Thursday, 27 August 2009


I wrote a Thank You Note to the flight attendants. I felt compelled to after the fat American lady behind me made another snotty comment in her loud midwest accent.

Flight Attendant: What would you like to drink?

Snotty Lady: Water please

FA, nicely: Okay, I’m out it will be just one minute.

about 30 seconds pass while the FA helps the people across the aisle.

SL, a little louder and more than a little bit insistent: Can I HA-AVE some WATER?!?!

FA, still sweetly: Yes. I’m just waiting for it to come from the back. I’m out.

SL, 30 seconds later as she hands the FA back her water: I don’t like ice in my water!

FA says nothing. Takes the glass. Dumps the ice and refills it with tepid water.

SL: Thank yewe!

I heard it all and cringed. So I decided to write them a note.

Bridger loves planes. When we took off he grinned a huge grin and said, “We’re flying! I love flying! I didn’t expect to get to fly today! That’s a treat!”

I did actually expect to fly today. Scott had booked me a bereavement ticket to fly home to my Papa’s funeral. He’s been battling cancer and had slipped into a coma Saturday night. Sunday night he passed away, peacefully. With my mom, his only daughter, by his side.

But here I am. Flying not towards Oklahoma City where I planned to honor the life of an old man sick with cancer who we knew was on his way home soon, but instead to Denver, CO, to honor a young man who suddenly, inexplicably, is gone.

It’s funny, Bridger’s comment about flying because in the wake of such tragic circumstances he’s so cheerful. Seeing the sliver lining. “We get to have an adventure today! That’s fun!” Finding the adventure and fun is just what I imagine Sawan would have done. He was always a glass half-full kind of a guy.

This morning as I ran to ask a neighbor to look after the house and mail while we were away Caid approached Scott. The tears flowed as he fretted about never being able to learn to surf. He had always planned to learn from Uncle Sawan.

Sawan loved to surf. He grew up in Hawaii and always had great stories to tell about life on the islands. Picking pineapples when they were ripe (apparently they turn a bit orangey-brown on the outside). Scaring his mom to death when he fell asleep on a bus the first time his mom let him go alone and rode it all the way past the end of the line--to the other side of the mountain--before he’d realized his mistake. Swim team escapades. A bad jeep accident. Hilarious 80s hairdos.

He and Caid had a special connection, and I always assumed there’d be a lot of things he’d learn from Uncle Sawan. They looked similar. Their hair faded to the same brownish/blonde with frosty tips when they’d been in the sun. They had the same brown suntanned tone to their skin. They both loved to cook. They both love all things water. Sawan was an amazing fly fisherman. Pulling as many as 30 fish out of holes from which other guys could only coax a few. I’ve watched him do it. On my 30th birthday a bunch of folks threw a surprise party for me at a cabin in Montana. Sawan helped Caid catch some fish and showed him how to pull them out of the water and even let him hold one. One of my favorite Caid photos is of that weekend. Proudly holding a fish, standing in the creek with his Uncle Sawan.

One of the pride and joys of the last few years for Sawan was the weekend he spent volunteering for Casting for Recovery. His mama died of breast cancer a few years ago. As a son of a single mom he was so close to her and you knew the pain was still so fresh. His eyes would sparkle and light up as he told story after story of his weekends with the women recovering from breast cancer and how he’d help them land a huge fish.

He always had his digital camera with him and like a true fisherman he loved to tell fish stories and show the photos of the fish he’d caught on his latest early morning trek to the mountain streams. But it was those photos of the sweet ladies in pink hats he was always the proudest of. Holding up their fish with him standing beside them in his waiters. I wept this morning as Caid buried his head in my chest and said, “Oooooohhhh! Now I’ll never learn to fish.” May that not be true. May Sawan’s legacy and passion for fly fishing live on.

I loved to cook with Sawan. We’d stand in my mom’s kitchen and berate her lack of good knives and garlic and laugh and tell stories and improvise great dinners or brunches. Adding funny gluten free ingredients to thicken the gravy. Making fancy deviled eggs. Kick ass salads. Damn that man could make a good salad.

It felt from day one that Sawan had always been apart of our family. His passion. His hilarious story telling--a favorite pastime of us Hoggatts. He fit. I loved him very much. I remember the relief and excitement I felt one night as the topic turned to birth--my particular passion--and he began to relate stories of his own Hippie midwife mama. He attended a lot of births with her, and he’d back up what I know sometimes feels to the rest of my family like my mad assertions. It was such a special connection with him. But then again it wasn’t hard to connect with Sawan. He was always so open. So honest. So real about his life and his journey--the good parts and the bad.

So it made sense to me today, as I heard Snotty Lady berate the Flight Attendant to write a little note. Just to say thanks for smoothing the journey. For bringing me extra water when my buckets of tears left me really dehydrated. For being sweet to my boys. For doing what they do. What I imagine Sawan’s mama would have done.

She was a flight attendant. I loved the stories he’d tell about trips they’d take to crazy far off places. I always thought it was cool to hear about the tickets she’d get him for cheap when he got older and the exotic places he went. The coffee he’d drink at a little hut on some distant beach. The seedy hotel that allowed him to stretch his money a little further and stay a little longer.

I imagine they’re up there right now. Visiting exotic reaches of heaven. Laughing, telling stories. And I can’t wait to someday hear about all the fish he’s catching with the ultimate Fisherman of all.

If you'd like to learn more about Sawan, attend his funeral, or make a donation to his memorial fund please visit