I recently received a very special message from an important contributor to my book, which I dedicated to “Ralphie.” I mailed Glenda Summers, his mother, several autographed copies from the local post office, not knowing when it would be delivered. Two days ago, I heard back from Glenda. The note she sent is much appreciated and causes me to believe that her son knows, somehow, that his short life made a difference.

If you’ve followed my story, you know that this young patient, Ralphie, slipped away at eight years of age in the San Tan Mountains in 1984 after he sustained injuries in a rollover accident. Try as I might, I could not save him. The pain and frustration haunted me, and his passing inspired my journey from flight nurse to entrepreneur.

After receiving her signed copy, Glenda responded with the most wonderful words imaginable:

Joan, I received the books yesterday. Thank you, and yesterday was Ralphie’s birthday. Odd, isn’t it, or his way of letting us know he’s still with us.

I, too, sense that Ralphie is still with us nearly forty years later.  I think of him often. Never before or since have I experienced such heartbreak as he grabbed the collar to my flight suit, pulled me toward him, and said his last words: “I love you.” Those words weren’t meant for me. They were meant for his mother, Glenda. I was able to share his message with her in the days after his passing, and then reconnected nearly forty years later as I wrote my autobiography. Her contribution appears in Chapter One.


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