An aviator I met many years ago had a retirement party not too long ago. I have attended a number of formal ceremonies marking the end of various pilots' careers, but this one is special. I'll tell you why in a bit.
I don't know the pilot especially well. I remember that before I met him I happened to be following his car on the highway and noticed one brake light wasn't working. We rarely do a walkaround on the car while someone is in the driver's seat activating all the lights, so it's the sort of thing that gets missed. I check for two headlights reflected back at me from the back of the car in front of me at stoplights at night, but you don't often get a chance to check your brake lights. I guess backing into a parking spot would do it if there is a reflective window behind it. When I saw the same car parked at the airport, I went into the business it was parked in front of and told him. So I guess that's how we met. He owned the business.
We worked together indirectly for a while, but what I'll remember him for most is that one day, after I got a better job, he said casually that he was glad to hear that, because I was too valuable to be wasted here. It came at just the right moment for me. It was probably just a casual congratulations to him, but it did it for me.
That's not the reason I flew out there to see him though. It's because of all the times I've been invited to a gathering celebrating the life of an aviator, this will be the first one at which I will be able to shake the pilot's hand. All the others were funerals.
It was worth it. I got a ride right from the airport to the party and he looked so well, all the stress gone and looking forward to flying for fun during his retirement.