“The gratuity of God’s presence, with its infinite variety and diversity, is endless joy. To be infinitely loved by God as a personal experience is to be liberated from all the limitations of creaturehood and to be united to THAT WHICH IS. Unity consciousness is to let God act through us at every moment without resistance.” -Keating, Thomas (2014-04-09). Reflections on the Unknowable
There are a few friends who come and go in your life at various times when you seem to need them. Just a friend, as such, is Mike. When I first met him many years ago, I was a research scientist working on a project for NASA. Mike was a Marine Corp pilot, call sign “Roo”, short for “Kangaroo” because he was a Harrier Jock (jump jet). He strode across the tarmac at Ellington Field outside Houston, TX with those mischievous brown eyes and swagger that belongs to a Marine who is a flyer. Admittedly, I was more taken by his jet than with him but his wonderful southern, “Howdy” and thousands of jokes quickly won my friendship (did I mention that he flies a Harrier!!?). We became fast friends, running buddies and generally inseparable for the 2 weeks needed to complete the project at Johnson Space Center.
I had crossed paths with Mike several times as I navigated my way through medical school and him through his tours with the USMC in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was often in DC on business where we would get together to tell each other our respective scenes. He is my hero more times than I would like to admit, sending me photos and letters from his exploits overseas. He was my biggest supporter when I learned to fly during residency and ripped my shirt when he saw me next after my solo. Mike is a great example of the best that America has out there. A “salt of the earth southern boy” who would do anything for a fellow Marine a simple man who loves his faith and his country deeply, having served it without question in the Middle East; such is the stuff of giants always.
Mike had sent me an email to let me know that he would be in Honolulu around the same time that I would here. With all that I have been exploring in the past few weeks, I had quite forgotten about Mike’s email and presence in the city until I came back to my hotel after praying in wonderful St. Andrews Cathedral before sunrise. I heard that smooth Southern voice and turned around. There stood Mike with his regulation Marine Corp buzz cut and a ready smile. “Is that you?”, he asked and said that he hardly recognized me with my 20 inches of sun-bleached hair and sun-burned skin. “You are practically a native and you are stunning “, he joked. (I am in heaven just when I needed to be in heaven.) If ever there was a fellow human that I just needed to lay eyes upon, it was this wonderful friend. He said that he had a surprise for me and asked me to change into jeans and a shirt (and shoes; something I find optional these days).
After I changed, we piled into his convertible for a short ride to Kalaeloa Airport. At this point, I suspected that we were going for some flying and fellowship but he walked me over to the hanger where a brand new Citation CJ3+ was housed. I was beyond excited. Mike had come to check ride this jet for his company as a likely acquisition. “You are riding right seat”, he said (I fondly remember riding RIO in a T-38 at Ellington Field with Mike on ballistic take-offs). “Wheels up and I hope you don’t have anything planned for this morning”. The tears were streaming down my face as he powered those two Williams Turbofan engines and we were off. I was speechless, something quite unusual for me.
I took the controls of a Jet! Is there anything else that I can possibly accomplish on this trip in this magical place? I have flown a Citation sitting next to my dear friend who has given me this wonderful gift of this life experience (as he has done so many times in the past). I have piloted at 37,000 ft.; I can scarcely believe it. In Mike’s hands this small business jet was agile and breathtaking. I cried for most of the trip because I was thrilled. I am still riding on air, thanks to my dear friend. I am thankful that he is forgiving of me being such an idiot about shiny planes but the Citation CJ3+ is a marvel to behold, let alone fly. What a gift from a most generous human who knew I would love this. Mike is a special soul perhaps, an understatement of this flyer jock.
How is it that I am so blessed to know a wonder like Michael? I am given such gifts that my heart is grateful and full of joy for this life that I lead. I am still walking on air (and he’s taking me out to dinner tonight to catch up). I am leaping in the air with excitement but how to come back down to earth. God is great and infinite always for me. I have to come back to Earth at some point, I don’t want to touch down yet.