It turns out that your neighbor on the plane/bus/train (or the person sitting at the next table at the coffee shop) is a very, very chatty tourist. Do you try to switch seats, go for a non-committal brief small talk, or make this person your new best friend?
A little better than a week ago I was on a plane to Detroit.
The day before a call was received from hospice care; it was likely my mother would not live beyond three or four days. Tickets were purchased for the next day.
Early the next day a niece called; she said it was not likely I could make it home before Mom died. She handed Mom the phone. I told her I would see her later and she should just relax. I told her I loved her and that was the end of the conversation. Ten minutes later my niece called back, Mom died three minutes after saying goodbye.
The flight would be somber, filled with memories, tears, and grief.
The plane flew from Boise to Denver where a connection was made for a flight from there to Detroit.
On the flight to Detroit a woman sat next to me. Before the plane was airborne she asked my final destination.
“Detroit,” I said sensing a chatty flight.
She forced a smile. “Me too. Visiting family?”
“Sort of,” I said. “My mother passed this morning.”
Her face lost expression.
“Is something wrong?” I said.
“I’m going to Detroit for my son’s funeral,” she said. “I’m so sorry about your mother.”
“She was 100,” I said. “She had a good life. How old was your son?”
“29,” she said.
My mourning could not possibly be as much as hers.
“Tell me about him,” I said.
And she did.
Towards the end of the flight I shared a couple of comforting scriptures from the Bible. The reality is that by listening to her and the scriptures read, I was the one comforted. (Job 14; Acts 24:15; Revelation 21:3, 4)