I am always amazed at the intriguing people I meet on airplanes. It seems I have some type of magnetic chip in me that attracts the kind of people who have compelling stories. Today’s flight home from San Diego was no exception. I sat in the emergency exit row that had only two seats. No extra room than any of the other seats that are ridiculously crammed together, however, it gives the illusion of more room which I find comforting. Of course, I am also more confident in myself than any of the other passengers to respond calmly in the unlikely event of an emergency landing even if I do only weigh in at a whoppin’ 105 lbs. I’m confident that I could lift that door out in one fell swoop better than the rest!
As I am bending down under the seat to retrieve my book, she sits down. My eyes immediately landed on the necklaces hanging around her tiny neck and a mere question about them opened the book to her heart. This gregarious, energetic, 80 year old mother of 4 children proudly wore not one but 2 necklaces that boasted of her 10 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. Within moments, we were deep in her life story and shedding tears of joy and sorrow for the blessings and the losses she had experienced over the years. Holding hands we tipped our heads into one another as she shared of the heart ache at the loss of one of her daughters and her husband who she had been married to for 52 years. In all of the marraiges of her children and her children’s children there had been only one divorce. Remarkable…simply remarkable.
Darlene shared how she works out 3 time a week and that those times are sacred. She is devoted to helping 2nd graders one afternoon a week and shared how she couldn’t help falling in love with her students. A world traveler thirsty for more adventures- she shared that she had just returned from Egypt and was heading to Ethiopia soon. I could hardly keep up with her exceptional memory that could recall friends from grade school. She was flying to Kansas City to attend her 60th high school reunion and was busy writing her 1st book. She opened her heart, her life and her book. I asked questions and she shared from a cup that was overflowing with gratitude and joy for life. She has her sights set to make it to 100 strong, vibrant and joyful. She wants others to know that there is much to live for and hopes her life inspires others to get out there and start living.
As we exited the airplane, we were slowed down by a woman who, bless her heart, could barely make it off the plane and into a wheelchair. What a contrast to Darlene who walked off the plane with her back pack slung over her shoulder and a spring in her step. I helped her for a moment or two with her suitcase, but of course, she really had no need of my help. She was living life on her own two feet. Clearly life had not been perfect nor easy… as she described the devastating winter that was the impetus to move away from farming the harsh plains of Kansas to investing in real estate in New Mexico. We exchanged phone numbers, gave hugs and I promised to help coach her to complete her book entitled, Around the World in 80 Years. My hope is that she will finish this book and others for there are many who would be inspired by her life and her books.
Thank you, Darlene, for your tenacious, vibrant spirit that cheers us all on to live this amazing gift of life! I have no doubts, you will make it to 100 strong!