The last two months have been filled with a lot of pain and sorrow for me and my family. On March 17th my father passed away after an extended illness. Somehow knowing his death was imminent helped me when his time came to pass. I thought I had said all my goodbyes, cried all my tears, and made all my plans for 2016, but I was wrong.
Shortly after my father passed my Aunt (my father’s sister), the woman I am named after and that my daughter is named after, became gravely ill. She had never been sick before, not a single hospital stay anywhere amongst her 70 years of life. She was our family’s rock, the glue that held us all together. She hosted all the traditions for my Dad’s side of the family. She took my sister’s and I, along with my cousin, on various amazing summer vacations when we were children. She was the one I could depend upon, the one we all depended upon. She never judged, never said a word, she just did. She dropped everything and jumped on a plane when I was hospitalized while pregnant with my daughter. My Aunt, who has no children of her own, came to my house and took care of my 18 month old son. She chased him into the woods when he escaped, she cooked for us, did our laundry, and went food shopping. She is one of the reasons why I have my daughter. She was my angel. She was everyone’s angel, and stood for all that was good in the world. The loss of my Aunt hurts deep to my soul, I never saw it coming.
I received a call from my sister, “Al, it’s not good. Come quick.”
Frantic I texted my husband, who was on a trip, “I have to go home. Here are the flights I need you to put me on.”
I was too distraught to deal with travel arrangements as I threw random things in luggage, trying to process how in only a few weeks I was again faced with the death of a loved one. I was heartbroken, and sobbed the tormenting cry only one who has lost one of the dearest persons in their lives could know. My husband emailed me my flight itineraries and I never opened the email.
The next morning my husband landed at our local airport and texted me, “Where are you?”
“Pulling out of the driveway. Why where are you?” I responded, thinking WTF does the man need a greeting crew?
“Leaving the airport.” I then vaguely remembered some conversation about being at the airport at 11:00 for my flight. It was fuzzy, and the details were soft.
“Want to meet me at Walgreen’s? I have to stop and get some things.” The reality was I needed a hug, an assurance all would be ok.
“Sure.” He replied, with no concern for the time or any inclination being given that I should probably be at the airport and not picking up Carmel Nips (I’m a closet 70 year old woman who loves hard candy) and hairspray (I was headed to NJ, you never can have too much hairspray).
Pulling into the lot I saw him waiting, I smiled and exited my car. We exchanged the usual parental/spouse chit chat. After a quick peck, and a hug we bid adieu. I glanced at the clock, happy to see it was only 12:00. I was early for my 1:35 flight! Casually I parked my car, and strolled into the airport with the knowledge I had plenty of time. At the Delta Kiosk I entered my confirmation number to get my boarding pass, but instead was greeted with the message, “Please see a gate agent.”
“Hi! I’m on the 1:35 flight and was informed I needed to check in here instead of at the kiosk.” I toss out as if I’m lobbing horseshoes at a family picnic.
A kind man named Howard greeted me, “Ok, well let’s see what the issue is. Do you have your confirmation number?”
Standing at the counter I read my number aloud to him and then watch his face turn from a smile to a frown in seconds flat.
“Um…your flight took off at 12:01 pm.”
“WHAT? NO! That’s not possible! I’m on the 1:35! I have to get to NJ to see my Aunt in ICU!” I turned my attention to my phone and finally opened the email from my husband. The flight I was on was NOT the flight I had asked to be put on, but was in fact the 12:01 pm.
Cue the spastic hyperventilating tears. The ugly tears.
Howard tried to reassure me as he reached out to take my ID, “Ok, let me see what I can do.” Tapping away on the keyboard he placed a few phone calls. I was informed a ticket for the 1:35 flight would cost hundreds more dollars, on top of the change fee.
I cried harder, “I just went home to bury my father and now I am going to miss saying goodbye to my Aunt. I can’t believe this!”
Howard moved full steam ahead. He didn’t hide behind a corporate rule, but instead recognized a person in need and knew he was in a position to provide a solution. Apparently, Delta had recently made some changes to their protocols removing the gate agents ability to do same day price overrides at the counters. He would need to kick my epic fail upstairs. Howard tried to commandeer his boss – who was on a call and unable to lend an immediate assist (of course).
At 1:20 he looked at me with serious eyes, “Go to the gate, here is a ticket for the 5:45 flight. The cost is the same as the ticket you paid for. I will do everything I can to get you on the 1:35 flight. Check in with the gate agent. Good luck.”
I raced through security, arriving at the gate at 1:23 (we have a very small airport). The gate agent was boarding the last zone.
Frantic, I said in one breath.”Hi! Howard said you would have a ticket for me?”
“Yes, you must be Alyson. Here you go. I am so sorry for your Aunt’s illness.”
Again, I burst into tears, hugged the agent, and thanked her profusely. She reached out, grabbing me a tissue, before pausing to hand me a piece of chocolate. In a time when we only hear the bad, the worst, the salacious stories of employees mistreating customers I felt it important to recognize when an employee(s) makes a profound difference in a person’s life. I was struck by the kindness of the agent, of all of the personnel at Delta, who could have easily pushed aside my stupidity as a reason to not lend an assist.
I made it to NJ in time to see my Aunt and get a hand written note before she slipped away from us, way to soon.
To all the angels at Delta, and to my amazing Aunt who was looking out for me – Thank You!