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Eat, Cry, and Worship Your Way Through

Eat, Cry, and Worship Your Way Through

As I waited in line to check into the hotel, the woman next to me smiled pleasantly. I remember her dressed in warm and welcoming orange colors that seemed to easily exude happiness and peace. We began chatting and found that our flights had both been cancelled due to the current nor’easter on the east coast. Her new flight was due to leave the following morning en route to Philadelphia. After checking in and receiving our keys, we learned that our rooms were next to one another and parted ways.

After relaxing a short while in my room, I went down to the hotel’s restaurant, which seemed pretty busy. The people I was traveling with were all sitting with others and most of the tables were taken. The first seat I saw available was with the pleasant woman I had met in line at the front desk. Walking over to her, I asked if she wouldn’t mind my sitting with her. She was happy to oblige and after sitting down I extended my hand to introduce myself. Her name was Hester. Feeling suddenly famished at the smell and sight of her salmon, I tried to order the same but was told that she had ordered the last serving that night. She instantly looked at me apologetically and commented on my put-together appearance, asking me what I did for a living. Feeling hungrier than ever, tired, and worn down, I laughed at her silly compliment and admitted to wanting nothing more than a plate of food and a soft bed after hours spent at the airport and finding transportation to the hotel. Still, we both agreed that it could have been worse and that Swiss Air had done a wonderful job in securing comfortable, complimentary accommodations for us, here in Zurich, due to the cancelled flights.

Hester began telling me of life with her husband in Rome and, after my insisting that she could have only crossed the globe and moved to Rome on account of love, admitted to being guilty of just that. She and her husband offered soccer coaching for American and international youth in Rome. She was headed to Philadelphia for her father’s 80th birthday celebration. When I asked about her mother, Hester suddenly began to shiver as her eyes welled up with unstoppable tears. She quietly whispered that her mother had passed away—last night. Can you imagine the utter shock I was in? Instantly sympathetic, I asked her how she could be traveling alone such a far distance, but she began assuring me that it would all be okay and that her mother had transitioned to a better place now. Her faith sounded so unshakeable and inspiring to me. She recounted how her mother had left this earth, surrounded by those she loved and that it couldn’t get any better than that.

Humbled instead of angered by her mother’s passing, Hester opened up about her and her husband’s committed love for God and how they strived to connect with Him more each day. They were both sure that God had never left Hester’s mom, and I agreed with that. I told her that we must choose faith even when we don’t believe it; that being a living testimony to our faith is not just preaching it to others, but, rather, knowing that despite all odds or circumstances, He is with us. The flood gates opened then as Hester began to grieve and unravel before me. As I reached across the table to lock hands with her, she repeatedly apologized for breaking down in front of me—a total stranger—but I assured her that this moment was meant to be. Even when our faith is firm and resolute, God understands that by pure human nature we grieve for the physical loss of those He has put in our earthly life. I asked her her mother’s name and if she had any photos with her. She flipped open her iPad and we sat together and reminisced over old and recent photos of her mother with family and friends, in her garden, and with her beloved pets. Hester looked exactly like her mother.

When she apologized again, I squeezed her hand and reminded her that it is an honor and joy to love your neighbor as yourself, and she was my neighbor. We are all human and no one is exempt of the trials in life—we are all coming out of, living through, or headed toward something and it helps to share that burden. People have wiped my tears (some of whom I did not know) and comforted me with unconditional love and no judgment—how could I treat someone in need any differently? We all have to hold on as the world turns and realize that absolutely everything is recycled—both the good and the bad.

As I reached across the table to lock hands with her, she repeatedly apologized for breaking down in front of me—a total stranger—but I assured her that this moment was meant to be.

As we sat looking over photos together, Hester told me that it was her hope to travel to her father’s birthday party and meet with her siblings to settle the details. She opened a small box containing memorabilia, showing me what she was bringing back to her siblings: the Bible her mother kept next to her bed, a locket, a book holder engraved with the serenity prayer, and a few other small items. Without realizing it, over an hour had passed and I no longer felt worn down and tired. Hester and I had exchanged so many memories and stories, of both heartache and healing. In the midst of losing her mother, Hester and I were able to eat, cry, and express gratitude. Before parting that night, Hester thanked me profusely and told me that I had been an angel.

I marveled at the workings of what we consider a spontaneous moment and what God calls His plan. To Hester, I was an angel; to me, I simply felt like an instrument playing the melody directed by God. In doing so, I was able to receive the many gifts that Hester had given to me in return.

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Saffron won’t be kept down, she’s a survivor that lives to embrace the unknown of tomorrow!

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