New beginnings

Today, my sister-in-law is getting married.

There is a smile on my face and joy in my heart as I write this. While my readers may think, “Gee that’s nice, Mrs. McFarland, but what does this have to do with flying?”

It has everything to do with my flying of late because it gives me perspective.

Deb McFarland

Toni, my sister-in-law, became a single woman again several years ago. As is often the case, at that time, she didn’t expect such a change in her life, but she moved forward and enjoyed the possibilities that were presented to her, a new home, a new town and a new job.

Then one day — and this is aviation related — out of the blue, she was hit smack-dab in the middle of the forehead with Cupid’s arrow. It happened, in all places, at the local funeral home. The Front Porch Gang was there for our airport friend Helen’s passing, which I wrote about several months ago. Toni knows almost all of the airport gang from our gatherings over the years and from her own flying experience. She soloed years ago, and while she enjoys being a passenger, she realized she was not as passionate about the actual flying part. It was only natural that she be there.

This is small-town, small-world, six-degrees-of-separation kind of stuff. Russ and Helen knew Bradley because of Russ’ epic attraction for the local Waffle House. That old pilot loves late night conversations over multiple cups of coffee. Bradley is a local funeral director and the county’s deputy coroner. His business often found him grabbing a late bite to eat at the only eatery open at that time of night.

It was inevitable that Russ, Helen and Bradley would establish a wonderfully quirky friendship, and it was natural that when Russ and Helen realized Helen’s Alzheimer’s was progressing rapidly that the couple turn to their friend to help settle her affairs. The rest is history.

Family and friends gathered together thankful to have known such a wonderful human being. Toni and Bradley met officially, traded email addresses and a charming romance that was a delight to observe flourished.

Russ is ecstatic that something so positive came from that service, and he insists that Helen, who was such a romantic, would have loved that those two “youngins” started their courtship there. I am not even surprised that after Bradley got down on one knee and asked Toni to be his bride and they decided to celebrate with lunch at the Waffle House that Russ (not me) was the first to see the engagement ring.

In a few weeks, those “two youngins” will be 60. And it does my heart good to witness such a wonderful new beginning.

This past year has been hard on the Front Porch Gang. We’ve had to say goodbye to many close friends. It has also been a hard year in our community, church and family. We’ve been to a lot of funerals this year. In fact, we’ve not attended one fly-in this fall because of circumstances such as these.

It can make a soul down and out until you get that perspective I mentioned earlier. Yes, we’ve suffered some partings, but we’ve known some good people and interesting characters who share our love of flying.

Yes, we’ve been to several funerals, but we’ve been so blessed to have large families, a close community and a myriad of flying friends all over the country. As Henry and I age, it’s only natural (I’ve used that descriptive three times now) that time takes her toil.

No, we didn’t get to go to Triple Tree, but with Henry’s back much improved, he helped me get current in his 8A, and we made several flights following our favorite hiking trails. We didn’t get to go Thomasville, but we did make our annual corn maze tour on one of the most beautiful fall days. There were no local fly-ins either, but my Old Man took me on an aerial tour of the Rich Mountain Wilderness dressed in all God’s glory that can only be truly appreciated when flying low and slow.

This new beginning has made me realize that as life ebbs and flows, there will be endings and there will be beginnings. There will be sorrows and there will be joys. There will be times we can visit our aviation friends at fly-ins and there will be times that we’ll just have to make that local morning flight alone and watch the mist rise with the new day.


Deb McFarland is the proud owner of Lester, a 1948 Luscombe 8E, and part of the “Front Porch Gang” at Pickens County Airport in Georgia. Deb can be reached at


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