In 1986 we saw the release of the movie "Top Gun." It starred Tom Cruise as the character "Maverick", and Anthony Edwards as "Goose." There was a full line up of blockbuster actors in that movie, including Val Kilmer as "Iceman."
This blog is not meant to be a movie review, although I highly recommend seeing "Maverick" as it is one of the best movies I have ever seen! With that being said, I intend to draw out an emotion that many that watch that movie will gloss over. That is the element of grief that Maverick is still experiencing 36 years after his friend Goose was killed. Allow me to step back in time to 1986 when the first movie was filmed.
In the original Top Gun movie, we see that Maverick is a hot shot pilot. Iceman accused him of being reckless, and at first did not like flying with him. There is such irony in this relationship, as they become lifelong friends and battle buddies. However, on one fateful day, Maverick and Goose were on a training mission and flew too close to the jet wash of another plane. When they ejected out, Goose hit the canopy and broke his neck. The hurt that Maverick experienced was unexplainable. He had to go confront Carole, Goose's wife played by Meg Ryan, and explain to her what had happened. If you remember, Tom Cruise played the part well in being so choked up with grief that he didn't know what to say to her. That whole first movie is about his overcoming grief, when he was at the point of giving up his career and not graduating with his Top Gun class. He overcomes his grief (or so we are led to believe) at the conclusion of a successful mission towards the end of the movie. It is at this point that we see Maverick on the aircraft carrier with Goose's dog tags in his hand.
Oh, that moment of consternation you can see from the pictures I have attached above. We all remember seeing him contemplate throwing those dog tags off the tail of the aircraft carrier, while the wind was blowing in his face. This was his moment to "move on" from his grief and loss. This was his moment where he could put aside his hurt and frustration of blaming himself for his best friend's death. Oh, the freedom and liberty we saw in Maverick at that moment where he could finally move on and not have to deal with death anymore. After all, all of his friends and fellow Top Gun pilots around him are all telling him to move on and not be so hard on himself. They are all telling him that it is not his fault. Well, we see 36 years ago a demonstration in an hour and fifty-minute movie of how grief settles into a person's life, and how it is resolved all in less than 2 hours. What a great life example!
OR WAS IT??? NOPE
Fast forward 36 years, and Tom Cruise again returns to the screen as Pete "Maverick." The entirety of this movie shows Maverick wresting with his grief and allowing himself to heal a little more. To forgive himself for the accident that killed Goose all those years ago, but also for a decision to keep Goose's son out of the Air Force Academy at his mother's request. The entirety of this movie shows him confronting his grief through emotions of anger, doubt, fear, frustration, rejection, love, and self-pity. He is functional in going about his life, but one can argue that this is a life-long journey he has and will be on. We see a particular part in the movie when Maverick goes to visit his dying friend, Iceman. Ice happens to be an Admiral, and we see portrayed that Ice was his biggest supporter over the past 36 years when others wanted to give up on him. Ice knew what Maverick was going through, as he also was a battle buddy of Goose's. He could empathize with the grief that Maverick was holding on to. It wasn't really as much about Ice encouraging Maverick to let go of his grief, as much as to experience Post Traumatic Growth.
In summation, I wrote this as I can see the world spinning around me not stopping to understand some of the basic concepts of life. There is Birth, Life, and Death. We celebrate the first event every year when our birthdays come around. We forget to celebrate living, until death happens, and through tears we hold a "Celebration of Life" service. I am wanting to bring awareness to others that we can celebrate that in-between in the here and now. I want to celebrate life to its fullest every day. My breath is a gift from God, and I acknowledge that life sucks at times, but I still celebrate life. As a society that gets such lessons of life from movies that we watch, I found it important to parallel these two movies that were 36 years apart. I thought Tom Cruise did an excellent job at portraying in his face emotionally all of the mileage that grief has taken on him through the years. Through awareness, I tackle the naive comments that others have made to me over the last 19 months since my first-born sons passing: "Oh you are still dealing with that?" "You need to stop going out to the cemetery, he isn't there." "At least you have two other children." "Time heals everything (after all in the first Top Gun movie we saw it all wrapped up in a bow in under 2 hours)." "At least you will get to see him again in heaven." "You just need to stop dwelling on David and move on." "Oh, I didn't want to say anything to you, out of fear of triggering something." All of these naive (I am being very kind in not calling them "Stupid Comments") I have learned to show grace in, as the giver just doesn't understand. I used to make the same comments to others. So, my ask of you today is to invest into others' lives. Come alongside of them even if it is messy. Love on them and omit the comments and judgement. The greatest gift you can give somebody is the Gift of Presence. Not Presents (although those are nice too) but just being there and present. And if you are the one needing to receive this, it is my hope that you can ask for help and somebody to love on you.
I am including the YouTube video of the Lady Gaga theme song for the movie Maverick, "Hold My Hand" as it is just a kick-butt song that I love!!!
Gregory T. Jacobs
Just a man who is humbly trying to walk this path of life and leave it a little better place with God's help!