Archive for August 2011

My Dearest

21 August, 2011

My Dearest Husband,

Yesterday started the ‘month countdown’ to the 2 year mark of your death. I still, to a certain degree, pay attention to the markers prior to your death. Well, maybe not to a certain degree – I completely pay attention to them. Two years ago we were at the Hillsboro Air Show, standing out on the tarmac, you holding Lido pointing at the airplanes and jets flying overhead capturing memories with your son. Me holding my camera pointing it towards those flying, capturing their moments in the air, capturing your moments with your son. It would be a month later that you were gone.

I’ll save my thoughts regarding this second year for a later time because right now, I want to talk to you about what happened yesterday. I want to talk to you about flying. I want to talk to you about what it means to be a pilot.

I posted yesterday about this mainly, in all honesty because I didn’t have anyone to come home to talk to, to cry with, to hold me, to reassure me. Writing is my outlet. My own way of filling that gap. My computer has become my “Wilson”. In order to process what I saw I needed to write. I, especially needed to write about the passion that comes from flying, from being a pilot. It is hard to tap into that since I am not a pilot but having pursued this dream with you, like I said yesterday, I’ve tasted only a small portion of that passion through you. I saw it in your eyes, felt it in your touch, heard it in your voice.

The pilot that died yesterday at the airshow had been doing this for many many years. He had over 23,000 hours. Something just went wrong. Again, I don’t know him but what I’ve heard is his passion was incredible and started at an early age. How wonderful is that? I see you, my darling husband, and your passion that started, really started, the moment you stepped into a helicopter – a Christmas gift from me. In that brief moment, I saw you change before my eyes. You stood a little straighter, spoke differently, had this added sparkle to your eyes. To see this in anyone is a special kind of gift. To share with thousands, like Bryan did,  like his fellow friends do at these airshows is a very great gift to all of us. I think all of us non-pilots have a bit of a spring in our step, a lightness to us, after watching passion fly before us.

With all of that, and I’m saying again, comes risk. It isn’t risk though, that stays in the forefront of a pilots mind – or the mind of those surrounding them. Risk is understood and when a tragedy strikes such as this one, well, I’m not sure that there are words to encompass each and every feeling that comes up. I can not imagine what the other pilots are feeling or thinking. If they are running solely on adrenaline right now, which I’m sure they are, or a need to still perform because ‘damn it – I’m a pilot’, or simply the fact that this is what they do. It really doesn’t matter what the reason is, it is amazing, the courage they have. It speaks volumes of pilots. All pilots.

Quite often I wonder how you would respond if I could ask you whether or not you felt that it was all worth it, if you would do it again, knowing you would die. I think that you would say that it wouldn’t be worth it, that you would give it all up to just be with me, with your son. I can hear you telling me this. I can also hear the doubt in your voice. I can hear the longing you would have. I can hear how you would not be complete. I think in the end, after hearing yourself, you would agree with me…it was worth it. It was worth it because you showed me so much, I learned so much from you. Our son will really know because of you, what it means to follow a dream and live it. He will know the risk. It was worth it because of who you became. You gave to so many people on many levels and maybe that was your purpose in your short life. If I could, would I want it all to be erased and you by my side? Yes…but I can’t change anything. Being almost 2 years out from the day you died, learning from other widows, seeing how life works on a very personal level…I love you with all of my heart, my soul –  but would you be happy? Would those around us have changed in the ways they have because of your death? Would I be the person I am today? Would your son? Believe me, everyone, there really is nothing more I could wish for than having Doug by my side and you may not understand any of this – I guess I want to look at the good, the opportunity of what can be…Bryan, the pilot who died yesterday, has given so much. Imagine how many lives have been touched by him…

And this gets me to something that I’ve been thinking about all night and most of this morning…the kids that saw this crash take place. Yes, I berated those taking video and allowing their children to walk up to the fence and watch, continue watching the wreckage. I’d like to commend those there, which I’m sure were in greater numbers than I made it out to be with my last post (forgive me), that held their children, walked them out, cried with them. Worried about how this would affect them. Worried about what to say to them…how to explain it all to them. How ever you handle this, remember the passion for flying that was a part of every fiber of this pilot. Let your children speak in their own words or actions. Reassure them. Allow them to be sad and to process all of this in their own time. Even though I tried shielding my son from seeing the actual crash, he knows what happened. He is almost three and is processing all of this in his own way. It is hard for me to see him playing with his helicopter and airplane this morning and they both ‘crashed’ in his playing. I wasn’t sure what to say but I decided I wouldn’t say anything. He is still processing all of it. You may not do the same or feel the same but for my son, for me, this is the process. Just the other day he asked when Daddy would land his helicopter from the sky…I’ve always told him that his Daddy is in the sky and watches over us…I wonder if he will ask different questions now. I do know though and this may or may not help parents out there, that I will once again make every effort to not pass on my grief, my emotions to him. They process differently from us. They see our pain but our pain does not have to be theirs. Our pain is ours but what we can pass onto our children in any time of tragedy is that it is okay to cry, to feel, to be angry, to hurt, to laugh…To help them to understand their own grief and sadness. That it is okay. You have an opportunity here with your children. Talk to them. Show them how to live life to the fullest. Show them the good that comes from tragedy. It doesn’t have to be world changing…just changing.

My dearest husband, there isn’t a moment that goes by without me thinking of you. I know that you would have given me one of your big, squeeze the breath out of you, hugs yesterday. This morning when I woke up, I felt a similar feeling that I felt upon waking up the morning after you died…the ‘what the hell is the world still doing here’ feeling. The ‘why in the hell is the sun still shining’…feeling. Believe me, it was more muted this morning but it was there. Unfortunately, there is so much here right now, those familiar feelings. All of this has certainly brought to surface, albeit in a muted form, each and every one of the feelings I had when you died. Part of me wants to go to the pilot’s family and friends and tell them that it all gets easier – but I think that they would tell me ‘We know’. After all, they’ve been in this aviation family far longer than I have, than you were. I’m sure that each and every one of them has suffered a loss of another pilot. I’m sure that I could probably learn a lot from them – from their resiliency. I think I’ve learned a lot so far even this morning – knowing that they are out there – flying. Talk about courage.

Again, my heart and my soul goes out to each and every one of them. They amaze me.

Doug – I love you and thank you. Thank you for giving me the gift of you, the gift of your passion.

Your loving wife,

In this life and the next.

Shame on you & thoughts

20 August, 2011

I went to the KC Airshow today and took Lido.

A pilot died.

I, along with hundreds of people, watched as the pilot, Bryan Jensen, could not pull out of an aerobatic maneuver, crashed and was killed instantly. I was standing on the tarmac watching as I held my son. The moment I knew the pilot was not pulling out, I grabbed his head and buried him into my shoulder which meant I stood there and watched. There was a gasp of the crowd followed by complete silence.

I started shaking, taking deep breaths so as to not faint and slowly made my way over to the nearest chair. The nearest chair brought me to two Air Force pilots and I asked them if I could sit down, they were visibly shaken as well. I sat for quite a while before making it back over to friends and fellow pilots at the show. As I made my way to their tent, a lot of people were leaving but as I glanced up, I couldn’t quite believe the amount of people standing taking pictures, allowing their children to stand there and watch. I can give people some leeway because I know there was no way I could go to my car and leave…I still needed to throw up. But to take pictures?

This is a person. Their family and friends were there. Their aviation family was there. Put your fucking cameras away and go home.

This is a person.

*****

A friend of Doug’s was there. A pilot who recently moved here to fly. He was at Hillsboro when Doug died. He worked with Doug. Before I could get to him, another person, Johnny Rowlands, came up to me to ask if I was okay and let me cry on his shoulder. It all was just too close to home. To, a month to the day close to home. After I composed myself I went up to my friend, Doug’s friend, he gave me a hug I really needed and then called his wife to say he loved her.

That’s what all of you people taking pictures should have been doing. You just saw how life can be whisked away in a moment – literally right before your eyes. Shame on you.

*****

Fuck.

*****

What I saw today is so close to what happened to Doug…the end portion. The falling straight down and impacting the ground and an explosion. I didn’t see Doug’s crash but this would have been similar. No debris trail. Just down.

It was a couple months after Doug’s crash when I started having panic attacks and would be unable to walk or stand up. I would get ‘glimpses’ of the crash on my way up the stairs and would have to sit down and eventually crawl my way to my bed and wait for it to pass. I’m wondering what this will do.

*****

I was asked not too long ago, in preparing to be interviewed by an aviation magazine, why I would continue to be a part of the very community that ‘took’ my husband’s life. Today, as I was talking to Johnny, he asked me if I was sure I wanted to be a part of all of this – to continue to be in this aviation world. We had talked about this a year ago when I first met him. A long talk. A nice heart to heart. It’s a question that obviously pops up over and over.

After today, after seeing a pilot’s life end in front of my eyes, of being reminded of my own tragedy in a most profound way, I still say I will be in this aviation community, this family, as long as I live.

Why?

Because it is where dreams soar.

It is where, on your first solo, you scream in the cockpit “I’m flying this thing by myself!!!!”

It is where freedom lives, where you can taste it, smell it, feel it.

It is where I could sit and completely relax and be at complete awe and only catch a glimpse of what Doug had every day.

I stay

because life is risk.

Life could end at any given moment. So why not do something with it?

*****

I’m not a pilot. I’ve only been able to catch glimpses of the sheer awesomeness that pilots must feel. But the taste that I’ve had, I will continue to have so I will not run away. Again, life is risk and these pilots understand that there is risk. There will always be risk. In my case, the risk that I take is seeing something like what happened today, or being constantly reminded of Doug’s crash every time I work on foundation stuff, or seeing my husband’s reflection in my son, or being asked if Daddy has landed his helicopter yet…my risk is mental. I’m willing to risk it. I’m willing to help others achieve their dream because I love the passion that comes out of living a dream.

So I’m not going anywhere.

*****

It has been 1 year and 11 months to the day where I have felt my life being ripped from me. My existence gone. My future ended. My heart, my soul, goes out to Bryan’s family and friends and fellow pilots and my thoughts will be with them as they go through this rollercoaster of emotions. I don’t fear for them because aviators are a resilient bunch, as they should be. I hope that they keep, very close to their heart and on the surface, the reason why they became pilots –  it is a shared reason. And I’m sure Bryan, though I don’t know him, would want them to keep flying. My love goes out to them.

*****

Now go… and remember that life is short. You better live the fuck out of it!