Tricia Belstra was recently on a Southwest Airlines flight. She did not look good, and she did not feel good. She sat in the middle seat of a row, between two strangers, with a barf bag on her legs, looking queasy.
A flight attendant came over and asked if she was okay. Another came and brought her some water, which she took, and then brought her some diet coke when she requested that as well.
Then this young man leaned in and asked her if she was alright.
“I told him I was flying back to bury my son,” she wrote.
He said he was sorry, and brought her her drink. The girl beside her offered to pour it for her, because her hands were shaking so much. When the plane landed, she helped Belstra get her luggage down.
Then when she got to the front of the plane to walk out, the young man handed her a note and said again that he was sorry for her loss, and this wasn’t much. She thanked him and walked out, but didn’t look at it until she’d gotten out of the walkway. Then she started to cry.
“In 2004, my family lost my older brother,” it read.
“As traumatic as it still is for me, I can’t even pretend to truly know the pain you feel as a mother. I did, however, watch my mother’s grieving process (a process that will never end). Firstly, being a mother is about giving birth to new life as a promise to the future. Your mission doesn’t end now—your son’s life is bigger than his death and always will be.”
“My mom struggled desperately chasing a far away goal of somehow lessening the pain. As she has realized now, the pain hardly lessens.”
“Don’t expend your energy trying to chase this.”
“Instead, go all out finding opportunities to experience joy. Visit family, get closer to those you’ve lost touch with, travel. This is your story and you owe it to yourself & your son to make sure that you survive this. Do not pressure yourself!”
To Belstra, he was an angel. This young man was a complete stranger, but seeing her grief, he had reached out and offered her his own very personal story, and wished her well in the most compassionate way.
He wrote on the ends of the napkin:
“The world is full of people who do truly care about you, even if it doesn’t feel that way.”
“I won’t stop thinking about you anytime soon or how you’re doing or what you’re up to. You’ll come out of this a stronger person and I’ll be rooting for you the whole time.”
It took Belstra about a week before she could bring herself to share the emotional encounter. She then posted a picture of the napkin note she received on social media, hoping to get in touch with this kind stranger whose name she didn’t even get.
“Please share this and I hope it gets back to him. Thank you so much for your kind words from a person that took the time to write this not even knowing me,” she recently wrote.