The Stranger

“The Chair” © R.L. Herron

“A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.”   ~ Will Rogers

I haven’t written now in a month. My wife and I were busy being entertained by our two lovely grandchildren. Our flight down to visit them was made memorable by an old woman we had never met before. I was reminded of the subtle truth in that phrase attributed to Will Rogers.

The old woman was in the window seat in the row ahead of us, directly in front of my wife. She was tiny, white-haired, frail and bent, and obviously in a great deal of distress.

She kept wringing her hands and ceaselessly wailing, “I shouldn’t be here!  This isn’t right! I’m in the wrong place!”

Naturally, she garnered a great deal of attention, most of it in stares that said please don’t tell me she’s going to do that the whole trip.

The steward checked her boarding pass and, except for being in the wrong seat, she was on the correct flight for her destination. He checked the picture and phone number she had on a card around her neck and tried to assure her she was all right, but still she wailed.

“Let me off!  I have to get off at Wayne!” She kept up this mantra as the plane filled and then took off.

Now, my wife is a kind and empathetic soul. She kept trying soothe the old woman in front of her. She patted the old woman’s shoulder and promised her everything was all right. In fact, she made us both promise to stay with her until she met whomever was supposed to receive her at our destination.

But the old woman grew ever more agitated after take-off and the poor steward was noticeably at wit’s end. My wife suddenly stood up and told me, “I’m going to sit in that empty seat beside her.”

And she did.

For the remainder of the three hour flight my wife sat there. She talked softly to the old woman and held her hand. The old woman was still upset, but no longer wailing and terrified. The steward offered my wife “coffee, tea, anything at all” he was so grateful. The rest of the plane seemed not to notice.

When we landed, we stayed on the plane with the old woman until everyone else had departed and a steward arrived with a wheelchair to assist her.

We wanted to head off on our own, but the old woman would not let go of my wife’s hand. So, we walked alongside her as the steward pushed the wheelchair. Another woman who had been on the plane with us said, “You know she was in the wrong seat, don’t you?” I nodded, and she continued, “It must have been so she could be near you. Your wife’s her guardian angel.”

We walked with the old woman until we met her son. The steward left. He looked relieved. She asked my wife to please stay with her. My wife softly told her she couldn’t, but it was OK now. We had helped her find her son, now we had to find ours.

“I don’t know what I would have done without a friend like you,” the old woman said. “Thank you.”

It was then the Will Rogers quote popped into my head. I’ve always known my wife is a lovely, generous woman, with a big heart. I am very proud of her. That day she was indeed an angel and, in the truest sense, a friend.



2 Responses to “The Stranger”

  1. ed markowski Says:

    very good … the story … the blog !

    Want you & ML to know that we ‘d like to do
    another double date thing


    Liked by 1 person

  2. joseph lawrence Says:


    Great story. You guys were truly saints (guardian angels) to that airline passenger. We need more of that caring commitment in our ever-detatched “all-about-me” society.

    Liked by 1 person

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