“Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.”
– John Lennon
Sunita was my spirit child. I became her school sponsor in Nepal when she was seven. In her school photos I watched her blossom into a beautiful and confident young woman. She wrote letters of gratitude in her precise handwriting and perfect English. When she learned I didn’t have children she asked if she could call me Mom, “Because, Mom, you have given me my life, just as much as my own mother.”
When she finished school her family wanted her to go to college. But her dream was to be an air hostess. The decision was mine because I was paying for her schooling. I wrote to her and said, “The decision is yours. If you don’t get a job as an air hostess I’ll help you go to college. It’s important we follow our dreams.”
After her training Yeti Airlines hired Sunita right away. Of course they would; her spirit flew as high as any airplane. I loved this girl who wrote it was her heart’s desire we meet one day. “Meeting you, Mom, would make me the happiest girl ever.”
Not much time later, on October 8, 2008, a Yeti Airlines plane with nineteen people on board, including Sunita, crashed while landing in the fog at Lukla’s airport, the gateway to Nepal’s Mt. Everest region. The plane burst into flames killing everyone onboard – except the captain.
The year before the plane crash I wanted to go to Nepal to meet Sunita but I let work become my priority. Sunita was twenty-one years old; I thought we had plenty of time. When I received the news of her death I held the photo of Sunita, tall and proud in her red Yeti airline uniform, and ran my finger across her face. I already missed our future together, our trips to visit each other, someone calling me Mom.
I swore in that moment I’d pursue my dreams, the way Sunita had the courage to pursue hers. Because I’d rather die while living my dream then live a life of excuses. I’d dance the dance of a life lived outside my comfort zone. And at the end of my life as I took my last breathe, I’d be filled with gratitude I chose the other path. No matter where it led me.