You sat next to me on Thursday evening.
I was beside the window, purposely, so I could go to sleep. And you sat next to me and you took out your Kindle, and we were silent while people hurried to find their seats around us.
I forget who smiled first. Probably you, because I had a plan to go to sleep and I really wasn’t in the mood for talking. But you smiled, so I gave you a smile in return because I didn’t want you to think me rude, and you asked me where I was going so I told you.
The honest truth is, I didn’t want you to ask me any more questions. I was tired, you know? Tired, and I think a bit nervous, but I was trying hard not to dwell on that. I leaned my head back against the chair and I thought about closing my eyes if only to give you the hint.
But then you looked at me and you looked so kind. I kept my eyes open.
You asked me, “What do you do?”
With that seemingly unimportant question you gave me options for my life. What did I do? I thought for a moment, weighing the syllables heavy between my lips. I could tell you anything. A barista, a student, a daughter, a sister. An astronaut, a ballerina, a botanist, a child prodigy.
I told you I’m a writer.
“What do you write?”
She believed me! I thought. You didn’t even question if I was a real writer or not. You made me feel less like a fraud.
I told you how I’m scratching out words for a novel, and I explained my blog and (in)courage, and then you asked me what I wrote about. Before I realized what I was saying, I heard myself explaining about my mom.
“She was sick.” I told you. “But God healed her. I wrote a little about that.”
I saw your face and I knew. Because you were looking at me in that way and I knew you knew cancer, too.
I waited for you to tell me about it. I wasn’t so tired anymore.
“I was sick as well,” you said. “Three years ago. I actually had cancer twice. The second time it came back six months after the first, but God healed me too.”
You’ve had a hard few years. You talked to me about how you miscarried the day you were first diagnosed. You’re only thirty-five years old.
You have a good husband, and you love God, and now you have beautiful 5-month-old twin girls. You told me their names, and one is the same as my older sister. You and I laughed, and I felt tears sneak into my eyes a few times during that airplane ride. It was dark, so you couldn’t see. Although I’m sure you wouldn’t have been surprised.
You’re lovely and extraordinary and kind. You should know that.
And lovely, extraordinary people do still exist, let me tell you, even though somedays I have forgotten that. But you reminded me. And without knowing it, you have extended me a hope beyond which I ever thought could be extended.
I hope you rock your precious girls to sleep tonight, and I hope they grow up knowing how remarkable you are. I hope your husband kisses you often, and I hope he makes you laugh so hard tears slip down uncontrollably. I hope you continue trusting God who loves you more than anyone, and I hope you keep telling your story — your beautiful, painful, extraordinary story.
Thank you, at least, for telling me.