Our airline seats were three rows apart on the return flight as my son and I boarded the plane home from a much-needed weekend in San Diego. He was my last child, sixteen years of age, and I had recently signed final divorce papers. I strapped myself in as my mind began that same old routine I kept hearing in my head: "How am I ever going to live alone after 30-plus years? How or where will I find peace and joy again?"
I looked up just as the elderly gentleman started coming up the aisle. He found his seat right next to me, gave me a little nudge on the shoulder, and declared, "Did you see that flight attendant? It wouldn't kill her to smile at least! I don't know how she keeps her job."
I thought immediately, I'm going to like this guy!
His WWII veteran's cap sealed my fate as I began asking him the general questions: where are you from? what do you do? where are you headed? His replies were so sincere and friendly as he began telling me his journey. He said his first wife decided she liked the neighbor better than him. Boy, I was hooked now. Infidelity I could relate to. As I told him so sorry I was to hear that, his quick response was "Don't be. I'm better off."
He proceeded to tell me his second wife was a real gem. They bought a motor home together and traveled all over the United States. She ended up getting cancer and dying a few years back. "I sure do miss her," he said. "But life goes on." He told me he was headed to Florida to spend the weekend with a gal he met a few months ago on a cruise. My heart was filling up with his candid explanation of life.
We talked about the war, but when he would begin a story he would almost immediately stop mid-sentence. He told me if you want to learn about the war read the book Absolute War by Chris Bellamy. As we continued talking, I realized one very important thing: life really does move forward. If this man still knew how to love and enjoy women and live his life with joy after all he had been through maybe my fifty years of life were far from over.
When the plane landed, my son came up behind us. The man spoke to him. "Is that your mom right here?"
My son replied, "Yes, it is."
The kind WWII veteran who showed me so much in so little time stated simply: "You're so lucky!"
I only regret now that I didn't get his name and phone number. I would call him up and tell him how my son, now a US Marine, and I were given hope and healing when we both had very little left in our hearts. God played a hand in that chance meeting, I am sure.