Stranded in Chicago O’Hare

This is a reflection that involves a first date, a funeral, and a seven hour delay in the Chicago O’Hare airport. It was December 2017. I had just ended my first semester of online classes and an apprenticeship with Notre Dame in Knoxville, Tennessee. I had been out running errands one chilly Saturday afternoon when my dad called. My grandma had passed away. She had been in poor health for a while and was slipping under the cruelty that is dementia. I think even when you know death is eminent though, the shock is still present. I felt all five stages of grief in that moment on the phone. Stopping what I had been doing, I got back in the car and drove to the nearest perpetual Adoration chapel.

I came home, notified my roommates and my workplace, and began looking for an earlier flight. I was supposed to fly home just a day or two from then, but wouldn’t make it on time for Grandma’s funeral. I sat in the airport packed full of people yet feeling lonely. Yet, my excitement to go home kept me smiling. Now I’m going to rewind almost a month earlier. A guy had asked me out on a date when I was home last for Thanksgiving, knowing if it worked out that we’d have to be long-distance for a little while. We had both liked each other a few years ago, but neither of us brought it up. He did what all young, 20-something girls pray men would do and just asked me. Plain and simple. No games. No doubts. He expressed his feelings for me in person and then just asked. Guys, I get it. Asking women on dates would probably be scary. Fear of rejection is real. But girls swoon for this kind of stuff. Okay, stepping off my dating soap box.

Chicago O’Hare was my connection airport. There were never direct flights from Knoxville to Oklahoma City- two VERY tiny airports in comparison to the busy one I was sitting in. After arriving at my gate I saw that my flight was delayed. Half an hour passed, still delayed. Then they announced what no traveler wants to hear. This flight was canceled and we were to look for a new one. The soonest flight out was seven hours from now. Although I had been to this one before, I decided to take a walk to a couple different terminals and see what was there. I’m not one to sit still at my gate and just wait. Airports are neat. I saw dinosaur fossils. Probably fake, but they were entertaining nonetheless. I got myself a coffee and dinner. I wandered around until I was too tired to keep walking with my suitcase in hand. I found a spot to squat, and listened to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” a few times in tears. It seemed only fitting that we celebrate Grandma’s life just days before Christmas.

Here’s Grandma and 2-year old me throwing packing peanuts in the air by the Christmas tree.

She LOVED this holiday. Oh yeah, did I mention my grandma’s funeral was December 22nd and the date was the very next day? Then of course Christmas Eve was the next day. I sat and thought about this not sure how to feel or what to think. I’m flying home for a funeral. Am I even allowed to be happy? How silly this thought was! Someone gave a toast at our wedding rehearsal dinner using this Scripture:

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every matter under heaven—A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance…” -Ecclesiastes 3: 1-4

I think about this a lot now. As I continue to mourn the loss of my fertility, I felt guilty the other day. “I know I should just be thankful to have my life.” But Avery caught me in this lie from the devil and reminded me that it’s okay to feel both. I can mourn the children I’ll never be able to have and still be thankful to have had my life saved. Thank you, Jesus. Life is messy. Sometimes a lot of happy and a lot of crappy things happen all at once. Why would we ever question how we are supposed to feel? After all, there is a time and a place for everything. And sometimes, those times overlap with one another. So, that is my short reflection about a first date, a funeral, and a seven hour delay in Chicago O’Hare. Oh, and the first date went well by the way. I married that man almost three years later, with three of my grandma’s diamonds in my wedding band.

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