He knew that it was more than turbulence. Turbulence doesn’t last that long. The look on the faces of the flight attendants told him all that he needed to know. The quiver in the pilot’s voice as he spoke over the intercom in a failed attempt to comfort the worried passengers only confirmed the man’s suspicions.
The plane is going down.
His heart didn’t race like he expected it would in such a situation. He didn’t panic. Instead, he thought about the people he loves the most. He wondered if they knew how much he loved them. He wished that he could at least tell them goodbye. And then the thought hit him. The phone! He quickly grabbed it and called his wife. Voicemail. This was harder than he thought. What do you say to someone you love when you know that it’s the last thing you’ll ever say to them?
He thought about some of the last things he told his wife and kids.
He remembered the hurt look on his wife’s face when he asked why breakfast wasn’t ready yet. He remembered being able to almost see the air leave his son when he told him last week that he looked like a sissy trying to tackle that kid on the other team. And he could almost hear the door slam again like it did last night when he told his daughter to quit being so moody and to just get over her breakup with whatever that guy’s name was.
As he sees it, he’s got one minute to say what needs to be said. One minute to at least try to make things right. He knows that he won’t be around to enjoy the beauty of things being right. But he knows that his wife and kids can. Maybe. Now, all he can leave his family are his words. Over a phone. This time, for once, he hoped that his words would bring peace.
Those words just started coming out. The man addressed his wife first. He tried to sound calm but at the same time, he knew that his time was short. He didn’t want anything important to be left unsaid.
“I’m sorry for my words and attitude to you this morning. I was wrong. I love you. Thank you for making me smile. Thank you for making me a better man. I don’t care what you see when you look in the mirror, you are the most beautiful woman in the world. Never forget that. It sure has been fun being married to you.”
His son’s face popped in his head. He spoke as if it were his son and not his phone that he held. Tears formed in his eyes but he did his best to make sure that the tears weren’t heard. He didn’t want his son to remember him that way.
“I’m proud of you, son. You may not be able to see it but you’re strong. Very strong. Stronger than me. I’m sorry for not making you feel that way. You’re on your way to becoming a real man. Real manhood isn’t determined by what you drive, how much you lift or who you date. It’s more than that. And you’ve got it. Well done, son. Your dad loves you.”
Finally, he spoke to his daughter. For the first time since the plane started to have trouble, he was afraid. He was afraid that he would lose his signal before being able say anything to her. The words came out faster.
“I am so happy that I get to be your dad. You are a beautiful young woman on the outside and on the inside, where it counts the most. Don’t try to be who the magazines and the boys tell you to be. I’m sorry for not being more understanding. It was foolish and lazy of me. Keep being who God made you to be because that’s so much better than what someone else wants you to be. I’m proud of you. Just the way you are. I love you.”
He hung up the phone, relieved that he was able to say what needed to be said. Well, as relieved as a man could be while his plane is crashing. And then he waited. Some people panicked. Others buckled their seatbelts. He didn’t see the point in either option. So he keep on waiting. Having never been in this situation before, he guessed that the really bad part was coming pretty soon. While he waited, he found comfort in that last phone call. He only wished that he would have said it all in person.
As the plane tilted downward and sped up and began to fall apart a funny thought hit him as he calmly waited for impact.
Plane crashes aren’t so hard.
Trying to cram twenty years worth of unspoken love and forgotten apologies into a one minute voice mail, now that’s hard.
He hoped that it was enough.
He wished that every conversation he had ever had with his family was like that last message that he left them.
If only he had spent the past twenty years talking to his wife and kids like he only had one minute to live.