Joel had been in New Jersey for 2 days last week when I received the call that he would not be flying home that night due to a canceled flight.  After several attempts to try and get on a later flight, he went on standby and booked a nearby hotel.  At 5 a.m., I received a text message from him stating that he had successfully boarded.  Later that morning, I was sitting in my office reviewing my lecture before my class when I received an e-mail from Joel’s mom.  “There was a plane crash from a plane leaving from Newark New Jersey to Buffalo New York.  Where was Joel going in New Jersey and have you heard from him?”  My stomach did flips as a significant portion of the blood drained from my face.  I thought rationally for a moment and realized that his standby flight would probably not have transferred from NJ to Buffalo, though I was still filled with dread.  I quickly checked my cell phone and realized I had a text message.  “Landed,” it said, and my heart raced back to life.  I quickly e-mailed his mom back and let her know that he had landed and was driving back now.  Then, with my eye on the clock, opened up the window and scanned the story.  I realized that a key piece of information that his mom had left out was that the crash had happened at 10:20 p.m. the night before – not that morning.
I jokingly told my class what had happened, and explained the stress response (which is what I happened to be lecturing about that day).  Afterward I wandered around aimlessly in the department, awaiting his return.  He had a 2 hour drive from the airport, but I was just too anxious.  I decided to go home to meet him.  I called before I left and he said he was changing clothes.  I told him, “Perfect.  Stay right there.”  I drove home quickly, entered the house, and when I saw him, hugged him fiercely and breathed him in.  I didn’t let go for several precious minutes.  That little incident made it concrete just how dear he is to me, how I couldn’t bear to lose him.  How every moment that we have with our loved ones could be our last.
I thought back to what we did the afternoon before he left.  I was stretched on the bed, watching him pack, giving little suggestions here and there.  He finished packing, knelt by the side of the bed, took his glasses off and rested his head on my belly.  I softly stroked his hair and his face, and I remember thinking at the time just how in love I was with him, at how I love when these moments feel like a very long time: the afternoon sunlight streaming in, the weight of his head on me, the soft sound of his breathing.  That moment would have been the last meaningful one that we shared together had he boarded a different plane.  And I think that if it were our last moment spent with one another, it would be a perfect characterization of our relationship:  quietly supportive, tender, and most decidedly together.

Leave a Reply.