A gift from a stranger

“When you live your life with an appreciation of coincidences and their meanings, you connect with the underlying field of infinite possibilities. This is when the magic begins.” – DEEPAK CHOPRA…

As the lady sitting next to me related stories about her life, I was captivated by her gentle liveliness and sparkling clear eyes. For  a moment I wondered how old she could be.

We were on a flight to Queensland but I had noticed her earlier, at the airport, in a wheelchair. As I squeezed past her and slid into the window seat, it was natural to bridge any awkward moments by asking about her trip.

Her name was Mabel and she was spending six weeks with her son and daughter-in-law. Anecdotes flowed about her son, a retired secondary school teacher, and how past students were always stopping to talk to him. The words were spoken with that unmistakable pride reserved for a mother.

She took me on a mini-tour of her life – of being an only child, the places she had lived and her wonderful neighbours and how their kindness continued even after her husband had died. I understood why – she reflected this same trait.

A flight attendant asked Mabel if she needed anything which prompted her to describe how Virgin always cared for her so well, unlike another airline where she had been left to walk quite a distance to the airport lounge. A feat that highlighted her determination – a quality I soon discovered that she possessed in abundance.

I complimented Mabel on her beautiful diction and asked about her working life. She had been a private secretary. Without any prompting, she catalogued the jobs she left if she wan’t using all her secretarial skills, and then spoke fondly and proudly of employers who had appreciated her dedication. She tugged at the lapel of her jacket to show me a gold brooch that a boss had given her.

By this time, the plane had taken off. I looked out the window and thought about Mabel and her delight in the everyday happenings of life – and time drifted.

The next time Mabel spoke, about 20 minutes had passed, and she was telling a flight attendant that she was unable to move her left arm

As the flight diverted to Sydney for this medical emergency, a young doctor (also on the flight) hugged Mabel tightly, knowing that this gentle 93-year-old had suffered a massive stroke and would not last the night.

More than a month has passed since this flight but I still think of Mabel and how she enveloped me –  a stranger – to share her life story and how our brief connection had touched me so deeply.

I also think about the synchronicity of being allocated a different seat to the one I had initially chosen so I would sit next to Mabel.

I believe certain events never ‘just happen’ – there was a reason we came together.

Mabel had the opportunity to review her life and, as she did, she gave me a beautiful gift – to  love the simplicity of life and have gratitude.