Friday, April 24, 2009

The Lady at the Airport

"Our entire life consists ultimately in accepting ourselves as we are.” ~ Jean Anouilh

(Please note: The recent blog entries are being posted approximately one week belatedly; in case mention of events do not coincide with calendar date. :) We're double posting to get caught up!)

Yesterday my parents flew back to Europe. While we were at the airport, I glanced at a woman sitting on a wheelchair right beside the row of seats my parents had chosen, and when I saw her dropping her purse on the floor, I rushed to pick up her belongings and handed them back to her, to which she responded with a bright smile and a twinkle in her eyes. She thanked me profusely, and asked where my parents were from.

I explained they live in Italy, and she told me that she had studied arts in Florence before the accident that crippled her. She said that living in Italy showed her the way life should be lived – more easy-going and in the moment – and she recalled turning those observations into practice once she found out she could no longer walk. “I used to live in the fast lane” she said, “and never stopped long enough to realize how much I had taken for granted.”

I could only nod, so she took a sip of her drink and continued. “See this coke?’ she asked, “I never really took the time to notice how it really tastes. Before, a coke was just something pleasant to sip. Now, no matter what I taste or endure, I try to fully live the different nuances of my experiences.”

I asked her how not being able to walk made her feel, and expected a victimized reply. Instead, I was in for a surprise.

She quietly watched a little boy as he struggled to drag his backpack and keep up with his mother, and a soft smile formed on her lips. “See? I would never have noticed that before I became unable to walk. Now, everything I see, feel, touch, taste, or experience, is a joy and an inspiration. Being crippled taught me how to live.”

She mentioned being bitter in the beginning, and going through depression when she first learned of her predicament, but she had learned how to accept the things she could not change. She had decided soon after that she would live for the moment and would cherish every experience, knowing that things hardly ever happen by chance.

After I returned to my seat, I couldn’t help, once I a while, looking at the lady as she watched the other passengers rush by. There was peace in her eyes, and she radiated happiness. Her appreciation for life hadn’t come from the things she no longer could do, but the ones that were available to her now.

Through her tragedy, this woman had discovered patience, humility and serenity – her obstacles had been nothing more than opportunities dressed in a dreary costume.

She had lost her legs, but on that fateful day, her true being had grown wings of love. And never before had she been that free.

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