Today a total stranger came up and hugged me, saying she was sorry for my loss.
How, you might wonder, did she know of my loss?
The answer would be—-my sister.
My sister is one of the most generous, open-hearted, fully-engaged-in-life people you will ever meet. She is also the most curious—about people. I recently heard her ask a man she had only met two minutes earlier if he thought he would have more children—a topic even close friends and relatives are reluctant to broach. But my sister’s friendly demeanor, basic good nature and sincere interest make it very hard to say “None of your business” or “Please leave me alone” so she gets a lot of information.
But back to the hug. Before the woman hugged me she explained that my sister had been her seat mate on our recent flight. I said, “I am SO sorry!” but she said they had enjoyed a nice chat and found many parallels in their lives. When she hugged me I realized that in the span of 75 minutes from JFK to Detroit Metro my sister had managed to cover not only her life and this stranger’s but mine as well. You have to hand it to her. General Motors should be so efficient.
My sister is a retired teacher (not surprisingly, every class began with the question of the day) but I believe I can get her a gig as a CIA operative questioning terrorists. She might start with “What is your very favorite song that you have ever listened to in your entire life?” but would soon move on to “Who asked you to blow up that plane?” and, as always with her, the world would be a better place.
Post script: In case you were wondering, my sister gave me permission to send this piece. She has a wonderful sense of humor and I’m also pretty sure she knows that despite all the teasing I have basically wanted to be her my whole life –and not just because she was Dad’s favorite! It turns out the stranger had also lost a beloved husband she met late in life so sharing my story made perfect sense. I may need to rethink my firm commitment to never engage with anyone on an airplane. It’s true I might get stuck with a bore, but I also might meet someone I have a genuine connection with. Maybe I’ll just try channeling my friendly, open big sister and see what happens.