A Surprise Encounter at the Airport Brings Her Comfort

A grieving mother almost misses her flight; then an old friend shows up. 

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Woman walking through airport in sunlight (Getty Images)

I was going to miss my flight.

I was at Myrtle Beach International Airport in South Carolina, waiting to fly out to Michigan and then New York, where two days earlier my 44-year-old daughter, Laurie, had died of a heroin overdose. I had lost my 45-year-old son to the same drug a year and a half earlier. Shock and heartbreak couldn’t begin to describe what I was feeling.

I already had my boarding pass when I got to the airport, but something nudged me to go to the ticket counter to check on my flight before I went through security. The agent told me my connecting flight to Michigan was delayed three hours, my flight to New York by another two hours.

“Please,” I told the ticket agent. “I just want to get to my family in New York. Is there anything you can do?”

“I have one seat left on a direct flight to LaGuardia Airport in New York City,” she said. “But it leaves in five minutes. Hurry!”

I raced through security. But in my haste, I completely forgot the gate number the ticket agent had told me. Now I stood frozen in place, staring at the departures board, feeling so lost and overwhelmed that I burst into tears. What else could possibly go wrong?

Just then, I felt a pair of arms wrap around me in a huge bear hug. What on earth? I turned around to find a man who was about my kids’ ages. He was beaming at me. “Hi, Mary-Ann!” he said.

He looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him.

“It’s me, Eric,” he said. “From the prayer group?”

Eric. I vaguely remembered him from a prayer group I belonged to, though we’d never really talked much. I certainly didn’t have time for chitchat now!

“I’m sorry, I have to go,” I said. “I’m going to miss my flight—I have to get to LaGuardia!”

“Wait,” Eric said. “That’s my flight too. Come with me.”

He led me to the gate, and we boarded just in time. We didn’t get a chance to talk much more, though. He was seated in a different part of the plane.

When we arrived at LaGuardia, I had to wait for my ride—I hadn’t had time before the flight to notify my family about the change in plans.

“I’m on my way to Texas for work,” Eric said. “Want to quickly grab some coffee while I wait for my connecting flight?”

We sat on a bench. I told Eric why I was in New York. How my daughter Laurie had died, just as my son had less than two years before. Eric’s face fell. He grew quiet.

“I never got to tell you this,” he said, “but I knew your son. We were in a recovery group together. I’ve been sober from drugs for 20 years, but I still go to meetings. That’s where I met your son. He always talked about his daughter, how much he loved her.”

Both my kids had been so loving and kind, good souls beneath their terrible addictions. It felt good to remember that.

“May I pray with you?” Eric asked. I nodded weakly. Together we prayed for Laurie and for me to be strong in the coming days.

I got up to go. “I’m so glad you were here,” I said.

“Funny you should say that,” Eric said. “When I booked this flight, I was so irritated that I had to go through New York just to get to Texas from South Carolina. Typical airlines, I thought. But obviously there was a reason....”

The airlines might have been delayed that day, but God’s timing was perfect

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