Best laid plans don’t always go as planned. Sometimes they can go completely off track.
We were headed to Florida for a fun spring break with friends. They had already flown out the day before and we were to meet them later that day. We arrived early and waited to board the plane, only to discover that our flight had been overbooked by about a dozen people. We wouldn’t be flying out that day. Back home we went. Our bags on a plane without us.
We headed back to the airport the next day to catch our new flight. To our shock, we were accidentally cancelled off of this flight. Are you kidding me, how does that even happen?! All outgoing flights in that direction where booked solid, or over booked, as everyone was attempting to get out of the Minnesota cold for a warmer spring break location. My husband scrambled to try to find some sort of solution to save our trip. He found 2 seats on another flight. But there were three of us. “Just go”, I said. I was done and was ready to just head home and scrap it. As a last ditch effort he approached another flight desk to plead our case, explaining all of the drama threatening to sabotage our trip. There was one seat on this flight, but it was flying to another part of Florida. I had no time to ponder as the gate was closing. I had to get on that flight right now- not knowing when I would see the rest of my family and wondering where my checked bag would eventually end up. I was frazzled, annoyed and not in a pleasant frame of mind.
I get on the plane and notice someone in my assigned seat. Are you kidding, did I not actually have a seat after all! But then found out that the passenger had just moved over one seat. Whew. Some bit of relief. I at least had a seat.
I soon became aware that this person sitting next to me was in some sort of distress. I reluctantly asked if she was going to be ok only to find out she was anything but.
Here is Gabby’s story.
The year was 2008, a year where I experienced the best and the worst time of my Life. The events of ying and yang, good and bad. These events would be the catalyst to a tremendous shift in my Life In 2008; I was offered work with Clarence Clemons of the Bruce Springsteen Band to tour the USA for 3 months. My job was to be Mr. Clemons Pilates Instructor, trainer and physical therapist. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. Can anybody say they worked with their childhood rock star’s band? This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I took the chance to leave my own business to have the experience.
My Dad was very proud of me. The day before the tour, I took the night off of work to see my Dad, who was working in a restaurant not too far away from me. He was proud to tell everyone there of my unique opportunity. He always did that, no matter what the occasion. He always made me feel special. He also shared some news with me that evening. He was going to open his own restaurant; it was in the works already. He had wanted this for a long time. My grandparents had owned a successful Hungarian restaurant in Boston for 20 years. Ever since then he has wanted a place to call his own. “Carlo of Boca” was in the making. We were close to seeing his dream become a reality. I wanted to help him and I promised him I would when I came back. We spoke everyday while I was away. He would make a joke of it if I didn’t call him. I recall a particular phone call when I was in New York shopping for books on my break … I answered the phone ” hi dad… It is loud here I am in New York” He asked, “are you happy?” Me: “happy as I can be in New York”. Dad chuckled; “I love you” and I responded, “I love you too dad”. That day we were going to Indiana, and then head to Minneapolis. I called him before I left and said it would be a long night but I would call him tomorrow.
I was in Minnesota when I received the dreaded phone call. I saw that the number was my Dad’s house calling…I picked up the phone.
“Hello, Dad isn’t it early for you?”
It was my Dad’s new wife, and I was disappointed as I thought it was him.
She was distraught on the phone and told me that my dad was not here anymore…
“Not here?” “Where is he?”
“He took his life.”
I hung up the phone. I must have screamed using all of my vocal chords. Clarence’s assistant came to my door and held me for a while as I screamed out, “No… He is not gone. Why? Dad, why?”
I got a flight back home that afternoon flying first class. I sat by the window looking out trying to keep it together as the lady came around asking for drink orders. I was very lucky that day to sit next to a lady who had a peaceful nature about her. I told her what had happened. I just remember her peacefulness. She told me that that day she was supposed to be on another flight with her family. She ended up on this flight in the seat next to me. I couldn’t image that plane ride next to a cranky person or someone not wanting to talk. She was my angel that day. I am thankful for her kindness.
It has been nine years since my Dad’s death. I struggled for many years with abuse of alcohol. I lost my business, my home, and my partner. The life I knew was gone.
After 5 years of this I decided to change my life. To live the life my Dad would be proud of. I started to put my life back together. I started with getting back in shape, to propel me forward and to pursue my dream of being a personal trainer again, full-time. It took me a year to find that job. I wanted to live up to what he had asked me, “are you happy?” I wanted him to be proud of me and to know that I am happy. He was and still is my best friend and I know he watches over me… I feel it in my heart and feel his essence in my soul.
Since that fateful flight years ago I still think about meeting Gabby. It humbled me that day to realize that sometimes our plans are yanked into a new alignment in order to sit beside another who is hurting and needs a travel companion. I could have easily opted to ignore the woman so visibly hurting beside me. This certainly wasn’t on my agenda for that day. But you know what. It was an honor to sit with her that day, so that she wasn’t alone on one of the worst days of her life. To distract her a little bit and perhaps encourage her in some way. To pray for her as she wept into the window and as she shared her grief and story. I have been able to watch Gabby reclaim life again. To see how she is now able to take something so painful and give it purpose and use it to live her life with renewed vigor and intentionality.
On this Father’s Day, Gabby’s story is also a reminder. Be intentional with your words to your children and those around you. Some words can become lifelines for those we love. The very things that carry on. Even when we can’t. Gabby carries her father’s loving and kind legacy. She will do great things in her life story as a nod to her father’s legacy. Thank you, Gabby, for your bravery in sharing your story here. I am humbled.