What can one say about a friend you’ve never seen face-to-face? Paul and I met through a group of mutual friends who enjoyed flying. Not real metal airplanes, but in virtual flight using multi-player simulators. For several years we would gather at our computers, connect our communications gear, and take off. It didn’t matter where (or what) we were flying at any given moment, just the fact that we were together and having fun.
Our conversations ranged from daily happenings, through football predictions (both “ours” and “theirs”), living conditions in our respective countries, and the finer points of alcoholic drinks. Nothing much was omitted. From time to time, others joined us and others left. Still, there remained a core of intrepid flyers to keep tooling along.
But, this blog post is not just about flying. Instead, it more about the caring individuals who were in our group. Paul was always very upbeat in his outlook; always available to take time to talk instead of fly. I became aware of how much a family man he was when I ‘met’ his wonderful wife briefly.
In the very short time between his diagnosis and passing I also talked with his son, Danny. Paul was very proud of him and his accomplishments; never failing to trumpet them every time we chatted. I do hope to keep in touch through him.
We haven’t flown in a bit now, but perhaps this picture of the Missing Man formation might help to express my sadness at Paul’s passing.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr.