We were at Newark airport, on our way to Bellevue, Washington when I got the call. I was standing in a long line of passengers, waiting to go through security. Shya had been granted TSA Pre-check for this particular flight, so he was going through a shorter line elsewhere, with all our hand carry luggage. We were on the way to see my mom in the hospital as she had suddenly fallen very ill and the prognosis was grave.
“Hello.” I said in semi-hushed tones as I answered the phone. “Let me put in my earbuds.”
I took out my wireless earbuds and slid them in my ears wondering with trepidation what news my brother-in-law might have about Mom. We had already had a devastating conversation – one where we had been told to go ahead and bring funeral clothes. But I was still holding onto the hope that we would have more time.
“Ariel, I’m sorry to tell you your mom may have a procedure today, but she is so sick, she may not make it out of the operation,” he said.
I know we talked about more. I asked questions. I got answers. But all I recall now was being in a sea of strangers, feeling so alone and how I couldn’t do anything to make the situation better. I began to cry. I tried to control myself having the vague idea that security might not let a sobbing passenger through.
Shya awaited me, having cleared security faster than I. I fell apart, gasping, crying, the words coming out broken, like my heart. He led me to the side, an out of the way place in the busy airport, and held me as I cried. I found a tissue. I felt lost, bereft. This trip to see my mom had actually been planned months ago – a 10-day visit while Shya fished in Florida. But now we were going together and we may not get there soon enough.
As we stood together, privately lost in my grief, a light hand touched my shoulder. I turned to see a woman.
“I don’t know what you are going through,” she said, “but I hope it gets better soon.” Then she walked away, heading I suppose, to her gate.
It was like being touched by an angel – unexpected and unimaginably kind. It was as if her hand had cut through the fog of emotion, returning me to this moment. Arm around my shoulder, Shya and I walked to get a cup of coffee and then headed off to our airplane.
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. I even forgot from time-to-time where I was headed and what might await me. I found intimacy sitting next to my husband. I enjoyed a movie. I read. I ate some snacks. I was content to be where I was, knowing I wouldn’t get there a moment before I did. When I arrived, Mom was still with us and lucid. The time was deeply emotional and profound as we were with her for her final hours.
I remain grateful for that angel at the airport whose touch helped to return me to myself. I don’t know if she hesitated first, not wanting to intrude, but I’m glad she reached out. It was a reminder that even in the depths of despair there is kindness. It was also a tangible reminder that even among strangers we are not alone