Fighting For Pilots' Mental Health

 It has been a while since I made any posts. This post is brought on by a few factors. I am now retired. Yes, age 65 came up on me fast. Now there is nothing I can do to get back into the flight deck with an airline. Do I miss flying? Absolutely. But my time at home is precious to me. My wife and I fell in love all over again. I would not trade being home for anything. 

For those who have read some of my past posts, you may recall that my oldest daughter died in 2015. Tragedy has come into my life again. On June 10, 2022, my fifteen-year-old granddaughter killed herself. I only thought I had felt pain in the past. but this loss was the most horrific thing I have ever experienced. 

My granddaughter was a beautiful, happy, kind, loving, and amazing young woman. When she was 12 my wife and I took her on a trip to Hawaii. It was the most fun vacation I had ever had. We took her to the Polynesian Cultural Center and Pearl Harbor. She got to swim with dolphins. She even talked about being a veterinarian. She looked forward to a full life and had amazing plans for herself.

The news of her death nearly crushed me emotionally. I was weighed down by grief. I felt as if I literally could not raise my arms or walk. I had never cried so hard in my life. When it came time to go to the airport to fly to her funeral I thought I did not have the courage to go. I told my wife I felt as if I should stay home. 

I have cried at funerals in the past, but this time I was sobbing. The next day at the cemetery I had to be held up and helped to a chair because I nearly collapsed. I did not know how to move forward. I felt overcome by pain and suffering.

The weekend of the funeral I saw family members who I had not seen in years. I have four daughters from my first marriage. During that marriage, I was not the man I am today. Back then I was unfaithful to my wife and was just not a good person. After our divorce, I gave up my parental rights so the girls’ new stepfather could adopt them. He was retired military which meant he could provide them with health care and other benefits. I did not realize I was signing away my rights to see my children. I had abandoned them emotionally.

Much later in life, the second oldest daughter reached out to me and we started to work on a relationship. It turned out to be difficult for her to be in the middle of both worlds. We were in and out of each other’s lives for the next couple of years. Then as the pressure, she felt was too much the relationship ended. My granddaughter at that time was two years old. 

Several years later just as I finished working a flight from Detroit to Houston I received a phone call from a number I did not recognize. It was my daughter. Her husband had just died in an automobile accident and my seven-year-old grandson whom I had never met was in a coma having sustained multiple serious injuries. Her mother and sisters were not able to travel to her and she needed support. I jumped on the first flight I could get to be by her side. I have been there for her and her children ever since then.

My granddaughter now 11 years old never asked me where I had been most of her life. She accepted and loved me. She had a special place in my heart. 

For most of my life, I have loved public speaking. I am actually gifted when it comes to speaking in front of large audiences. After my bull riding days were over I started to announce rodeos and loved it. But I knew something was missing. I felt there was something much more important I needed to do with my talent. When I received the news of my granddaughter’s death I knew what I should do. I now use my skills as an advocate for suicide awareness.

I am working on putting together a presentation for public appearances in schools and whatever else I can find a platform for my message. I have been on numerous podcasts discussing this sensitive topic. I have even started my own podcast, The Miracles of Tragedy. In this podcast, I talk with people who have had tragic events in their lives that discovered miracles that helped them through the dark times. In the first episode, I talk about my life and the difficult things that I have faced in life, and how I have been able to find the proverbial silver lining in the clouds.

In future episodes, I will have guests who also have had such experiences. The Miracles of Tragedy will have inspiring and uplifting stories that will motivate listeners. There will be drama with feel-good endings. There is something in these stories that will have a positive impact on just about anyone who listens.

The miracle that came out of the loss of my granddaughter gave me strength and hope. My oldest daughter introduced me to one of her daughters who is 16, but looks like she is 12. She and I have been texting every day since our meeting. I had never dreamed that I would ever meet my other grandchildren and now that is happening. Thus, The Miracles of Tragedy.

Yes, life has its trials. Many of the trying times are more than what we think we can handle. But there is the strength in all of us to push forward and overcome. What miracles have you discovered during your times of tragedy?

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