This was the year we will all remember, but sooner forget. The Covid Pandemic has upset so much of our lives. Jobs have been lost, schools have been online, weddings, gatherings and countless celebrations postponed. It doesn’t sound like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, because it’s all first world problems… but the mental toll doesn’t care what socio-economic bracket you fall within.
Poor mental health still rips you apart at the seams and depression is stronger than the best of us. Despair is hard to shake. The light gets dimmer and more difficult to see if you don’t know how to turn up the brightness.
Although my situation is different than John’s, I now have an inkling of what he was enduring every day for the 16 months leading to his suicide. I have seen some of the images he had flashing through his head on a daily basis. Not flying without warning is not easy, especially when 90% of your friends are still working. Many pilots let their job define who they are, not just what they do. I made an effort to separate myself from that idea after John left. I saw the danger it can cause any individual. I do, however, miss many aspects about the job… I miss the actual flying, the co-workers, the checklists and procedures. I miss the training, I miss the company emails, I miss the smell and sound of airports. I even miss checking into hotels.
Almost every day, images of my past life flutter into my brain: the approach into Winnipeg. The ramp congestion in LaGuardia. The descent into Huatulco. The sunrise over Ireland and the crunchy snow in Saskatoon. It has been 9 months since I was airborne. I have no idea when I will fly again (if ever for an airline). My very specific skill set is kinda useless in most places.
Despite all of this, I am acutely aware how different it was for John, losing his identity, not just his job. It was sudden, just like the pandemic. It made no sense. Just like the pandemic… but it was worse for John and i had absolutely no idea at the time how he was truly feeling. For that, i feel incredibly stupid and guilty.
I have been lucky, despite everything. I have not lost anyone to the virus yet, as all have recovered. I am stable financially. I have a safe, happy place to live and even though i can’t really spend time with them, I am closer to family since my move.
And I had a birthday.
This birthday made me older than John ever will be. That was a surreal and terrible day. I kept busy, and I didn’t talk about it. I prefer ignored birthdays, but this one in particular was to be ignored.
John would have been 50 on October 28th, 2020.
That day was worse. I kept busy. I didn’t talk about it. It was on my mind all day.
I remember we had planned what we were going to do on that day. We would have celebrated with friends and family. A huge celebration. Celebrating what we endured with his job loss. How he finally got his job back and just celebrating in general. Celebrating all of the things that were supposed to happen so that we could return to our normal life.
Life. Normal life… we had no clue that 2020 wouldn’t be normal, but 2020 is when he would have been 50, but he never made it past 45.
Here I am at 46. Older than he ever was, in a world that no longer seems familiar.
I can only hope that 2021 will bring some peace and ‘normalcy’ to our times. I know it will be worse in the beginning…much worse, but I do hope that by October I will be able to celebrate John’s birthday. I hope by then I will be working again. I hope by then I will be comfortable being forever older than you…