Thursday, May 14, 2009

Goodbyes at Dulles Airport

Originally Posted in the Common Threads Blog
Centre Daily Times, August 14, 2007

I was at Washington Dulles International Airport yesterday - to see off my parents, who were returning to India.

They had been visiting us over the summer, and had suddenly cut short their trip on hearing that my grandmother, who lives in India, was unwell.

My parents checked in, and had an hour to spare, before they headed out through security and to the gates.

An hour to sit down and take a breath, after the whirlwind of the previous 24 hours leading to this abrupt change in plans and sudden departure.

An hour to reflect on the possibilities of the future, and hold on to the hope that my grandmother would pull through this illness.

An hour to reflect on the good times of the past months we had spent together - and put the interrupted plans of the month ahead in the larger perspective of life.

An hour to tell each other to take care of ourselves.

An hour that led to the time to wave our goodbyes - each of us, especially my mother and my daughter, struggling with the sadness of the moment, and learning to deal with its inevitability.

I waved goodbye till I could no longer see them, and then turned to leave - and saw the face of another woman, also turning, with the same expression of sadness I had, trying not to let the suppressed tears flow out..

I looked ahead, and saw a couple standing together, taking a photograph of themselves with a polaroid camera held out with an extended hand.

I heard someone, asking a child “to be good and take care of mother when I am gone.”

I saw a group of people, craning their heads and trying to get a glimpse of someone who had just gone past the security area.

I heard a woman, checking the departure screen, voicing the thought in our heads, “Should we leave now, or wait till the plane departs?”

And I could not help feeling the common humanity of all our lives - in the intensity of the connections that we all share with those we care about...

Like me, each of these people, no matter what their race, religion, ethnicity, gender or nationality - must have had a story which had brought them to this airport, and this moment of goodbye.

More than six billion people on this earth, and yet at that moment, each of us had eyes and thoughts only for the ones we were being separated from, by circumstances of our individual lives.

And as I finally left the airport, after my parents plane had taken off, I realized that if we could only hang on to the universality of such human experiences, our other “differences” would cease to matter..

Update - Good News
Submitted by Common Threads on Fri, 2007-08-31 10:40.

My thanks to all of you who called, or emailed, or stopped me on the street to ask about my grandmother, and my family.

My thanks to everyone who was touched by this article - thanks for sharing your positive responses, and for being able to relate to the common experiences that link us all.

I want to let you all know that my grandmother is doing well now, and is almost back to her normal routines.

Again, many thanks for your concern and support.

Submitted by CommonMan on Sat, 2007-08-18 12:09.

Thanks for writing such a beautiful piece. It brought memories back for me. I hope humanity can get connected through the common thread of love, affection and care.


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