And then in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn't tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It was so beautiful.*
There’s been a fair amount of reflection underway here since I read Sarge’s post about the loss of a tree. His sentimentality in that loss is understandable, and he’s not alone in that type of thinking.
I haven’t always been as introspective as I am now. During a particularly challenging phase in flight training, I was struggling to keep up. An instructor recommended listening to some self-help tapes put out by Anthony Robbins. I instantly discounted that advice as I couldn’t for a moment consider sitting down and quietly listening to myself, much less a personal development guru. That type of self-motivation was not for me then, but I suppose I would be more open to it today if I felt it was necessary.
My taste in entertainment has changed from when I was younger as well. Going to a movie or watching a rental over pizza was once more to my liking, but I can’t remember the last time we did that. Going to a play would have bored me in my 20s, but now pushing past middle age, my wife and I visit a local theater on a regular basis. I’ve also shed most concern about what others might think of me, gaining a level of confidence from that attitude. Additionally, I’ve learned to relax, not always rushing around, taking the slow lane at times, both literally and figuratively.
As my wife and I get older, we are starting to see a few minor health issues pop up, mainly for me, but I know that’s par for the course. However, we’re fortunate to have good and affordable health care. We’ve talked about being empty-nesters as our kids are also getting older; In a couple years the teenangster will be off to whatever Art School she impresses the most, and eventually our son will be out of the house as we help him to become more independent. While my wife has already had to deal with the kids not needing her as much, having a house to ourselves also means we’ll be able to travel more. With maturity also comes a mortgage with an end in sight, and greater savings with which to do more for ourselves. While these changes that come with age may at first be unwanted or unwelcome, they are part of a life that also brings about positive aspects.
I don’t know the demographics of the readers here at Chez Sarge, but I doubt the Millennials are represented in force. Middle to later-aged folks is what I’d expect. For that group, it’s also the time in life where we start experiencing more loss. Statistically speaking, we have met or we know more people, we’ve seen our fair share of car accidents, know those who have had heart attacks, breast cancer, etc. So it’s hard to get past middle-age without knowing someone in your inner or outer circles who have gone from this life. Within Naval Aviation, the statistics are only surpassed by ground forces I would expect.
Warning: Graphic Video
Another that I can't seem to upload: here
What losses have I experienced? I’ve seen the breakup of my parent’s marriage, which actually was a good thing for her and us; Later, my mom dying from cancer. Several pets have come and gone in my life, including one that was such a part of the family that it hurt very much. Still does if I think about it.
I’ve always had pets, but our Beagle Molly grew up with my children and had such a personality that she is greatly missed. We only had her until she was 10, a brain tumor taking her from us. Her buddy, our rescued Jack Russell is still here at 16 years old, and he’s seemingly forgotten her now. With that loss, that he’s been able to assume the mantle of Alpha Dog in his pack of one. He’s a lucky one, living over three times as long as he would have had we not adopted him moments before he was to be put down in the Hillsborough County Shelter.
There’s been the loss of a few shipmates, like Graham Higgins with whom I went through Flight School. He was in the back of a VF-213 Tomcat which crashed into an apartment building in Tennessee when his pilot was trying to show off.
Scott Zellem, another flight school classmate whose VS-35 S-3B Viking crew crashed into a mountain in the Western Pacific.
|Z-Man on the President's left.|
|The crew memorialized.|
And of course, Lex.
Some of these losses we expect. Naval Aviation is an inherently dangerous sport. Being an Infantry Soldier is even more so, especially during wartime. Someone dying on the battlefield or in an aviation mishap is something we know will happen sooner or later. So while we’re saddened when it comes, we know it’s a risk that comes with the job.
My mother had been a smoker since her teens; heavy smoker later in life during a stressful stretch at work and the troubles within her marriage. After the divorce, she quit smoking and hadn’t picked up a cigarette for 14 years before the cancer came, but the damage had been done. That was a sad loss of course, but it dragged out for a bit and we knew it was coming after our confidence in medical science, a confidence gained from her being a nurse, started to fade.
Fall has finally arrived here in San Diego, with cool, but comfortable nights. I love the crispness in the air, but will miss the warmth of Summer. The inevitableness of the situation with my mother also came like that change in seasons, slowly, but it couldn't be stopped, and yet I was conflicted in how I felt about that. I was, of course, sad to see the end, but I knew it was better for her, and so I almost looked forward to the end so she would be relieved of her suffering.
My shipmates, none truly close to me, I mourn briefly. Lex is sorely missed though. However, that is different from the more personal loss like a parent. However, since we knew the cancer was taking my mother away, and that her death offered her respite, that loss too seems different.
So as I reflect on both my life and this post, I realize that with age comes some wisdom, hopefully some wealth, maybe a bit of sophistication or varied interests, but also varied degrees of loss. However, one loss that we’re not supposed to experience is the death of a child.
Unfortunately, I have. No, not my own child, nor a direct family member, but the 12 year old son of a very close family friend and brother-in-arms- a Marine Corps Pilot. He was the older brother of my Godson, and the loss hurts deeply. It was a horrible accident just over a week ago, and I can’t imagine how my friends are coping. They have a deep faith and take some consolation from it, but I’m sure it doesn’t stop them from replaying the day over and over, doing it differently each time, trying to prevent what occurred.
While I wouldn’t change a thing in my life, being quite happy with my current state of affairs, I would like to go back and somehow change what happened that day, saving my friends from such grief.
This is the song sung at his memorial service. It's a cover of Hillsong United's "Oceans."It's a beautiful song and it was an excellent choice by his sister, because in Hawaii, where his family grew up, his name means Ocean.
Farewell Kai, we'll miss you and life is a little less bright without you in it.
*Scene and quote from Forrest Gump
*Scene and quote from Forrest Gump