This past Saturday, I was making my usual rounds driving for Lyft. I usually let the rides dictate where I go for the most part, so I am able to explore this great county called Los Angeles (and sometimes, Orange County too). So when I got sent up to the Canoga Park area, I barely batted an eye.
After that ride was completed, I quickly picked up another woman with a few bags headed close to home, the Bob Hope International Airport in Burbank. When I pulled up to the curb, she frantically threw her bags inside and immediately apologized that this might be a terrible ride for me.
“My Dad is going to have open heart surgery. HE’S GOING TO BE OKAY, RIGHT?!”
The very next day was Father’s Day.
“Yeah, he’ll be fine,” I assured. I knew she was stressing out; we’ve been there before and so naturally, I wanted to help her relax a little.
As our conversation towards the airport continued, I had learned that she was much more hysterical prior to my arrival, her Father lived in Portland (the lesser one– Oregon) and he had just had a check-up and everything seemed to be fine.
Now, I tend to get VERY personal information from of the strangers that I drive in my car, but she was on the phone with her sister at the hospital, her son’s Father, and finally, her Mother. He was being prepped for the surgery, the doctor’s were reviewing their very complicated plans, and they had the best surgeon in the hospital on the case.
Things sounded hopeful, all in all. This didn’t do too much to ease my passenger. She was still upset– understandably so, but I had assumed this would help. She lamented not being by his side as he went into the operating room. I told her that while she won’t be there when he begins surgery, but she will be there for him when he gets out.
The traffic was much more dense on the 101 than usual, nevertheless, I did my absolute best to get her to the airport post haste, for there was a chance that she might have been able to catch an earlier flight. When we were ten minutes away from the airport her sister called back. I could hear the sibling clearly on the phone–
“He just died.”
Immediately, my passenger wailed and chanted a weary “No… No… No…;” sobbing uncontrollably. I felt terrible for her. There was nothing any of us could have done. Her Father, a kind and loving man– who scoffed at the marriage statistics by recently celebrating fifty years of matrimony had taken his last breath. She couldn’t be there for her family’s immediate consolation of one another and I couldn’t say anything that would help in this moment. A typical “Sorry for your loss” wouldn’t have made her matter easier to swallow.
No, I sat there as she cried, prayed to God, and called her son to break the news of his Grandfather’s passing. It was a sobering moment that reminded the both of us how precious (and limited) our moments were on this Earth.
It took me back to a time when my Grandfather had experienced some heart problems and was sent to Fort Kent Hospital. The family all went to see him, but for some reason, I declined to pay him a visit assuming he would be just fine. Soon after he was sent to Bangor to see a specialist. I hadn’t thought it was that serious.
We all gathered around at my Grandparent’s apartment as we awaited more news from his caregivers. They too were prepping a surgery for him and as he spoke to the heart surgeon about the procedure his heart gave out and pumped its last quart of blood.
I never forgave myself for my foolish assumption of his continued health. Sure, in an alternate dimension he came back home and I got to see him, but it didn’t happen here and I had no good excuse for missing my window.
Then I was brought back to the present. I wondered how long it had been since my passenger had last seen her Dad. If there was a moment that she could have visited him, but insisted on the opposite. “He’ll be around when I get around.” I wished in that moment that she were able to see him one last time, to tell him how much she loved him.
So I say to you, fine reader, go see your loved ones, young and old. If you live too far away, call them. Yes, you’re busy, but we all are, and we all can take a measly few minutes a week to say hello and tell them how much we love them.
Don’t make the same mistake I did.