Yesterday I visited the black granite monument behind the gazebo in Great Neck Park. It’s there in memory of the June 19, 1992 Navy helicopter crash that took the lives of seven aircrew men including Ken Steen, a dear friend and student of mine. His widow, Joanne, has transformed her personal tragedy into grief-work benefiting all the military and their families. Always a hero of mine, I remember her saying once, “Life goes on, one way or another.”
Life has gone on for me in the past twenty years. I earned my MA in English in 1995 and now work as an adjunct assistant professor for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The helicopter crash was the subject of one of my papers while in graduate school. Although I’m almost deaf, I still hear well enough to teach and fly, and to want to get out of bed in the morning.
I’m now an ostomate, having lost my colon to ulcerative colitis in 2000. After the surgery, I spent one month in the hospital and another month-and-a-half at home recuperating. I was told I had a 50/50 chance of survival. Now I lead an active life that includes the practice of yoga. Last night I attended a monthly meeting of our local Ostomy Support Group.
In 2007 I watched a glider student of mine crash in a corn field. Fortunately he was not hurt, but the incident forced me to look at my whole attitude toward flying and giving flight instruction.
Last year I married “the woman that might have loved me I never knew,” as the Eagles sing in “Take It to the Limit.” Lisa is everything I ever wanted in a woman, and she loves me. She’s also my yoga teacher.
I’ve been starting my day with prayer and seated meditation for over two years. In January of this year I watched a close friend die of cancer.
I still fly, and will fly, as long as pastel sunset cirrus clouds highlighted by a full moonrise take my breath away at 3,000 feet.
Lisa’s smile that would disarm the devil breathes life back into me during our walks and talks on the beach.
Yes, life goes on.