Write Again … No man is an island

Published 12:31 am Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It was three, four, maybe five years ago. I had driven to the Raleigh-Durham airport to fly Southwest Airlines. My destination was Salt Lake City or Denver, but I just can’t seem to remember which.

You see, the Barbershop Harmony Society’s annual convention and contests take place in a different city each summer. I think I’ve attended 11 thus far.

While at the departure gate, I noticed a family waiting for the same flight. There was nothing unusual or out of the ordinary about them.

In this family was a mother, father, a grown or almost grown daughter, and two younger children.

As it turned out, my seat was across from their seats. So, shy though I may be, we conversed a bit during the flight.

They told me they lived in Charlotte, but were flying out of RDU to take advantage of a lower fare.

In the space under the seat in front of the father was a wooden box. A container of some sort.

I asked where they were headed, and what they told me was very touching.

The small box contained the remains of their son. If memory serves correctly, they told me he was 19 years old when he died.

He was to enter the Army on Monday of the following week. When he didn’t get up for breakfast several days prior, one of the family members went to his room. He was found dead in his bed. He hadn’t been ill.

Why were they flying out west? Well, you see, the family had lived for some years on the west coast. This young man loved to go with friends up into the mountains for hiking and camping.

The family was going to rent a car when they arrived in California so they could meet up with some of their son’s friends in those mountains. There they were going to have a memorial service and scatter his ashes.

I asked then what day and at what time this would take place. They told me, and I said that wherever I was at that time I would tune out everything around me and offer my prayer for their son and for them.

The probability is that I’ll never see any of them again. I don’t even recall their names.

Yet, even if for only a few fleeting moments, I felt a sense of connection with this family.

A belief, if you will, that we are all brothers and sisters.