(July 2011) When the carepages e-mail arrived among other messages, I wasn’t quite ready to open it. The last communication that I had received regarding John’s condition was through a phone conversation via his wife. With stoic control over the tone of her voice, Pam had discussed the involvement of hospice care.
I clutched my laptop and walked out the front door and down the steps to my favorite spot on our concrete dock, where I had left a chaise lounge. A half-finished column needed my attention. I opened the laptop and stared at a page. The page might as well have been blank.
I abandoned my column and clicked on the CarePages link. Pam had written a brief paragraph. John Costa had taken his final flight. It wasn’t a surprise. My friend had fought against lung cancer for two courageous years.
I stared at the announcement for a moment and then reopened my column. I added a new sentence. And then I closed the lid to the laptop. Not knowing for what purpose, I walked back upstairs and into our house.
Carol was seated at the kitchen counter, tapping away on her own computer. When she turned to face me, I stated simply, “We lost John.” Carol wasn’t quite sure what I had said, but when she looked into my eyes she connected the dots. She reached out her arms and hugged. I said nothing, struggling with control over the moisture in my eyes.
Losing a friend early in life is certainly not unique, especially in the aviation industry. But this was different for me. John and I had grown up together — not in the sense that we had been childhood pals, but rather that we had become adults as professional aviators together.
We all remember our first car. More important to those of us in the airplane business, we remember our first real flying job. Regional carrier, corporation, charter or squadron, it doesn’t matter. Careers are molded by the earliest of our employment experiences. And the people whom we encountered at that time will always share an important part of our lives. John was one of those people.
Prior to crossing paths with John, I had been flying as a Beech 99 copilot for Chautauqua Airlines. At the time, Chautauqua was an Allegheny Commuter. It was the first job after graduating college that epaulets and wings were a required part of my wardrobe. Unfortunately, my employment lasted less than a year. I got a real taste of the airline experience. I was furloughed. It wouldn’t be the last time in my career.