One thing I also love about flying is that you can get as intimate as you can with a total stranger. For an hour you will know his or her life story, what does he or she do, and the list goes on. I always feel good if a guest from a flight would remember me. I’ve heard a lot like “You were in our flight last blah blah – I remember you!” After that flight, you will totally forget about everything not unless there’s a particular incident with a passenger. On this flight to SFO, one passenger caught my attention. She was alone. Seated at the bulkhead area, aisle seat. Carrying a coat, her own blanket and eye mask, some magazines and an iPod. I greeted her and she greeted me back with a warm smile. After take off I gave her, her meal and some  juice. I took her tray as she opened the reading light and pulled out a magazine. A few minutes later I checked the cabin and saw her sleeping, then I turned her reading light off. Before preparing for my crew rest, I talked to my fellow cabin crew and I saw her coming towards me. My colleague left me and I started talking to her. She said she wants some water. I told her I will bring it to her seat instead. Brought her water and she thanked me. Quickly she asked me if I can sit beside her because she needs to talk to someone because she’s getting bored. The seat right next to her was empty so I sat down. I thought that it would be a quick chat, but I know she will talk about her life, like any passenger would.

She first asked me when did I start to fly. I told her my story of quitting QR too because  my mother wants me home. She said how brave I was being in a Middle Eastern country away from my family. That was back then, when airlines were not yet mass hiring Pinays here. She also said how brave I was on quitting QR – on giving up a dream just to stay at home for my family. You see I’m an only girl and the youngest. At first my parents are skeptical at me on sending me away to Doha after graduation. And then on being proud that I’m already flying – they asked me to come home and fly with the flag carrier instead. It was not easy. I gave myself two months thinking about it. Then I said yes. I’ll come home. A few weeks after, I started to train for PAL.

After telling my story, she told me hers. She said that she has three kids. The oldest as my age, middle one is 19, the youngest is 15, and the only girl. Her husband moved to San Francisco almost five years ago for an IT job. That’s why her family is traveling back and forth. On this flight she was alone. Her kids are at school and work. She told me that she loves to cook and bake. She also loves the band U2. How rare to meet someone at her age loving U2. At least we have something in common. For minutes she keeps on talking about her kids and her interests as I listen. Just like to any passenger. It’s interesting to listen to their stories. If only I can write down all of their wonderful stories about life, I could have made a book. I was glancing onto my watch, worrying about my turn for crew when suddenly she told me her real purpose of going to SFO. She told me she has cancer. Surviving cancer almost three years ago, then the cells came back last year. It’s the time again for chemotherapy and the likes in the US. She chose to be there since her husband cannot come home. It’s an expensive one, but it would be better. Honestly I wasn’t that surprised when she told me she has cancer. Because I know that she will be okay. A few minutes my colleague finally called me. She thought I was again in a trap. I excused myself and I said I’ll be back. She smiled and thanked me.

After my crew rest I went back to check her and she  was sleeping. Before final descent she again talked to me, thanked me on listening to her and wishes that I will be on the flight again on her way home. We exchanged emails. She wished me good luck and she told me that she’ll pray for me for my safe travels. I think I should be the one who should pray for her. So she can get a lot better. How nice of her. Anyway on deplaning we bid goodbyes and waved her hand and gave me that warm smile.

A bit long post huh? 🙂

Since then we started to send emails to each other. But because of my schedule I couldn’t answer back right away. She told me that her chemo is doing good and her kids will visit her soon after school in SFO. I even asked her to tell me the flight number of her kids so I can be in charge for them. Or request that flight for that matter. So April came and her kids were my passenger on that SFO flight. They were really nice like their mother. I can say she and her husband raised them well. Well behaved and mannered. They showed me pictures too of their family last Christmas. They said they will bring those to their mom. Days after the flight I opened my email and read this message from her, thanking me of taking care of her children. She told me they will have their vacation until May before school starts. After a few weeks, I never heard anything from her again.

Yesterday after my long haul flight, I went to the mailboxes to check some mails. I always go there before coming  home. Bills and some more bills were in there. Then I noticed this letter sealed in a cream envelope. Written with my name. No name or address where it came. I shoved my mails in my bag and headed home. As soon as I entered my room, I dropped my bag onto my bed and I saw those mails. Telling myself to read it later after waking up. Mid afternoon I woke up and I was still looking at my bag. I was thinking of opening the mysterious letter but something a the back of my mind keeps on saying “later”. After my merienda, I then decided to open it.

Most shocking, it was from her. The lady on my flight. She told me she cannot stand up and open her email because she was getting weak. Instead she wrote a traditional letter. She wrote that she was at her happiest times with her family in the US, with her kids and husband around her. She thanked me, and thanked God that we met. Also telling me that it might be her last letter, so she was saying goodbye. Inside the envelope was this small angel lapel pin. Stuck in a small card written, “I know you already have angels on the wings on your plane. Let me be with them so I can watch over you.” I cried. My mom hugged me. She knows the story.

Late last night, I was on Facebook. A mysterious guy tried to add me up. I didn’t recognized him at first. Surprisingly it was his son. I added him and we chatted. Absolutely no idea how he found me on Facebook. He’s still in the US with his siblings. He told me that her mother died last Thursday. Also her mom asked her nephew who’s living here in Manila to drop the letter in the office. Again I cried. I know she’s in a happy place right now, minus the pain and the agony from chemo, and seeing her family sad around her. Her body was cremated and will be brought back here. They will all come back before school starts.

I will never forget the first and the last time we talked. The first time she smiled at me, and waved goodbye at me. She’s a strong woman. I saw it in her eyes. My prayers are with her and her family.

In our flights, God sends angels. You just have to take time, look around, and discover them yourself.  I will wear that angel pin as long as I fly, as long as I live.