Friday, March 30, 2012

Danny Boy

When I moved to Hawaii almost three years ago, I found my passion. A passion I didn’t even know existed. My first day on the island, while driving to North Shore, I came around the corner passing Crouching Lion and looked up in the air. I said, “What the hell is that?! ... I wanna do that!!!” I later found out who and what I saw was Alex, high above Pu’u Piei, on his white and yellow Cobra paraglider.

That same day, as I passed Kualoa Ranch, I thought how beautiful it looked and thought it would be cool to work there. A week later, I was hired. A week after that (just two weeks of being on the island) I got off work and hitch-hiked to Kahana to go swimming. It just so happened, the paragliders were flying again; and that’s when I met the paragliding club. Lots of pilots were landing on the beach, as I watched in awe. I started talking to the pilots and it just so happened they were having a club meeting that night, and they invited me. A few days later, Reaper took me for my first tandem at Lanikai. I was hooked. I didn’t have an ounce of fear upon launching and loved every minute of it!

...It is strange how a knock on the door, a letter, or a phone call can change a person's life to an unimaginable nightmare for the rest of that person's life. 17 years ago today, my mother received such a phone call; my 22 year old brother, Danny, had been in an accident, and they weren’t sure if he was going to make it. A few hours later, my brother had passed away. The world spinned and whirled, and left our family in an overwhelming depth of disbelief, denial, and a sadness which has never left us. It was the worst day of my life. No one can fully comprehend why he was chosen to leave this earth…to leave us...his family that loved him so very much. To us, he was intelligent, hilariously funny and witty, and loved us as we loved him. To us, his 4 sisters: Danny Boy was King.

I remember when my brother would throw me up way high in the air and I would get so scared! My eyes would get so big and he would just laugh and laugh! I loved it, don’t get me wrong, but I still had a little fear as he let go of me. It’s funny if you look at it now... as flying is my passion.

Being 5 years older than our oldest sister, Emily, they were the best of friends…never fought or argued. To my twin sister, Maggie, and our 17 month younger sister, Becky, and myself, being 10 and 12 years older, he was like our hero. He rocked one or the other of us to sleep, read to us, played games with us, helped us with our homework, took us for rides on our 3-wheeler, and most importantly, always made us laugh in so many, many different ways. He brightened a room when he walked in, with his beautiful smile and bright blue eyes. When he would be gone for even a short while, my sisters and I would get so excited when coming home and yell: “Yaayyy!!! Danny Boy's home!!!” And we would all run to the door to hug him.

It is kind of bittersweet. Like the smile one would have when they know they’ve given it their all. That smile is the only thing you’ve got, but it’s enough, to move on. He left for us memories which will never be forgotten...memories that make us laugh...memories we cherish...memories which will keep him in our hearts and minds for the rest of our lives. Today, we celebrate his life and what he meant to us.

Today was a special day for me. Today, I celebrated my brother’s life. ‘Something’ woke me up early this morning to take a picture, just before the sun came up. I stared out at the ocean, to the beautiful gradient sky, and I thought of my brother. I thought, ‘Today is beautiful, I hope I get to fly with you.’ Throughout the day, I snapped beautiful pictures of the mountains and the ocean. I couldn’t wait to go fly.

As I got to Kahana, I saw Mad Dog high over Pu’u Piei and he took off north to fly cross country. Gaza, 1i Jim and McStalker followed him a short while later. They flew to Hau’ula as I was hiking up and setting up on launch. I was the only one left to fly. I took my time getting ready, as the wind was starting to fill in, I knew it was getting better. However, I was on regular launch, and the more it filled in from the north, the harder it was to launch. I had a lot of difficulty with my wing getting blown over and rolled up like a burrito a few times, so I balled it up and went lower, laid it out against the tall grass, and was ready to launch into the stronger, cross winds.

I pulled my wing up, kited it for a second, turned around and ran off the hill. I worked the ridge on the east side and quickly and easily got up high. Just as I got above the Rhino Horn, something amazing happened. I looked down below me and saw an Iwa bird. I smiled and thought, ‘there he is.’ I turned on my camera to capture it on film. The random song playing on my phone was a song that we used to listen to when we were kids – my family would know the song – it was “Two Little Boys”. I thought it was really strange how that happened simultaneously.

As I flew around the Iwa bird, and the next track came on my phone – it was even more amazing. The next song was the song I had listened to over and over again while flying and thinking about my brother. It’s the song I chose for his video. I had this indescribable feeling while listening to the song, and witnessing the Iwa bird in front of me. It was kind of bittersweet. The Iwa flew in front of me, I put my hand up as if to wave at the bird, and it simply flapped its’ wings one time as if to say, ‘hello’, then flew out over the bay, as if to show me the way. I was in awe. I had the biggest smile on my face, said, “No way!” And just then, a tear came to my eye. I was flying with him, and I knew it. I felt it. I just kept smiling… I couldn’t wait to tell somebody. I wanted to call my mom from the air, but she’s six hours ahead of me and was sleeping. I can’t describe it as well as it made me feel when it happened. But it was awesome.

I enjoyed the solo flight. It was serene. I thought a lot. I flew for an hour. Then I flew out over the bay and dropped a lei for my brother. I came in to land just before dark. I knelt down, looked up at the sky and pondered. ...Live life. Be.

I love you, Danny Boy.

"Bittersweet" - a video for Danny Boy

Pictures from March 29, 2012


Anonymous said...

Bonnie-this is such a beautiful way to honor and remember your brother, much as I remember him as well. I'm so happy you got to experience this. All my love to you on this day and always! Head

firedave2 said...

Bonnie. Maybe your brother is living a little through you. Nice rememberance. DAVE

Thom said...

OK you melted JJJ with that one.

Flying is a good way to get close to those that have past and the Iwa birds may just be the symbols to let us know they are ok and enjoying a great flight too.

Had to get another cup of coffee cause I watered down my first cup reading this.

Thanks Bonnie.

JJ Jameson

Gravity said...

Great tribute video Bonnie.
To those of you that don't know how special this date is, I too lost a loved one. My father John Blair Michelmore was killed in a plane crash with my grandfather on March 29, 1965 when I was 3 years old. Bonnie and I share this weird connection and somehow we were connected by our guardian angels, and we were meant to fly.
Thanks Bonbon for the memories!

Peter Blair Michelmore aka Reaper

Kevin said...

Really enjoyed the video, BonBon. So cool about the Iwa bird. Thanks for sharing such a great way to remember Danny. I have heard you talk about him before but didn't know about the accident. It is such a difficult way to loose a loved one. I'm so happy for you to have such a moving flight. Got a little chicken skin. See you up there soon, hopefully... if the wind lets up before work starts again.

Duck said...

Amazing tribute Bonnie!! Really enjoyed the writting and the pics and video! Thanks for sharing this with us!

Whidbey Pete said...

Bonnie, beautiful story, I lost a baby brother to an accident. I used to hike the Cascade Mts in WA state and think about him. Now I fly like you do and think of him.