It is never easy to find out about a loved one passing away. Sometimes in that loved one leaves us unexpectedly and sometimes we feel that we have been waiting for the inevitable to happen. I think either way it is tough, but the first is harder.
About a month and a half ago now, Jon and I got a phone call from his family saying that his brother's plane was missing. Jon's brother, Ben, had his pilots license for small planes and was working on getting his instructor's license. Later that day, we received a follow up phone call saying that Ben's plane was found and he did not make it. It was quite a shock. It was very unexpected.
In a rush, Jon and I packed, bought plane tickets, and rushed to the airport in hopes of making it to New Zealand before the funeral. Due to the time differences, we had to leave essentially the next day or we would not make it. When you fly to New Zealand from America, you lose a day in traveling. So what is basically a 24 hour trip with changing planes, time delays, etc, becomes a 3 day trip time wise.
Our first plane out of Houston was a nightmare at first. Our plane was an hour late getting into Houston. Once we all got loaded onto the plane, it started thundering and lightning and raining outside, so they had to call in the ground crew for a half hour and we could not leave. Then we were in line for take off for another half hour. It was an intense flight, as we did not know if we would make it onto the international flight in time. I am pretty sure the whole flight we just prayed we would make it.
In LA we barely made the plane. I think if we had been 10 or 15 more minutes late, we would not have made it. That flight was alright, we at least were able to relax, as we new that we would make it to New Zealand on time.
When we had arrived in Auckland, we were greeted by a friend of Jon's family, who graciously let us borrow his car to drive to New Plymouth. It was a miracle for us to not have to put out more money for renting a vehicle, just as it was a miracle we could even get there.
Seeing the family was wonderful. The funeral was beautiful. There were no seats in the chapel left. In fact, many stood for the service. At the grave site, the Aero Club Ben had been a part of did a fly by, which was really touching.
We celebrated Jon's birthday while we were there. Both Jon and Ben's birthday, which was a little weird to be in New Zealand and not have them both there to celebrate their birthdays.
Even with being at the funeral, sometimes it feels that it was all a crazy dream. That Ben is off flying somewhere or studying and we will hear from him soon. Or we will see him next time we visit.
Ben touched many lives. I wonder if he knew. I wonder if we know how many people watch what we do. I wonder if we know how many people we affect as we meet them, greet them, smile at them, or do something for them.