Monday, October 16, 2006

Sweet angel....

On a flight from Anchorage to Seattle, a woman boarded the plane. She had long silver-gray hair pulled into two braids that hung to her waist. She was carrying a small child, who was hooked up to IV's and tubes. He was crying, and she was trying to console him. Struggling with her bags, we assisted her to her seat, giving her pillows and blankets to help get the child more comfortable.
The woman's name was Jill, a doctor from Alaska. Since the early 90's, she had been going to Sudan to care for the children there. This year, for the first time, she brought someone home with her. The little boy in her arms was 6-year old, Gatmai. They were on their way to Boston, where there was a team of doctors ready to perform surgery on this sweet child. Without the surgery, he would die.
He was in such pain, and he was trying to be so brave, but every once in a while, he would just cry out... She spoke to him in his native tongue, asking where it hurt and telling him that he was brave and that we would get there as soon as we could. She stayed vigilant and by his side, not needing or wanting anything but just to make it there... They made it through the 3 1/2 hour flight. I kept thinking about the 5+ hour all-nighter they had ahead of them... I couldn't imagine how tired they both must have been.
After everyone deplaned, we helped her with her bags and she lifted little Gatmai and carried him to his stroller. He was in so much pain... We got her all set up w/ her bags and I told her I was going to stay with her and help her until she left for Boston.
Thank goodness for the family bathroom; a large room w/ a toilet, sink, countertop- and privacy. While she was in the bathroom with Gatmai, she was able to clean him up, wash his sores, flush out his stomach, and get ready for the next part of their journey. I went to the little magazine shop in the airport - and was surprised and relieved that they sold diapers and wipes. I was also able to give a heads-up to the customer service agents and brief the flight attendants for the next flight, so they knew the situation and the best way to assist Jill and Gatmai. They were all awesome, and I knew Jill and Gatmai would be taken care of.
I went back to the bathroom to help Jill finish getting everything ready. Gatmai seemed more comfortable, but he had soiled his favorite blanket by accident. I went back to the shop, got a new blanket, blue, his favorite color. I took it to him and laid the soft blanket over his thin, little body. Jill told him it was a gift from his new friend. He looked up at me and for the first time that whole evening, he smiled. It was like a little glimpse of Heaven.
We went out in the boarding area and waited until it was time to board. Gatmai was in better spirits, and loved watching the airplanes take off. He raised his thin arms a time or two, smiling and pointing at the planes taking off and telling us about the trucks that drove around the airplanes. I showed him my how my cell phone is a camera, and he asked to take a picture with me. I was amazed, this child who had come from the other side of the world, who he knew he was dying, and yet in that tiny frame still existed a curious little boy, fascinated by the airplanes and trucks and wanting his picture taken. And Jill, who brought this child home with her because she knew it was the only option for him, knowing he might not even make it through the night. I was overwhelmed and humbled at the whole situation.
It was almost time to go and Gatmai asked if I was coming with them. Jill told him I had to stay here, but would think about him the whole way. I drew a picture of myself and told him that it was me and I would go with him all the way to Boston. Jill translated for me, and he smiled. Then I helped her down the jetway and onto the plane. They were the last on board, the other flight attendants and I helped get her settled, and I said goodbye, and a silent prayer that they would make it to Boston safely.
A couple weeks later, I received an email from Jill:
Dear Colleen, Thanks for your note and your help. Gatmai did well initially. Then suddenly last week he became very ill and has just passed away. My heart is broken. He is the bravest boy I will ever meet. Thanks again for your help. Jill
Tears came to my eyes when I read her message. I only knew Gatmai for a small moment in time, but it meant more to me than anyone will ever know...
I will never forget his little smile and sweet spirit.
Thank God for sending us angels who help us realize how precious, lovely, and beautiful life is....


Blogger Jake and Libby: said...

Oh my gosh what an amazing story.

8:21 AM  

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