They smile and walk over to where I sit. It is a typical evening in the pilot lounge and all I want to do is climb into my aircraft and fly to the destination. I am on the fast track to a speedy recovery and then they show up. They are friends of mine, fellow pilots. I have been avoiding them for some time now, but tonight they find me. The last time I saw them we were sharing stories of our wives being pregnant, the due dates, future football stars and doctors, all of the things that a proud expectant father is supposed to feel. I have steered clear of them since that fateful day. I know the questions that they will ask and the answers they expect to get. I don't want to tell them what has happened, not for fear of how I'll react, but for how they will. The look of utter shock is what I hate. They don't know what to say, they stumble all over themselves trying to say the right thing. I feel sorry for them, because they didn't ask for this information. They ask how the wife and child are and I sucker punch them with a shot to the groin. I can see their minds start to race in that selfish pattern that our brains love to get on. We hear bad news and want to take an inventory of our own life to see whether or not the tragedy we have just heard about could happen to us. Looks of fear and trepidation cloud their eyes as they realize the mortality of their own children. I try and say all of the calming things that one should state. I talk about flukes, small percentages, and how I believe that everything will be just fine.
It never works.
I shake hands and walk quickly away feeling like a tornado that just leveled a trailer park. They will worry from that point on. The innocence of pregnancy is gone and I replaced it with a palpable tremor of doubt. I feel like a man with a distorted face who removes his mask and strikes fear into the hearts of those who look at him.
This is a lonely game that I play. There are no substitutions, no refs, and no big crowds, just me. I pray a lot. I think a lot. I dream a lot. I cry a lot.
I tried out for this team a couple of years ago and ended up being cut. I didn't have the drive, the stamina or the willingness to play. I tried to do it all on my own. I thought I was bigger than the game itself.
This is a test of strength, will power, and the ability of an individual to persevere over mountains of pain. The Coach asks a lot of His players and demands that they give a 110%. I have no choice but to share the pain that my wife and I went through. Do I shelter others for the sake of their hearts or do I show them the facts? Do those fathers now go home and look at their children in a new light? Do they hold them tight and realize the true gift that they possess? Do they share with their wives the pain that they have heard and turn a knowing ear to God, listening for His presence? If so, then I have won this match. I can wipe the sweat from my brow and take a sip of water. I can sit in front of my locker of solitude and wait for the next quarter to start. My purpose for this world has finally been determined and now it is up to me to play as hard as I can. It is a lonely game, but one that has a reward that is forever in my heart. When the game comes to an end and I have played out my last seconds...I can look to the stands and join her at her seat. My angel is watching and I have no choice but to succeed.
Excuse me...the next quarter is about to start.
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