A Ride For Life

, , , , , , | Hopeless | May 24, 2019

Near Christmas time, I was on my way from Southern California to Kalamazoo, Michigan to visit my family. This trip was extra special to me, because my older brother was in the last stages of battling stage-four lung cancer. Every second that we could spend together was precious, so I was very frustrated when my next flight at O’Hare Airport was delayed due to weather.

While waiting at the gate, I struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler who was making his way from New Orleans to spend his holidays with his family in the Kalamazoo area. Although he was several years younger than me, we knew a lot of the same places and activities around the area where we grew up and had a grand time talking about anything and everything. We talked about what had led each of us to leave Michigan and what our lives and careers in our current home states were like, and I told him about how much this trip to spend the holidays with my brother for what I knew was the last time meant to me.

As we talked, the weather conditions in the air apparently worsened — even though I don’t recall it snowing — the flight kept being delayed, and finally, late into the evening, it was cancelled altogether. The airline offered nothing in the way of relief, there were no cars available to rent, and the flight was rescheduled for the next morning, about eight hours away. We were stuck in O’Hare overnight.

Since it was quite late and near the holidays — most travelers apparently got on their flights successfully — there were few food outlets still open. My new friend and I walked and walked through the massive airport until we found a coffee place, grabbed some food, and found a bench where to settle for the duration. I called my brother and told him about the delay, and couldn’t help but cry a few tears of frustration. My friend called his dad and they talked for a little bit, and we continued our conversation. Even though by that point we had been talking for hours, we weren’t running out of things to say, and I found myself thinking that if I were a few years younger and he didn’t have a girlfriend, this was a special man I would like in my life.

A while later, his dad called back, and my friend’s face lit up at the conversation. He turned to me and said, “Would you like a ride home?” His father decided that since the weather issues delaying the flights weren’t ones that affected driving, he was going to drive the two and a half hours to come to get his son. I gratefully accepted, then called my brother to let him know. He went all protective big brother on me and questioned, “Are you sure this person is okay?” I unhesitatingly replied yes, and in due time, the father arrived and drove us back to Michigan. My friend was asleep in the car when we arrived at my brother’s place. I quietly thanked the father and went upstairs to where my brother was still waiting up for me at three am.

I never got my friend’s full name and I never gave him mine, yet my few hours’ connection with him is one I will cherish for life. That holiday was indeed the last time I got to see my brother, as he passed away after a two-and-a-half-year fight the following February.

N, if you see this and remember, thank you and bless you.

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