I have been struggling for weeks now to put this experience into words. Because, simply put, there are no words. I have no words. This entire experience was far more life changing than I ever could have imagined. My gratitude for this moment runs so deep that it has rendered me truly speechless. Even still, here is my attempt to explain what this all meant to me:
When I was a little girl, I would sit on my grandfather’s lap and listen intently to his stories of life in WW II. Then, as an adult, I would sit with him and listen to the same accounts. His old age showed through a bit as he told the same chronicles of his life over and over again, each time a bit more embellished than the last. But, it didn’t matter to me, they were his greatest hits. And, this one, in particular, has always been one of my favorite of his stories:
My grandfather started his career as a fighter pilot in WW II. He loved to fly planes and was on his way to becoming a pilot. He went through months of rigorous day training before advancing to night flying. Getting suited up into the plane, he was excited to pass this final test and finish his training. It wasn’t until he was in the sky that he suddenly realized a crucial detail to flying at night, you have to be able to see color.
During the day, you can simply read the labels for controls in the cockpit. Flying at night, all of the controls are lit up and all of the weapons on the plane are denoted by color. Meaning, knowing what weapon you are using or whether or not you are dropping a bomb, is all deciphered by switches that are lit by differing colors. And, in that moment, as he looked at his controls, everything was the same color, and this was the moment that he discovered he was color blind.
I can hear my grandfather like it was yesterday telling this story and his disappointment in this realization. He had wanted to be a pilot. Unsure of what to do, he knew that he didn’t want to leave the army and still wanted to serve his country. So, he struck up a deal with his commanding officer. My grandfather was the son of farmers who were given gas rations to fly their crop planes. His commander wanted to propose to his then girlfriend, and he needed to fly to see her. In order to do this, he needed gas rations.
My grandfather traded the family gas rations for a recommendation from his commander to get into the school for the Army Corps of Engineers. He was later accepted with flying colors (pun intended). And, when he passed away, we found the original letter that the Army had written my great-grandparents to let them know their son had been accepted into engineering school. My grandfather spent the rest of his time in the army as an engineer before returning home to start his own business. One that is still in existence today. My father and all of my uncles and cousins went on to become engineers.
As for myself, I went into architecture school, an off-shoot of the family business, but I have never been able to shake my deep love of planes. In fact, earning a pilot’s license is the number one item on my "life goals" list. In a way, it would be fulfilling both mine and my grandfather's dreams of becoming a pilot. My grandfather's story turned into a deep passion for me which came to greatly factor into this moment flying over the Blue Hole. For me, it was absolutely everything I had dreamed of. I was finally flying a plane. Now, here is my story:
From the moment the pilot leaned in asking if I wanted to take the controls, I felt like my body had been transported to another place. I don’t think I have ever been that excited in my entire life. I was truly beside myself. Adrenaline was pumping ferousily through my veins.
My face when the pilot said that I could take the controls and fly the plane!
I completely freaked out!
As my hands gripped the controls, my excitement and adrenaline quickly turned into pure fear. My face went from happiness and laughter to extreme concentration in a matter of seconds. Apparently, my husband was talking to me, asking me to smile for a picture, and asking me how it felt. But, I didn't hear him. I never noticed the camera. I was somewhere else, in another place. As far as I was concerned, that moment, up in the sky, it was just me and my grandfather.
Feeling the drift of the plane and the winds whipping the aircraft through the controls was completely unexpected. It was incredible, truly incredible. In total, I flew the plane for about 20 mins. The entire 20 mins can only be described as pure heaven for me. I loved every second. It was an adrenaline rush like I had never experienced before. In many ways, I think I am still coming down from that high.
It was all so unbelievable that words could never do justice to what the experience meant to me in the depths of my being. Gratitude, pure gratitude, is what I feel every time I think back to that day. Gratitude for my grandfather and the life that he led and gratitude for the moment I experienced. A moment I had dreamt about since I was a little girl sitting on my grandfather's lap.
When you have been holding on to a dream for 25 years, trust me, when it happens, you will appreciate it in such a deep way that it changes your life completely and leaves you speechless. I still have a lot to learn, but the one lesson that seems to keep echoing throughout my life is this: Dreams can take time to fulfill. Be patient. Never lose sight of who you are and what your dreams are; because, in the moment when you least expect it, someone will lean over in a cockpit and offer you the chance of a lifetime.
"As if this experience couldn't get more perfect, there she was. The Blue Hole. Again, I have no words."
Read More from the Blue Hole HERE!