If you’ve been following my blog, you may have wondered if I got washed away this past weekend while trying to change out a faucet. The answer would be no; the kitchen sink got a temporary reprieve from my assault. A last minute change of plans means I’ll have to tackle that project another time – perhaps this coming weekend.
Instead I found myself on an unexpected trip “home” for the weekend. Although we have been gone for nearly 17 years, it is still the place with which my husband and I have strong ties and an extended network of loved ones. Signs of my husband filled the trip, and I know he was with me all along the way. Time spent with my mother, family and friends mean I returned to my current home emotionally recharged, knowing how many people are truly in my corner.
Two things became extremely apparent on the journey, though. A was pointing the way with a series of 22s to light my path and the speed and intensity of my tears seems to be in direct correlation to the outpouring of love from others and the nicer someone is to me, the quicker and more powerful the crying jag it creates. Especially if the sympathy comes from an unexpected or unknown source.
My first flight was a short one, but it was delayed by the time I got to the airport. As it kept getting pushed back, the window for my connecting flight got smaller and smaller. When I spoke to a ticket agent asking about it, he told me there were about a dozen of us in the same situation. He believed it was still possible to make the connection, but that another plane would be making the same route a few hours later in case I didn’t. I asked him if there might be a seat closer to the front of the plane as I was close to the rear of the aircraft and wanted to shave as much time as possible off my (presumed) airport dash to catch my connection. He looked into it and said, “Well, I’ve got row 22. It’s not much closer, but it does save you a few rows. Would you like that one?”
I simply smiled, nodded, and thought to myself “Row 22…naturally. Thanks, honey”, and got my ticket for seat 22C. I watched the minutes tick away until the flight finally began boarding, called my mother from the tarmac saying it was highly likely that I would miss my connection and be in later than originally thought, and I would call her from the next stop.
Midway through the flight, the woman next to me began asking questions, saying she had heard me speaking to my mother, “How old is she? Are you going for a vacation?” and through a brief interaction during which she probably thought I was rude and dismissive (when in actuality, I was simply trying not to cry), she finally learned of my husband’s passing. She immediately became sympathetic and said in a sweet Southern voice, “Oh, honey, I am so sorry! Can I pray for you?”
I could only nod because her kindness had set off the waterworks, and she bowed her head and quietly prayed for us. To that point, I had been keeping it together fairly well, mostly by focusing on the particulars of the trip. This has generally been my most successful coping mechanism – compartmentalization. Although typically thought of as a male attribute, I’ve always been quite good at separating different aspects of my life, and I’ve found that this ability has come in quite handy as of late.
This is quite different from neglect or avoidance – I’m not stashing my feelings away in an attempt not to deal with reality. Quite the opposite; I am simply choosing the “best” time for me to work through my grief. Truthfully, it doesn’t always help, and there are always moments of random, unexpected heartache but without this strategy, I would be a complete wreck and unable to function in even the simplest of ways.
But I’ve always believed in angels on Earth, and people being put in your path at the right time for the right reason. Obviously this kind woman was meant to sit next to me, strike up a conversation, and pray with me. So, despite the fact that I temporarily “lost it” due to her compassionate act, I am grateful to the woman in seat 22A, and I’m sorry I never got her name.
The plane touched down with less than 20 minutes to spare before takeoff on my next flight and after an agonizingly slow cruise to the gate and an even more maddeningly slow deplaning process, I rushed from one terminal to another and boarded literally seconds before the door shut and we pulled away from the gate. The rest of the flight was uneventful and before I knew it we touched down in my home state. Rolling through the maze of runways, I looked out my window, saw another 22, and snapped a photo.
When I got to the terminal itself, I asked for directions to the car rental desk. The man at the Information Booth pointed out the door and said, “A shuttle runs right by here. Take route 22.” I almost didn’t believe my hearing and asked him to repeat it. (I didn’t get a chance to snap a photo of the shuttle bus stop until I was heading back to the airport, but I got one.)
The drive to my mom’s was filled with 22s and 222s everywhere I looked. Then that song came on and I started a conversation with my husband. (Yes, I do this. Talking out loud to my husband helps because it is “normal”. We’ve had so many car trips and conversations over the years, I couldn’t begin to count them.) In essence, I told him “OK. OK. I get it. I’m where I’m supposed to be. But if you really want to make an impression, how about showing me an AG22?” I figured the 22s could be rationalized away, but if I saw one together with his initials, it wouldn’t be quite so easy to dismiss. In less than 10 minutes (and probably closer to 5), a car drove by with a license plate that began with 22GA. I just shook my head and said, “you always have to do things your way, don’t you?” I figured that he wanted to send me a comforting thought, but just couldn’t do it exactly as I had asked.
The remainder of the weekend (which truth be told was just over a day excluding travel time) was spent laughing, crying and remembering a man who made a serious impact on those who knew him best. Cardinals and 22s abounded, including the date, and he even got my friends involved, showing them 22s, as well. Although it was extremely difficult at times, it was also another rung in the healing process, and with all the signs of A that I saw along the way, I know he was with me and guiding me every step of this journey of a thousand 22s.
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