Today I had a woman on one of my flights who seemed tired and unfriendly. Not snarly-type unfriendly, just sort of non-responsive when the other flight attendants and I spoke to her during the flight.
When one of the other flight attendants asked her if she would like something to drink, she just shook her head and turned away without a word.. The younger flight attendants were in the back galley, complaining about how rude she was. I can't fault them for that because, as in ALL customer service jobs, customers who don't acknowledge that we are real human beings are sometimes hard to take, especially when we are really trying to make their experience with us be a good one.
But, for me, one of the most wonderful things about growing older is the realization that things are not always what they seem to be, that rushing into judgement about someone can be unkind, unfair and unwarranted, and that a little patience and tolerance goes a long way sometimes.
I was still in the back galley, talking to the two younger flight attendants about not taking it personally, when the woman walked into the galley. She stood for a moment, saying nothing, not going into the lav, not asking us for a drink or doing any of the usual things passengers do when they come to the galley.
She seemed unsteady all of a sudden. I asked her if she felt ill. She began sobbing silently. And I don't mean fragile, feminine sniffling. Her shoulders were heaving, she wasn't making a sound, and she was obviously in complete emotional hell. She leaned against the galley counter and stretched her hand out to me (I was the only one left in the galley; the two younger girls had fled in the face of such raw emotion). I took her hand and said, "What is wrong and what can I do?"
And the woman sobbed, "My daughter is dead. She was killed on a ski slope in Jackson Hole yesterday. I don't think I can live through this". There was no way I could alleviate her agony, and giving her kleenex and a cup of water was so pitifully inadequate. I put my arms around her as she cried like a baby. She told me that her daughter was 28, studying to be a physician's assistant, was beautiful and vibrant and full of life. She told me that she was on her way to Jackson Hole (our flight was from Orlando to Denver) and that she didn't think she was strong enough to help her two other children, who were there on the ski slope with their sister when they saw her hit a tree during a snow slide.
My God. What do you say to someone in that kind of pain? I have five beautiful children of my own, aged 26 through 35. I can't even process the kind of pain that the death of one of my children would cause in me.
Why am I telling this story? Because when there are beautiful, healthy young people with bright futures that die under sudden tragic circumstances HOW IN THE HELL can any of us continue to CHOOSE to die, slowly, bit by bit, by putting poisons into our own bodies????
My heart was breaking, and there was nothing I could do to ease her pain. How could ANY of us ever have thought that it was okay to smoke poisonous cancer sticks and MAKE ourselves die?