We want to live meaningful lives, times filled with love, joy and fulfillment.
But a meaningful life does not mean that it’s a life without sorrow, trouble or pain.
Such is the life presented by author Sarajane Giere in her memoir, “My Pilot: A story of War, Love and ALS.”
Giere relates the deep, important, nearly impossible and full life she shared with her husband of 52 years, Bernard Giere.
College sweethearts, they became a military family during the Vietnam War, in which Bernard flew 214 combat missions. He was shot down and survived a harrowing rescue. Later, his skill landed him a job as a commercial pilot, and eventually as a commander of a National Guard air rescue team.
This is simply told tale, but with deceptive depth. A grand and flowery telling would have diminished its meaning and impact.
The story is not just about Bernard.
It is about a national at war and the lasting changes generated by the decades of conflict.
It is also Sarajane’s story as she transforms from an uncertain military wife with two young children whose father is thousands of miles away at war, the terrible fear that he might not return exampled in the lives of friends and neighbors lost.
Her resolve that emerges become central to the last stage of their lives together as Bernard is diagnosed with ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig Disease), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There is no cure.
There are heroes in this story.
Bernard’s military service and his support of comrades after the war, his bravery and leadership, his love for Sarajane is ageless, to be sure.
There are also quiet heroes, family members and friends upon whom both Bernard and Sarajane rely.
But the central hero is Sarajane herself. From her time as a girl in love she pushed through obstacles, both social, military and personal, to emerge face-to-face with herself to tell the tale of her love, her pilot, hero and husband.
She would probably not agree with this assessment, seeing herself as a companion and lover of a meaningful man.
But to call her a hero is not to diminish Bernard’s life, but to celebrate and understand it.
The title is the key: “My Pilot.”
My pilot: my hero, my guiding light, my teacher. Sarajane’s life reflects and celebrates what she learned.
The result is a life worth living and a story worth telling.
A note of transparency: This book was published by Imzadi Publishing, which is also my publisher. The cover was designed by Anita-Dugan-Moore, who has also designed my book covers, and I am a former newspaper colleague of Lorraine Ash, the editor of this book.