” See a chance gotta take it wanna meet my fate
‘Cause the last thing I ever wanted was to find out it’s too late
No way out when you’re in it deeper than the night
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, I see it burning bright.”– Paul Fox
My pilot friend Mike was in town for an air show. He was demonstrating his Citation jet but came in early to spend some time with me. Mike is an old friend who comes and goes in my life, just when I need to see him most. He is my hero, he is my safe harbor at times and he is my dear friend. We have been friends since my graduate school days when we were both working for NASA. He is proud of me and he says that I surprise him every time we see each other. He always assures me that the joy in meeting up and catching up goes both ways. He’s a southern gentleman who warms my heart, affirms my adventurous spirit; so much unspoken between us yet we totally understand and appreciate each other like no other.
Mike always knows that I am crazy about planes, flying and his stories of what he’s up to since he left service having flown in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a former Navy pilot, attached to the Marine Corps, flew the Harrier, jump jet and other fabulous planes including the F-14. He’s my hero, my friend and someone who just connects with me on many levels. I am honored to know such a brave and generous soul, one of many who are very generous to this jaded surgeon and fledgling pilot. I suspect that he admires my gregariousness having met me when I was roller-blading across the tarmac at Johnson Space Center outside Houston, me a young scientist full of ideas and Mike a pilot/engineer. We became instant friends, he flew for NASA while I stayed on the ground and cried with joy as he explained every mission.
We met for drinks at a wonderful restaurant/lounge near the airport so that we could overlook the runway. When he saw me, skin tanned, down more than 30 pounds since he last saw me, he exclaimed that I was just “breath-taking”. From Mike, I needed to hear such wonderful words even if they are not true. His smooth southern drawl, the stuff of novels, was welcome anyway. “I just can’t get over how absolutely beautiful you are.” he said. “You are more beautiful than when we flew in Hawaii last year.” “You are magical,” he says. (No I am not).
Sometimes, having your absolute hero come into your life, just when you need him is the stuff of beyond reason. I have been direly missing a wonderful friend who has been out of town and somewhat out of communication with me; much sadness for me. Just as I have been concentrating on my academics, my clinical work and my seminary studies, Mike comes for a visit and my heart soars once again. Just when I need him, he takes me to a destination that defies definition and sets me in a place I love to be. I do not deserve this wonderful heroic friend but he’s a gift from God and I accept his affirmation with joy. This is my “Destination Unknown” but Mike is my compass.