A Sad Traveler Comforted by a TSA Agent Who Really Understood The Holiday Spirit

17 Dec

Four years ago my Mom had a massive stroke on Monday, December 20.   My sister was actually on the phone with her when it happened.   My sister told my Dad to call 911. And then she hung up and called my brother and me.   We knew it would not be good. Mom had cancer and had been undergoing radiation treatments.

They had stopped the treatments for a week because she had not been reacting well to them. But on this Monday the treatments were started again.

I went into panic mode. It was December 20 and I had to travel from Kansas to New Jersey as quickly as possible.   I went on line and purchased a ticket for the next morning.   I packed. I organized. I did not know when I would be coming home and what would be happening.   But I had a good idea.

I called my daughter in Israel and let her know that her beloved grandma was very ill.

I tried to sleep.

The next morning, I was tired and emotional. My husband drove me to the airport. There was not much discussion in the car. The main point was that I was to stay as long as I needed. And he would come when the time came.

There was an enormous line to go through security. Something we do not usually see at the Kansas City airport. But it was four days before Christmas. Everyone was in the holiday spirit, chatting and joyful.

But not me, I was praying in my mind that my Mom would still be alive when I got to New Jersey; I wanted to be able to say goodbye.

The TSA agent checking everyone in was glowing and cheerful. She was chatting with everyone; just a pleasant as can be. And that is a lot of pleasant in the Kansas City area. Then she saw me.

“Cheer up,” she said. “It’s the holiday. You will be through this line soon and be celebrating with your family.”

It was too much for me.

“No, I am not going to celebrate. My Mom had a massive stroke yesterday.” I was in tears on the TSA line and very embarrassed.

The agent stopped what she was doing.

“You need a hug, “ she said. And came out from behind her counter and hugged me — a long and needed hug.

I went through security strengthened by her hug.

I arrived in New Jersey, where my Mom was still alive. And I got to speak to her. It was so important to me.

My Mom died a one week later during the worst blizzard in the New York City area. 27 inches of snow fell. It was horrendous.   We could not be with her when she passed away.   My husband and children could not make it to the funeral.

There was nothing to be done. I stayed. I sat shiva in New Jersey and then came home and sat shiva in Kansas for one night.

Six weeks later, my Dad planned a memorial service for my Mom at their synagogue.   My daughter flew in from Israel. I flew in from Kansas.

The lines at the TSA were much shorter in early February. But as I got up the TSA agent, I was surprised, the same woman agent was working.

She looked at me, and recognized me immediately. “How is your Mom?” She asked.

“My Mom passed away,” I said. “I am going to her memorial service.”

“You need another hug,” she responded.

And once again she came out from behind her podium and gave me a long and comforting hug.

Only in Kansas City!

I wish I had taken her name. I wish I could tell her how much her two hugs meant to me.

I hear about how awful the TSA agents can be. And they can. I have had my bags opened, my hands swabbed and my body touched. But even when I am a little bit annoyed, I think about the agent who stopped being an agent for a minute to give a sad traveler comfort. And who really understood the holiday season.

4 Responses to “A Sad Traveler Comforted by a TSA Agent Who Really Understood The Holiday Spirit”

  1. Ester Katz Silvers December 20, 2020 at 10:49 pm #

    Ellen, twenty years ago, after my mother died I was returning home with Avraham and my three youngest children. Going through El Al security in the Chicago airport, I was asked the routine question. “What was the purpose of your trip?”. That was a difficult question to answer. We’d come to see family and vacation and ended up going to a funeral and I sat shiva. Unable to form a reply I burst into tears. They handled my emotions in a typical Israeli manner, with sympathy and support. not to be forgotten.
    May our memories of our parents be a comfort and may we always be able to pass the compassion forward.

    • zicharon December 20, 2020 at 11:27 pm #

      I remember that trip and when you mother died. It was so difficult. At least I had the opportunity to see my Mom before she died. But being far away makes it so difficult. Stay well. And yes always important to pass kindness forward.

  2. Joan Haskell December 21, 2020 at 1:50 pm #

    So glad that TSA agent was there for you Ellen. What a good memory at such a sad time.

    • zicharon December 21, 2020 at 4:22 pm #

      Thanks Joan. It was a bright spot at a sad time.

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