On March 3rd, 2016 I received a phone call that my father’s wife had died. My father was already 4-months-in to a death sentence diagnosis for stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He had a two year old son, my half-brother, whom he could not care for alone. With his wife’s death, there was only one option for me: fly to Michigan to help him.
I only had about 3 hours from the time I received the phone call to the time I boarded that first plane. My husband could not come with, as we had two young daughters aged 2 and 3 that needed to be cared for. I chose to take my 7-month-old breastfed twins with me since this was a one way ticket, for an unknown amount of time. I did not have any idea how long I would be in Michigan, so I knew the best option for us was to take the twins with me. I left behind half of my family to say goodbye to the other.
Our flight from Spokane to Minneapolis went off without a hitch. The girls were so smiley, comfortable, and slept through most of the flight. Once in Minneapolis, we had a long layover that resulted in me laying blankets on the airport floor for them to roll around. We spent a long time in that layover and towards the end of it, everything started to go downhill. The twins were exhausted as it was nearing their typical bedtime. The strict schedule we followed at home was completely thrown out the window this day and they were not handling it well. Why would they though? They were 7-months-old and this exciting experience of seeing new things was quickly becoming very stressful for them.
I started to panic. My energy was frantic and I was quickly becoming agitated. I was angry that I was doing this alone and I was desperate to get to my dad. This trip felt like it was taking forever, even though this was the fastest way I could get to him. I started to become very stressed out and begged my inner self to keep it together. I felt like a ticking time bomb of emotions, while juggling the care of cranky twins. My heart was breaking. I knew what was waiting for me on the other side of this flight: hard decisions and death. The more time I spent in my thoughts, the more distraught I felt.
We boarded our Delta flight 1227 from Minneapolis to Detroit just a few minutes after their whimpering started. Once in our seats, I realized we were given a row all to ourselves. I prayed silently, thanking those who had a hand in this little bit of magic for me. The twins smiled at the people while they boarded the flight, which gave me a much needed reprieve for about 20 minutes. After taking off, they became irritable and uncomfortable. I knew they wanted to nurse, I just didn’t know how to do that on a plane with no pillows to help support us. My anxious energy became too much for all of us and the twins became inconsolable mid-flight.
Nothing I did helped. I offered to nurse each of them, one at a time. But they were overly exhausted and nothing I did could stop their crying. I wasn’t even in the place emotionally to be doing this. I was so mentally broken and emotionally tired. I just wanted my dad. I just wanted off of this plane and in his arms. I needed help but there was no one to turn to. The flight attendants were very sweet, but they had things they needed to be doing.
I was accustomed to drowning out their screams since one of them cried all of the time. She was just one of those babies that was never happy. I knew their cries were annoying the passengers nearby. I knew people were rolling their eyes and questioning my parenting ability. I started crying too. I didn’t know what to do anymore and I felt like such a failure as a mom. I sat there in my seat giving myself a major pity party. I wanted to stand in the middle of the aisle and just yell, “if you’re sick of hearing this crying, please come help me!”. I wanted everyone to know that I couldn’t handle it either.
Then a woman got up from behind us, sat in the open seat next to me, and grabbed the baby I was bouncing in my lap. She didn’t even ask, but she didn’t need to. She knew I needed her. I handed her a bottle and she cradled my daughter in her arms as she swayed back and forth, singing sweet lullabies to her. I was almost embarrassed of my inability to do the same for my child in that moment. But I was so thankful for her grace. She showed me the most empathy I have ever been shown and it was miraculously done in my darkest hour.
She sat there for the rest of the flight, helping me with anything I needed. She held one of my babies for most of the flight, I believe. I don’t remember what we said to each other or even if she knew the circumstances I was in. It’s funny how words can be forgotten but the way someone makes you feel will always be the way you will remember them. She didn’t have to help, but she knew she was needed.
Maybe an angel whispered to her loud enough that she knew she needed to answer. Maybe her mom instinct kicked in when she realized that both of the babies crying on the flight belonged to me. Maybe she just put herself in my shoes and did what she wished someone would do for her in a similar situation. Maybe she’s just a kind person who helps wherever she sees fit.
My biggest regret is not taking a picture of her holding my baby. Sometimes it feels like in today’s world that if something isn’t documented with a camera, it never happened. I don’t even remember her name or where she is from. I don’t even remember what she looked like. But I wish so badly I did.
She saved my sanity as well as everyone else’s on that flight. It was easy for others to sit back and witness me struggle, judging me for my inability to calm my babies. But she saw a mom in need and she stepped up without looking back. She never once made me feel inadequate. Instead, she made me feel like I was the luckiest hot-mess mom to have found such a kind soul as her.
Flying with kids is one of the most terrifying things you can do, in my opinion. It’s nice to know that some people understand the pressure to be perfect isn’t always attainable. I couldn’t walk around with a sign that said, ‘Flying alone with twins to say goodbye to my dying father while also leaving behind my other two daughters.’ If I could go back and do it over though, maybe I would make myself that sign. Grief isn’t something you can visibly see with the naked eye, but maybe if they could see the words, people would have been more understanding or empathetic.
Once off of the plane, I made my way to my father. He survived for 12 days after I arrived and he signed over custody of his 2 year old son to me before he passed away. It took about a year, but we legally adopted my brother Easton in June 2017. Our story has a very happy ending, but the middle is where it molded me into the person and mom I am today. That woman helped me in one of the worst times of my life and I want to find her to personally thank her.
To the woman on Delta flight 1227 from Minneapolis to Detroit on March 3rd, 2016, thank you. Thank you for treating me with dignity and love when I desperately needed it. I hope this letter gets to you and I hope you remember us from our picture from that flight. I hope you know you saved a mom from a severe mental breakdown at 35,000 feet in the air. Please know I want to find you and thank you personally. Please know I think of you often and hope our paths cross again soon.
Our Four Girls
Flying Alone With Twins
Our 7 Month Old Twin Girls
The Day Easton Arrived In Our Home
All Of Us On Adoption Day
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