“Everything happens for a reason,” does not begin to explain my interaction with Sister Olivia. Only the faithless would argue it was coincidental. A few weeks ago, I was planning a trip back home, away from Georgia, away from my illness, and away from “military life.” It was a much needed trip because my (soon to be) ex-husband was deployed and I needed someone, anyone. Most of all, I needed family. Quite honestly, I was in a state of depression. I was so close to the edge, that I needed to be lassoed back to health.
So, I booked the round-trip plane ticket home, and noticed something unusual. My confirmation number went a little something like this: xxxx-666-xxx. Some may not even notice such synchronized numbers, some might. I am the type to notice. I am, also, the type to have avid panic attacks and possibly pessimist my way through life. Needless to say, I was a little frightened.
As I am walking towards my departure gate, I see a nun sitting by herself. I sit across from the woman and decide to make small-talk with her. I asked her if she had ever heard of Sister Maria de Agreda. If you have not heard of Sister Maria de Agreda, I highly recommend searching the Internet about her or reading the book “The Lady in Blue” – Javier Sierra (based on true events.) After I asked the woman if she had heard of said Sister, I came to realize Sister Olivia does not speak English fluently, well, hardly at all really. However, she said she had heard of her and seemed surprised that I knew of her. We utilized her Spanish to English dictionary, while I utilized my smartphone to communicate.
Over the intercom, there was a notification that the plane would be an hour behind. Sister Olivia noticed my confusion, so I once again used my smartphone to notify her (in Spanish) that the plane was running late. Recognizing the time we had to spare, we communicated to each other that I needed to use the restroom and she would like a snack. I walked with her (slowly, Sister Olivia is probably in her mid-60’s or 70’s) to the snack station and told her I would meet her right back at the departure gate.
I met Sister Olivia back at the gate, where I was greeted with another update on the delay of the plane. It was going to be another hour. Sister Olivia noticed my confusion, so I updated her (again) on the delay. So, I decided to try to get to know Sister Olivia and with the language barrier, it was difficult. I learned that Sister Olivia was traveling to a church to teach and her “Sisters” were coming to pick her up from the airport. I, also, learned that after her 10-day stay at the church, she would travel to Mexico, and then travel to the Holy Land.
I was awestruck by this woman and the goodness about her. Then, of course, a voice interrupts my awe over the intercom with another notification. We have to move gates. Move gates? Sister Olivia noticed my utter confusion even more, as well as my lack of patience. She asked me what they had said over the intercom and I updated her. Sister Olivia looked so confused and scared all at the same time. She was putting her trust in me, at this point, to get her to her destination. However, it was clear she was hesitant to put the responsibility in my hands.
Sister Olivia and I moved to the appropriate gate, only to find out that the plane was FOUR hours behind. At this point, I was stressed. I took my medicine in front of Sister Olivia, and she looked at me and asked, “Sick?” I nodded my head “yes” and used my smartphone to tell her that I have severe panic attacks sometimes. Sister Olivia opened her dictionary and calmly said, “Patience, patience.” I closed my eyes, and repeated the words in my head.
Finally, it was time to board. I looked at her ticket to direct her to the right row and seat and realized my seat was only one row behind hers. We sit, go through the flight routine, and learn that the flight was delayed four hours because the pilot’s father had died. The pilot needed to return to his hometown (Chicago.) So, of course, they needed a new pilot, which took some time. I was saddened by the news and said a prayer for the pilot and his family. The flight attendant then told us we may move to a different seat if we would like because the plane was not full. Sister Olivia’s seat was diagonal from mine and I saw her wave me over.
I happily moved to sit next to her and the flight attendant asked us if we would like anything to drink. Sister Olivia and I both wanted coffee. I sat for a bit before I needed to use the restroom. I saw the flight attendant on my way to the restroom talking to a woman in the back, but did not say anything about the coffee because I figured she was busy or perhaps the coffee was still brewing. I returned to my seat and the flight attendant approached us. The flight attendant went on and on about how sorry she was for forgetting our coffee. Of course, I said it was okay (I am not one to complain.)
The flight attendant brings us back our coffee, still apologetic, grabs the menu, and asks if she may give us a complimentary snack. She asked if a Rice Krispie Treat sounded nice with our coffee. I obliged, pointed to the picture for Sister Olivia, and we decided, “Hey, why not?”
The flight attendant brought us two, large Rice Krispie Treats and would not accept a tip from me. Sister Olivia looked confused as if I was paying for the treats. I tried to explain, somehow, that it was just a tip. It seemed to register because as soon as the flight attendant walked away. Sister Olivia said, “See? Patience, patience.”
I thought a lot about how much I helped Sister Olivia navigate her way through the madness of the Atlanta airport. Then, I realized, I think she helped me more. I was already scared to board the plane because of my xxxx-666-xxx confirmation number, I was stressed because of the continuous delays, and I could have had a panic attack at any moment. Maybe Sister Olivia helped calm me? What I do know about Sister Olivia is she taught me patience and whenever I feel a panic attack coming on, I am angry about traffic when driving, or things are just not going my way; I calmly repeat: “Patience…patience…” to myself. My experience seemed nothing short of divine intervention, a lesson of life, and a free Rice Krispie Treat.