Early yesterday afternoon while flying home from Washington, I initially struggled somewhere between being fully alert and drifting off to sleep. I subsequently found that sleep didn’t come or couldn’t come. There were extenuating circumstances, but I also had a lot to think about. Consequently, fully awake eventually won the struggle. I didn’t want to waste the experiences previously shared over the past couple of days by failing to reflect on them and search for nuggets of truth too valuable to dismiss by not searching for the lessons to be remembered.
Of course, as I sat at the gate waiting for my departing flight, I had fantasized that it would be good to sleep through the first leg of the flight (i.e.: from Washington to Dallas/Fort Worth). Three hours is a long flight and I was tired. I won’t say I had burned the candle at both ends, but it had been a very full two days. I was intent on making the best of it. Sometimes to do that, you have to color outside the lines and at times abdicate to the wishes or needs of others in the group.
Friday night I was up way past my bedtime. It wasn’t just for me, but it was for me. I just reread that last sentence and I think it is incongruent, but at the same time it accurately portrays reality. Consequently, I will say it again. “It wasn’t just for me, but it was for me.”
Sometimes you do things because you know it is important to someone else, even if that someone else doesn’t know that it is important until after they’ve had the experience. Okay, so now you think I’m talking nonsense. Let me explain it this way: “Would I have ventured out on my own at that time of night? The answer is most assuredly not, yet “count me in” was my vote”.
Actually, I guess the “count me in” was self-evident because I was the one who posed the question. I guess that is short for saying the late night excursion was my idea. I thought it was a good one, but sometimes timing is everything and it was late. My judgment may have been flawed, but my gut told me it was the right thing to do. Sometimes my intuitive default button highlights this reality: “The only place we have is here and the only time we have is now.” Can you argue with either of those assertions?
I didn’t go to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial (AKA – The Wall) three months ago when I in Washington. Going to The Wall is something I normally do when I am in D.C., but time got away from me and I didn’t make my customary visit.
Maybe it is only my imagination, but stopping by The Wall is tantamount for me to “emotionally checking in for old time’s sake”. I think I can make that assertion because it has been a very long, long time.
My stopping by The Wall is also a tangible way to remind myself that the issue is still important. I’m not ready to let go! There is still a small cross in front of Ronnie’s name indicating that he’s still missing. I want the symbol changed to a diamond to indicate his death has been confirmed. Of course, the other possible symbol is a circle around the cross to indicate the person has been accounted for and returned alive. To date, the third option has never been used on any name etched in the granite stone.
There were only five of us in the late Friday night group excursion, but one of us had never been to the Wall. He had never been to Washington before. What better time than late night to visit The Wall for the first time?
In the cloak of darkness the number of names on The Wall doesn’t look as ominous and overpowering as it does during the daytime. It takes more effort to see the names because the row of soft lights emerging from the base of the walkway doesn’t illuminate the names. Unless you read by braille, you’ll never find the panel your looking for or the name of your loved one without a flashlight or candle.
Like a horse heading toward the barn, I can operate like a bat in the darkness to locate Ronnie’s name. His name is on the same panel as the family member of two of the people I was with Friday night. Of course, my niece was also there, so we had Ronnie’s name covered.
Yet the real reason my gut told me that Friday night was the time and place for visiting The Wall had no relationship to the four of us. It was for the fifth person in our group that I thought it was important that we go. He had never been to The Wall before. No doubt he would have gone while he was still in Washington, but selfishly, I didn’t want him to locate his uncle’s name without being with people he knew. He didn’t know us well, but we had met the day before and we four had an awareness of what it feels like the first time you see a loved one’s name chiseled into that granite wall. No one should have that experience in the presence of strangers. It was a wise man that asserted: “Shared joy is double joy and shared sorrow is half sorrow”.
Consequently it proved to be a long night. At the same time, it was a meaningful and memorable night. I was grateful that we went. My gut instinct was right. The downside was it proved to be a very short night. It was also a long flight home.
Over the three hours of the first leg of my flight, I was lost mostly in thought. I was tired, but obviously not nearly as tired as the passenger in Row 27, Seat D on the plane on which I was a passenger. As I mentioned earlier, there were extenuating circumstances. I had the experience (I almost said misfortune) of being the passenger assigned to Row 27, Seat E. I was the guy in the middle seat. A lady sat to my right. She was assigned to Row 27, Seat F.
The seating arrangement was awkward. The man seated to my left (Row 27 – Seat D) was a large man. He would have been far more comfortable had he been assigned to Seats D&F, but it was a full flight and there was no extra space.
At some point, I looked to my right and the lady next to me on my right had her head propped against the aircraft. She was sound asleep. The guy to my left was also sound asleep. He, too, was leaning to the right. Thankfully, it wasn’t his head, but his right shoulder was propped and positioned against mine. I’m not making this up. We were tight. Awkward? – Yes / Comfortable? – No. There was nowhere for me to move. He was invading my space and his weight was pushing against me. He on the other hand, was sleeping soundly. Did I mention his nap lasted for three consecutive hours?
At some point, the lyrics to the song, “Lean on Me” began to roll around in my head. You probably remember the song:
“Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on…”
The sound of the lyrics to “Lean On Me” rolling around in my head were like a healing balm. The wise man who said: “Shared joy is double joy and shared sorrow is half sorrow” also said: “Two are better than one”. He also made reference to the fact that: “A chord of three strands is not easily broken.” That thought should serve to plant the lyrics to “Lean On Me” in each of heads more often.
All My Best!