flight and how Matt proudly wore those wings on his shirt. Flash forward twenty-five years to April 7th, 2014.
This is another day none of us will ever forget. Matt becomes an official first officer with an airline and gets his official “wings.” Since the age of five, Matt tells everyone that he is going to “be a pilot and fly jets.” Today, after a college education, logging an exorbitant amount of hours in small planes, two years of being a flight instructor and spending a small fortune, it becomes a reality and I couldn’t be more proud.
I choke back tears to congratulate him when he calls; I am in a public place so I try to contain my swirling emotions.
Matt says, “I want to call Dad next, to tell him the good news.” Jeff, my husband, the father Matt has grown up with since the age of three-and-a-half, will be elated by his call. Jeff’s father was a pilot, and Jeff shares Matt’s love of airplanes and flight. Jeff is the one over the years who makes sure we go to the EAA museum and air shows; he is the one convincing me that Matt will be safe and allows him to fly with our friend who owns his own small plane. Jeff is beside Matt when they take a Young Eagles introductory flight at a local airport.
I know that none of this would have been possible without Jeff’s passion and commitment to help Matt achieve his dream. I sense the depth of Jeff’s pride as he beams when sharing the “news of the day” with our family and friends.
And yet, there is one person missing in this scenario and my heart aches once again. Matt’s biological father is not here to see this and he isn’t a part of the celebration.
Matt believes that his father Chris somehow knows, that our connection spans time and distance, but I still protest against this separation. Why didn’t he get to see his son’s accomplishments?
These are the times I still feel the stab in my heart, the forever grief that startles me like a water fountain’s misaligned stream when it hits you in the face.
I hate that grief still has a hold, still makes my knees tremble and brings rage to the surface.
Revisiting my loss and continuing to live without someone who I loved will be a forever challenge. Memories are not erased and neatly packaged never to be unwrapped. Even moments of joy and life celebrations can cause grief to have wings, to soar.
That is why I pause and take a deep breath before I respond to the most often asked question from a newly bereaved person: How long did it take you to get over your husband’s death?
What has caused your grief to resurface?
Have you been caught off guard when re-experiencing your loss?
Share your thoughts here – we can all learn from each other…