Baruch Dayan ha-Emet: On Arriving Safely and Germanwings Flight 9525

I never take it for granted. Arriving at the gate safely after a flight always somehow…amazes me. I don’t get the whole “how it stays in the air” thing, even after my dad explained it to me many times when I was younger. Using a pencil and thick stock drawing paper, the kind that is soft under the weight of the led-tip and depresses ever so slightly as his nimble hand drew the shape of the airplane wing. He would add swooshing lines symbolizing the air moving over and under the wing, so as to give me visual of how it can be that the big, massive metal bird is lifted up and stays up. Until it’s time to land. Safely. Aerodynamics, he would say.

He went through a period with a deep fear of flying too. That was when he took out a life insurance policy with my sister and I as the beneficiaries. Meanwhile he smoked two packs of Dunhills a day and could finish a Johnny Walker before noon. This fear of flying isn’t rational, we all know that.

Driving home on the highway from the airport last night after eight heavenly days in Paris, is of course much more likely to kill me. Statistics speak that truth. Being at home now, or a few blocks from home, is even more dangerous, statistically speaking. It could easily kill us.

Last night on I-95 North behind a wet windshield with streaks from crappy windshield wipers, the news about Germanwings flight 9525 sounded especially jarring. Turning the dial on the old car radio to the New York AM station with news and weather, the announcer’s voice was barely audible behind all the static and airwave interruptions. My boyfriend turned the volume up even higher. I cringed. We only heard pieces of the story: 160 dead; scattered all over the Alps; captain banging on the cockpit door. I think baruch dayan ha-emet, the Hebrew blessing recited in the face of events that cause heartache and pain…

Usually, when I fly, I carry with me a small laminated card with the ancient Hebrew prayer for traveling, tefilat ha-derech. After I’m settled in my seat, as the plane begins to taxi toward the runway, I fish it out of my purse and whisper May it be your will, Lord our God, God of our fathers, to lead us in peace…to bring us to our destination in life…Deliver us from the hands of every enemy and lurking foe, from robbers and wild beasts on the journey, and from all kinds of calamities that may come…grant me grace, kindness and mercy in your eyes…blessed are you Lord who hears prayers. On this trip, I forgot the card at home. It worried me, in passing.

Words fall short in the face of tragedy and loss. May the mourners be comforted.

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Godiva by the Gate

Here I am, sitting by the gate about to board the plane to Oslo from New York, enjoying a Godiva chocolate, making some last minute phone calls and feeling good about traveling light.

Next to me is a mother giving her small son an infusion – it appears from his baldness he may have cancer or a significant medical condition- and it knocks the breath out of me. Keeping her hands busy with tubes and clips, she smiles, chats with who might be her husband, and the little boy starts to sing. He plays with his truck.

I swallow the sweetness of the luxurious chocolate. Think of my three healthy teenage sons, whose early childhoods knew only typical growing pains and the occasional run to the ER for a stitch or three.

A deep surge of gratitude and humility makes me feel strangely present in my body, anchored in a material reality of the seat by the gate, but also in the gift of this suspended moment in time.

The rows of my seat are called to board, and I fish out the little card from my wallet with the Jewish traditional travel prayer. I whisper it to myself. That the boy, his family, and I should reach our destination in life, joy and peace.

Because I take nothing for granted.

I'm Grateful for