Airplanes and All Saints

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It was grey and overcast, the light rain noticeable, but not yet enough to send us back inside. My five-year-old companion and I stood next to the runway and watched as small planes took off and landed. One landed and drove by where we were standing. The pilot and passengers waved right at us. We both squealed with delight. The rain grew more insistent and the wind began to pick up, so we headed in. I stopped and looked back at the empty runway.

My earliest memories include driving in our blue Ford LTD to the airport to pick up my sister for a summer or Christmas visit. In those days we could meet her at the gate. The arrivals were always fun–we would stop for hamburgers and milkshakes, vanilla with whipped cream and a cherry on top. I would fall asleep while she told my parents about school and books and music. But when she would go, that was a different drive. Back then, we could walk on the plane with her, watch her get fastened safely into her seat belt. Papa always brought a pack of gum, he’d give it to her before she left so her ears wouldn’t hurt. We would leave her, and the airport with its nighttime lights and zooming planes. Filling up the car with gas, Papa would run into the store to pay and emerge with a bag of salted peanuts so I could have the same thing she was eating on the plane. I cried the whole way home.

Many years and marriages later, my brother began to fly. Small planes, up in the air, both terrifying and exciting my father. He was always happiest when we had found joy and for my brother, joy is often found in the air.

Today, All Saints’ Day, I baptized two new lives and read the names of so many beloved dead, including my father’s. I looked out at the grey runway with planes coming and going, taking people to and from each other. It is the way we humans live. We are always coming and going from each other. Sometimes the arrivals are as dramatic and hopeful as birth, and departures as final and sorrowful as death, but often we are coming and going in how we are with the living. Sometimes fierce, sometime kind–hope and goodness, hurt and anger, messy humans making their ways. Yet even in the grey and rain, there are five-year-olds waving at us along the way, who delight in our safe journey.

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