I went to Utah this week to surprise my daughter for her 30th birthday.
Gosh. That last sentence used to be just a simple statement, possibly followed by the reader thinking, “Awww…how sweet!” or hopefully something like, “No way! Summer couldn’t be old enough to have a 30 year old!” (Just kidding about that last one. Hee hee.)
These days, that “simple” statement is a potential eyebrow raiser. You traveled? Now? During Covid? Followed by a lot of questions about social distancing, mask discussions, airline safety policies, and hand washing.
Yes, I traveled to Utah, and I took God and Spirit with me. I really needed those travel companions, but not because of any fear of Covid or fear of flying. I’m one of those who has an irrational phobia of wearing a mask. When they became mandated months ago, the mere thought of having to wear one had me practically in the fetal position, trembling in fear, bawling like a baby. The mere thought triggered an unexpected PTSD episode that I never would have expected. It snapped me back to 30 years ago when I was being choked and smothered by my husband. And, yes, I was pregnant at the time. My friend, Jerry, had to talk me off the ledge. He got me laughing, and suggested that I practice at home with several types of masks. He said he would even hold my hand and guide me through my first masked excursion through the grocery store.
I practiced with several masks, even a homemade one, and each time began to tremble and hyperventilate. It felt like a hand over my mouth. I finally settled on a face shield as acceptable. And, yes, I’m quite aware that many people do not feel that a face shield is acceptable. Sedona’s restrictions are a bit more lax than elsewhere, and I discovered (by calling the airport and airline before my trip to Utah) to my great relief, that the airport and airline considered a face shield acceptable.
But, as I was saying, I went to Utah to surprise my daughter for her 30th birthday. Little did I know, this was really God’s way of getting me to run an important errand.
Before I left the house, I prayed to God and Spirit and asked them to please be with me, keep me calm and safe on the two hour drive to the airport, that the surprise birthday party would be a great success, and that my time with family would be filled with magic for me, my two daughters, granddaughter, and son-in-law.
The drive to Phoenix was a breeze. The airport security was fun to watch as the security guards struggled to ID each masked passenger by their eyes. I proceeded to take off my shoes according to the usual protocol, but a guard yelled out, “Don’t take off your shoes!” Apparently a new protocol was in place. I got through security and went into the bathroom, took one look at myself in the mirror and laughed. The face shield had scrunched my hair into a disheveled mass on top of my head. I looked frightening!
We boarded the airplane in groups of ten, but the ticket scanner didn’t work, and caution was suddenly thrown to the wind as we were instructed to simply state our name as we boarded.
Once on the plane, I shimmied my way to the back where I felt I would be less likely to be scrutinized by other passengers who might not like my face shield. I went to the last row, but it didn’t feel right. I moved up a row, but that just wasn’t right either. I moved up another row thinking that my behavior at this point was truly odd. I wanted an aisle seat, but was instructed by Spirit to sit next to the window, which I did.
Minutes later, the Captain announced that our plane would be transporting the remains of a fallen Veteran. The cabin became quiet and solemn as everyone stared out the window as the coffin (enclosed in a cardboard box) was ceremoniously loaded onto the plane. The ceremony took place right beneath the seat in which I was sitting, and I could see the young man’s name scrawled with a Sharpie: Lt Col Jeremiah Lohman. My heart felt heavy, and my eyes brimmed with tears as I prayed for him and his family. His soul was gentle, and he told me that he was traveling with his remains, and would stay with them until they were laid to rest. When we arrived in Utah, we were asked to remain seated and respectfully quiet as the soldier who accompanied Jeremiah’s remains disembarked. No one moved, some placed their hand over their heart, and others softly cried as everyone strained to see the coffin being unloaded. Jeremiah’s family stood on the tarmac hugging each other and crying. It was an interesting start to a trip where I was going to be celebrating a birthday.
My stay in Utah was magical. I had an absolutely wonderful time with my family. My daughter cried when she saw me, and everyone (myself included) cried when I left. I had to enter the airport alone and prove that I had a boarding pass. At the Salt Lake City airport everything was different. I had to remove my shoes, and was told a face shield was unacceptable. I was perplexed, but pulled out the most comfortable mask I’d bought and placed it over my face. With sweaty palms, slightly hyperventilating, I headed to the back of the plane, and plopped myself in the seat by the window, third row from the back, doing everything I could to calm myself. I felt like a fool, and envied those around me who donned their masks like some kind of cool fashion statement.
Well, the flight home to Arizona was strangely contrary to the flight to Utah. As we were about to land, the flight attendant asked if there was someone named Albert on board, and then asked us all to close our windows and hit our call buttons. She announced that it was Albert’s birthday, and the lights from the call buttons were his candles. She asked us all to sing Happy Birthday to Albert who was across from me in the back, wearing a makeshift birthday crown provided by the creative flight attendants. It was such a beautiful moment, seeing all of those sparkly lights in the darkened cabin, with all voices raised in honor of this young man. I thought, gosh, it’s great being human. I was no longer thinking about my mask.
Then, when we landed, as if she was speaking directly to me, the flight attendant quipped, “Please make sure you retrieve all of your carry on items. We don’t want you to leave any of your personal issues behind. Er…items. Yeah, personal items. That’s what I meant.” Everyone chuckled.
We’d landed more than 20 minutes early, and I was excited to get home to see my kitties. I wasn’t looking forward to the two hour drive, but bolstered myself for it as I made my way to my car. My car! Where the heck did I park? I wandered around the parking lot in the hot Phoenix weather for 20 minutes looking for my car. I was in the wrong parking structure. I went back into the airport, found the elevator, and finally found my car. I hit the button to unlock it, and it didn’t respond. I checked to make sure I was at the correct vehicle. Yup…the “Yay Bacon!” magnet was on the back of it. My battery was dead.
At this point, I kinda lost it. “You’d better make this right…and quick!” I grumbled to God and Spirit. I called my insurance company for roadside service. I was told that it would be more than an hour before someone would arrive to help me. “This is not acceptable,” I grumbled again to God and Spirit, “This was a magical trip. I expect it to be that way all the way home.” It popped into my head to call airport parking. The woman on the other end of the phone was awesome, and sent someone to my parking space to jump start my car. “He’ll be there in about 10 minutes,” she said.
By this time the sweat was pouring off of me, and I drank the Phoenix-heated water that I’d left in my car. Not even two minutes later I saw a white truck that seemed to have magically parked behind my car. I didn’t even hear it pull up! It just appeared. An adorable clean cut young man from airport parking smiled at me and said, “I can’t believe I found you so quickly! I just felt like this was the spot, and it was!” I could hear a woman jabbering at him on his headset. He laughed and said, “She thinks I don’t know where I’m going. She’s still trying to give me directions to get here!” He grabbed the device to jumpstart my car, and by this time I was feeling overjoyed by his sweet presence, beautiful smile, and kindness. I also began to fret because I wanted to give him a tip, but didn’t have any cash. He jumpstarted my car within seconds, stating over and over again, “Don’t ever get rid of this Subaru. These are the best cars and will last forever. You’d got a really good one here. Don’t ever get rid of it. Keep it forever.” He said this over and over as if it was some kind of commandment.
I suddenly realized that I had a couple of blank checks in the car. I grabbed one, and asked him, “What’s your name?” He said, “Kyle.” “What’s your last name?” He looked at me, perplexed, and I told him that I wanted to give him a tip, but that I needed to write a check. He blushed, and stammered, “Uh…wow…okay,” and gave me his last name. I wrote a generous check, double the amount that I originally thought to give him, as God told me the amount that he wanted to give to the young man.
I handed Kyle the check. Kyle’s eyes grew wide and almost teary as he gasped. “Really? Are you sure?” he asked. I nodded yes, and smiled.
“Ma’am, you have no idea how much this means right now.”
I smiled again, and these words popped out of my mouth: “Oh, I’m pretty sure I do. It would mean a lot to many people right now.” He looked at me, and we bonded silently and thoughtfully as the deeper awareness sunk in.
We said our goodbyes, and I hit the road basking in the beauty and wonder about that moment. I had a wonderful and peaceful drive home in heavy traffic, strangely surrounded by dozens of respectful and considerate drivers. I knew in my heart that I’d just run an errand for God. My trip from start to finish was truly magical after all.