Serena, My Angel on an Airplane

Following Gods plan

No matter how many times it happens I am always struck with awe by the way Gods plans come together. Last weekend I flew to San Francisco. The reason I bought the tickets was to follow my dream, the reason I was on that flight was to follow Gods plan. Those two things may often appear unrelated but I have learned that they rarely ever are. In the course of departing from my local airport I met an angel. A sweet, adorable, caring young angel that touched my heart and most likely saved a life.

Our conversation started innocently enough, she asked me what my boarding number was.

“Thirty five” I answered.

“Then I will leave space for one between us.” she joked as she stopped a few feet from me.

A simple chat can lead to something big

No one physical came to occupy the space between us, just as no one sat between us on the flight. Yet there was a holy spirit with us as we flew. We chatted on our way across the tarmac and up the rear stairs of the plane. Small talk about our reasons for flying; a meeting at Burning Man for me and going home to visit her family in the bay area for her. The conversation moved on easily to her job at Disney and school away from her parents. The first in her family to attend college, the merits of community college and transfers over attending a four year right out of high school. I compared my sons journey to hers and we agreed their path was a smart one. Soon she asked me about my work and I mentioned mental health and suicide awareness.

As you might figure, I ran my mouth on these topics. I talked about my own struggles with depression and passive suicide. I talked about my son and his attempted suicide. My passion and purpose evident in the nonstop diarrhea of words. NAMI, the Crisis Text Line, peer support, I kept on and on about these things and she sat intent, carefully weighing every word. I could tell she was thinking deeply about not just what I said but about what it meant.

The reason He put me in her path

“I am worried about my friend.” It came out in a whisper and she fought valiantly to keep tears from forming in her eyes.

She went on to tell me her story. Her friends plight. How she felt helpless and worried that she didn’t know how to help her. That she wouldn’t be able to save her. She told me about a phone call in the middle of the night and how without a thought she grabbed her shoes and went to find her friend. How she sat outside, alone and waiting, not knowing what she would find but that she let her friend know, “I will be out here if you want to talk. I am not leaving until you make me.” This lovely girl with a quiet strength, the embodiment of true friendship probably saved her friends life that night.

Plugging my phone number and the number to the crisis text line into her cell, I gave her a card with info on suicide and mental health awareness from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Letting her know that I too am here for her if she needs to talk and that I would be there for her friend as well.

Kindred spirits

We were both stunned when the flight crew announced it was time to land. An hour flight flew by in a moments. We walked together to the baggage carousel and waited for our luggage. Strangers a few hours ago, now we were travel companions watching out for each other as we gathered our bags and went to look for our rides. I gave her a long hug when we parted and told her she had likely saved her friends life.

My friend arrived to get me and asked “who was that person you were hugging?”

“I met an angel on the airplane” I replied.

If you too know someone like this

If you are concerned about a friend, if you worry that they may be depressed, have thoughts of suicide, are in any way shape or form in danger I urge you to do what she did. Be there for them, even if you are afraid. Go to them, even if you don’t know what to say. Let them know that you care, that you understand, that you will fight with them and for them, even if you feel lost as to how to help. Just by letting them know you care you can save a life.

Below is a list of mental illness warning signs:

  • Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks
  • Severe out-of-control, risk taking behaviors
  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason
  • Severe mood swings that can cause problems in relationships
  • Drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping habits
  • Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still
  • Intense worries or fears
  • Trying to harm or kill oneself or making plans to do so
  • Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lost weight
  • Repeated use of alcohol or drugs

If you notice any of these in a loved one reach out. These are places you can contact if you think a friend might be depressed, anxious or suicidal.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Teen Line (open 6-10pm Pacific, 310-855-HOPE (4673) or text TEEN to 839863 (5:30-9:30pm Pacific)

Crisis Text Line 741741 Text HELP or NAMI (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

God put her in my life, God put me in hers. Everything happens for a reason. A simple conversation can lead to enormous change.

Thank you Serena for being a light, a great friend and an awesome travel buddy.

I am here should you ever need to call.