I read an article in the Chicago Tribune today about a number of airplane crashes in the Chicago neighborhoods surrounding Midway Airport. Many people have been killed by airplanes literally falling out of the sky. The story went on to tell of tales people shared with newspaper reporters at the time.
They shared stories of deep anguish and heartache searching for loved ones only to find pieces of them and bloodied remains. One story told of how some died from an airplane falling from the sky and crashing through their homes. People died as they lay asleep in their own beds. A young mother was thrown from an airplane and died while her two daughters lived.
On Saturday, I attended a funeral of a 47-year-old mother of two children. Her husband came home from work and found her dying in her chair. At the funeral, five days later, doctors could still not explain why she died. She was fine, her husband said. He spoke to her on the phone just ten minutes before he got home from work and recalled the last thing he said to her was “I love you.”
A friend of this woman’s said she read her Facebook post on Sunday, the day before she died. It read that she was hanging her laundry outside and enjoying the beautiful weather on a lovely December day. She was just living her life, hanging her laundry, enjoying the oddly warm weather.
And, once again the news reported stories tonight covering the countless numbers of shootings in the city. The senseless deaths of many young people who have yet to even know what their future could have been. Many simply found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Something came to mind today with all these stories bouncing around in front of me.
A couple of years ago this friend of mine named Gina contacted me out of the blue on Facebook. We had not talked for nearly 20 years. At one time we saw each other every day. We had such a great friendship but then life changed and I went one way and she went another. So, when she found me on Facebook I was thrilled. She asked to meet for lunch and we met and had a wonderful conversation about the last 20 years of our lives. We laughed about silly things and talked about old friends and funny moments.
She asked me why we had stopped being friends and asked if she had done something to ruin our friendship. I said of course not. And I recall now having to have to reassure her that she never did anything wrong or hurtful to me.
She also told me that she was dealing with breast cancer, but said that she was at the end of her treatment and was recovering. She really downplayed the whole thing and led me to believe she was on the upswing.
We parted ways that day with a big, warm hug and promised, for sure, we’d see each other again soon.
Well we never did keep that promise. We never even talked on the phone, not even on Facebook.
About a year later, another friend called me to say Gina had died.
The next time I saw her was at her funeral.
There are so many people I think of often. Friends who I truly love and care about and miss, but don’t see or even talk to as much as I’d like. The reasons are real and common – they live far away, or have the details of life keeping them running in a thousand different directions each day. And I too have a full schedule of life obligations.
But stories like planes falling from the sky, bullets flying through the air and unforgiving illnesses unexpectedly stopping the beating of a friend’s heart, remind me that I need to do better.
So for all my dear friends who read this, who I have not spoken to lately, please know I love you and I will try and do better. For those of you who do not know me, but have friends you have not seen or spoken to in a while, maybe this story will remind you to do a little better too.
Because when I got that call that Gina died, and realized that we had not kept our promise….. . It was just too late.
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