“Goose, they’re right below us! ” Maverick exclaimed, sweat dripping through squinted eyes. “I can’t shoot the son-of-a-b*tch!”
“Maverick, get down here!” the Captain commanded, in between chain-smoking breaths of exasperation.
“Goose, Cougar’s in trouble! That MIG really screwed him up. I don’t think he can make it back.” Maverick exclaimed.
“I’m on my way…”
And with that, Maverick was off and I with him… the iconic movie scene catapulting me up into the skies above the Indian Ocean and down into the pilot’s seat of a fighter plane, alongside my 8-yr-old wanna-be-pilot daughter, sitting next to me.
The boom of the fighter jet’s engine intersected with the boom of the state-of-the-art speakers and my adrenaline soared, alongside Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer and my wide-eyed daughter, who was cutting off the circulation to my hand as she squeezed and squealed with alternating enthusiasm and terror.
In-between dogfights, MIG firings, and the home theater walls shaking like they were coming down, I caught a glimpse of the proud instigator of the scene; an ecstatic John Weber. Pilot. Overgrown Kid. Lover of Life. Joy-filled husband of my dearest of friends.
It was a house-warming party, but all John was interested in was ushering guests into his newest of toys; a popcorn stocked fully-equipped home theater, as he insisted we watch Top Gun. No, that we EXPERIENCE Top Gun. Just like we were traveling alongside him in one of his prized private planes, with him in the pilot’s seat.
Fast-forward to Thanksgiving and a “semi-formal” dinner party where John the host bounded into the foyer wearing a silk screened tee shirt with a “semi-formal” tuxedo printed across it. And a huge, mischievous smile on his face.
I remember that night well, as John was taking time to guide me regarding a business issue I was having. Instead of telling me what to do, John explored my passions and priorities. Asking me thought-provoking questions that tapped into my soul.
Surrounded by A-listers, music playing and a houseful of guests to welcome and entertain, John made me feel like I was the most important person in the room, until he made the next person feel like the most important person in the room. Which is just what John did, every day.
John had unbridled passion. Oftentimes directed toward play. Frequently channeled into work. And always embracing of his heart’s greatest joy, his beloved wife Connie.
Connie described John as an “over-achiever.” He loved fully. Played fully. And was doing what he adored, soaring through the sky, when Life unexpectedly took him away on July 1st.
There is perhaps no greater grief, than unexpected grief. No chance to say good-bye. No opportunity for your psyche to prepare. No chance to ease into the loss that will rock your world and bring you to your knees, in an instant.
This past month, I moved through a version of the grief that I so often carry my clients through. I took time off from seeing clients, walked around numb, and wrote. Which is always my primary means of supporting my Self as I travel through deep emotions and Life’s defining existential events.
But mostly, I aspired to be there for my “Soul Sister” Connie, as she began her journey of moving through unimaginable sorrow.
We cannot control or predict what Life decides to throw into our path. All we can do is decide how we will walk around, or into, the debris that has fallen at our feet.
In an unprecedented show of determination and commitment to helping others, even in the darkest of circumstances, Connie moved forward with characteristic grit that defines her as a former White House Physician, Naval Rear Admiral, and amazing woman.
Only days following the abrupt ending of her beloved John’s life, Connie asked if I would join her as a “special guest” on a most personal segment of her popular radio show, “House Calls,”
where she planned to share the sudden tragic death of her beloved husband.
Connie wanted to help her worldwide audience of listeners and patients, many of whom are widows, through her honest sharing as she poignantly moved forward and into this unanticipated role of “New Widow and Wounded Healer.”
On July 18th, I entered a sound booth and looked into the eyes of my friend. In 27 years of an incredible career that has brought me deep into emotional spaces I could never have imagined possible, I sat humbled and heavy-hearted and oh so deeply HONORED to be sitting alongside my dear friend, Connie, as a Soul Sister, fellow griever, and psychological expert on grief, loss, bereavement, and love as we launched into a candid, heart-filled hour of sharing, friendship, support, and healing.
If you have ever lost someone you’ve loved dearly, know someone who is recently widowed, or simply want a meaningful glimpse into gut-wrenching devastation and uplifting determination to survive, I encourage you to listen to this poignant hour of soulful sharing.
I believe it will make you grateful for the moments you have in front of you, and provide guidance for if they are ever, unexpectedly, taken away.
In heart, health, Life & loss,
Segment 1: Dr. Connie shares the unexpected loss of her husband
Segment 2: Dr. Connie & Dr. Julie:
Your psyche’s response to unexpected vs. expected loss
Moving through tragic loss with an open heart
Segment 3: Dr. Connie & Dr. Julie:
The role of Spirituality in healing
Supporting your Self through grief
Friendship, vulnerability & healing