Daniel Is Traveling Tonight On A Plane: Covid Takes a Life


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I am standing at the foot of his ICU bed, huddled with weeping family members and his soon-to-be widow, who has already lost her fourteen-year-old son just years ago to a drunk hit-and-run driver… The nurses have silenced the alarms and turned off the ventilator.

I look at his face, the one with a smile that we will never see again in this life, and see the reflection of his deceased father, and that of my own husband…And I know now the family will look to him to see the both of them, for he is what is left to remind them in this country. It terrifies me to know this could have been my husband, that it could be in some nightmarish future… And I know and dread the horror that Yolanda must be feeling… there is nothing we can say to ease her agony… or that of their two daughters…

I am standing there… and all I hear is an Elton John song replaying over and over in my head….

Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for Spain
Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

Daniel is 57 years old…two years younger than me, and I cannot help but see how much more he has lived life. Watching his family gathered near him, each by turn saying goodbye in a language I have not mastered, but understand enough of to realize that this is how you say farewell to someone you love, that this is how you live a life that will be remembered and cherished. It is hot in the room, and I feel faint.

They say Spain is pretty, though I’ve never been
Well Daniel says it’s the best place that he’s ever seen
Oh and he should know, he’s been there enough
Lord I miss Daniel, oh I miss him so much

Daniel is the oldest of eleven children; and like all eldest, has earned the respect of his siblings by being the first to do a lot of things, and keeping himself in charge of shepherding a large family that often seeks his advice.

Touching his hand, I feel the rough callouses that a life of hard work has made, a gentle hand that held his grandchildren as tenderly as his own.

He was the one I knew I had to impress when my then-future husband brought me home to meet the family. I liked him instantly. And because I no longer have relatives, I considered asking him to walk me down the aisle – but then I knew I couldn’t, because his place was next to my husband as best man…His son Rickie – the one killed just years later –  was our ring-bearer….

Oh oh, Daniel my brother you are older than me, 
Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won’t heal
Your eyes have died, but you see more than I
Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky

We wait with dread for the moment we know he will leave us. We know he no longer has a choice; but we also know he defied everyone’s doubts he could fight Covid long enough to test negative so we could all be with him. It is a testament to his character, to his spirit, and to his love for his family that he put up with months of the ventilator and a trach tube until we could all be there, until he could give Yolanda and his daughters one last gift of his presence… We all crumbled when his breathing slowed, and then with a slight rasp…stopped.

Oh oh, Daniel my brother you are older than me
Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won’t heal
Your eyes have died, but you see more than I
Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky

When we drove home in the dusk of the day, barely visible in the dissipating storm clouds, we could see a rainbow. I have never seen one under such dim light before. And it occurred to me that it looked like it was over Daniel’s house, not far from the intersection where Rickie died, not far from where Yolanda will have to figure out how she will make a new life for herself when it is the old one she wants…the old one she needs….

I keep hearing Elton John in my head. I keep seeing all of the things that could have been were it not for this horrible disease.

I feel so ruined and weary, so fearful for everyone in this family of immigrants I have come to love so much…And I see Daniel waving goodbye.

Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for Spain
Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes
Oh God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

Songwriters: Vladimir Cort, Elton John, Bernie Taupin
© Universal Music Publishing Group

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