‘My oldest is 27…would be 27.’ My heart felt like breaking right there in line.’: Mom shares emotional moment with airport employee

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“Two minutes at the ticket counter.

That is all it took to remind me.

We were checking Lily in for a flight and there was a little issue with her ticket. It was so stressful and people were rushing everywhere and everyone seemed on edge.

We had to rush back to the counter and it turned out her birthday and Ellie’s were tangled up, and as the lovely woman helping us untangled it, she told me she had 9 kids, so things like this happened all the time. This woman had such a calm, unrushed spirit, so I took a breath and we started chatting, despite the line of travels growing impatient behind us.


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‘Nine kids, I’m so jealous. I have 5 and I wish there were more. I’d love to parent kids for so much longer.’

‘Yes, it’s great,’ she replied. ‘My oldest is 27…would be 27. We lost her 7 years ago.’

My heart felt like breaking right there in the line. One minute ago she was the lady at the ticket counter.

Now we were just both moms, bound by the love for our children and the understanding of a mother’s heart.

‘I am so sorry, that is just terrible,’ I said, knowing these words were not adequate but hoping she would know they came from my heart.

The line behind us melted away and we stopped and just listened as she continued.

‘She was the one that made me a mom, it was so terrible. It was out of the blue. She had an asthma attack, and had never had asthma in her life.’

I was brought back to something I had said to Lily in the car on the way to the airport as I was telling her all the ways to stay safe on her trip. ‘You are covered for the things I’ve already worried about, but the problem is it’s the things we don’t know to worry about that sneak up on us.’

I found myself repeating this to the woman at the counter.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I never dreamed that would happen. And it happened at Christmas, the holidays were so hard, we didn’t get a tree for the next few years. We are getting better though. It’s just taking time.‘

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘You have 8 others that needed you, that’s so hard and also a blessing.’

‘Yes, so you just keep going. Each day. My youngest is just 11, so there’s that. And…here is your ticket, you are all set to go. Have a great trip.’

I was reluctant to walk away. I felt every bit of that moment and wanted her to know her story wasn’t lost on us.

‘Thank you for sharing your story with us,’ I said.

Like a weirdo, I stopped and I gave her the air blessing I give my kids before they leave, tracing a cross in the air and I told her she would be in my prayers. But she had shared her story, so I dared to be a little weird right there in the airport, knowing I was still way less brave than she was.

She quietly thanked me as the next two people in line stepped up and I don’t think it was just my imagination that not one passenger who had heard our conversation was a bit impatient at all. The line was quietly waiting now without a word.

Two minutes at the ticket counter.

Because you never, ever know what is in someone’s heart.

You never, ever know the story of a stranger if you just walk on by.

And I think we need to remember every single person has a story. You may never get to know it, but at the very least you need to know it’s there and that these stories bind us together as humans.

When we open up, when we listen, we see how connected we are.

We love our children. We love our parents. We love our friends. We have wonderful moments. We suffer loss. We long to share our stories, we long to be heard.

Right now, the world needs more listeners. The world needs more people who seek to understand. The world needs more people that see how we are connected. The world needs more people who are brave enough to tell their stories and the world needs us to receive these stories with love and open hearts.

Because in the end, we just have each other.

Two minutes. That is all it takes to really listen and understand another.

Even when we’re rushing through life, we have two minutes.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hiding in the Closet with Coffee by Amy Betters-Midtvedt.

Mom snaps photo as her daughter waves and leaves in the airport
Courtesy of Amy Betters-Midtvedt

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