When I was little people used to bring my grandmother angel statues of all shapes and sizes. She loved what angels meant and I loved the anticipation of seeing which new one would sit on the coffee table with every visit. The size of the wings always caught my attention. I used to imagine that angels with the smaller wings and less feathers could fly faster, but the ones with the huge big white wings could go longer and carry people on them after they died and went to heaven. I remember being at her house and looking at all of these little angels hanging on walls and sitting on all the tables inspired with mystery and curious if they were around me at that very moment, looking after us like some say. I would shut my eyes very fast then open them quickly, trying to trick the angels to see if they only disappeared when our eyes are open, but I never caught one.
Maybe this is why I still believe in them; why on days like today when a woman walked off the train on the way to Montreal, I felt like I just caught one.
I couldn’t sleep the night before and on the way to the train station I was telling my freind how my sleep patterns for my whole life have become exhausting. I can’t figure them out and worry, wonder, or a hyper imaginative mind often wake me up and tie me to the dawn sooner then I would like most days.
Worry is what woke me up last night, and hints of lasting pain after meeting a loved one again in my dream.
Am I where I need to be?
Will I find what I need? Will I be healthy enough to see it?
Am I making good choices? Am I living out my purpose so I can serve this world and make it better? Why is respect and kindness so hard to figure out on the whole? Why do people who are suppose to love us hurt us? Why do we hurt them? What will happen in the USA the next 4 years? How can help alleviate that suffering?
Why do I care? Why, Why, Why?
These questions dragged on me through the morning and found their way to my chest as I waited for the 9:18 am train to Montreal.
One of my greatest challenges in life is to constantly be moving on trains, planes, cars, boats, traveling the world- but to still find a steadiness inside of me that provides stability despite travel and change.
So, as my brain swarmed I sat on the bench outside of the train station in the cold hoping it would help me be more present and grounded. I closed my eyes and breathed in as deep as I could focusing on the cold air filling my lungs, and the smell of winter leaving this place like a snail. I paid attention to the sound of the train coming and my heart beat in relation to it. After a few minutes, I was able to slow down and a few tears fell in surrender.
I stayed parked on that bench for as long as I could working to be the last to board and feeling resentful at god that I couldn't take the cold air inside the steal box train car.
As I walked in towards my seat an ordinary older lady sat in 15A staring out the window. I smiled- I was glad that whoever was there would match my need for gentleness that day. I plopped down next to her in the checkered maroon seat and made it a point to wish her a good morning and ask her how she was doing today.
She said she was wonderful. I smiled back noting that wonderful was a great state to find yourself in.
I took another deep breathe.
She leaned back in her seat and took my hand in hers. I was surprised, but not uncomfortable since I often want to do this with strangers and sometimes do.
“You are a very special person” she said.
Now I was surprised. I blushed and laughed a little before saying thank you and asking her why she would say that.
She went on to talk about my eyes being the brightest ones she has seen in years and from the moment she saw me in the train station she could tell, I was different from others- “Here for a purpose. I am so proud of you, without even telling me I know you have done a whole lot in such a short time." She said.
Reminders, gentle kisses, soft nudges, gifts.
I reached under the seat and put the book down I was planning to read. I turned towards her and unloaded the many questions I always seem to have waiting for some people I meet; prying to know more about who she was and where she came from.
A Ukrainian immigrant after the World War II she found herself in a province in Canada at 21 with two boys and an abusive husband.A man who always made her feel small no matter what she did. “Now I know he was scared of me. If he didn’t put me down, then others would surely steal me away. So, he made me feel small every chance he got, so I would be small- too small to leave.” Finally, he left her for another woman and she and her boys set off to build a life without so much anger. A "refreshing tragedy' she told me it was and a time that defined her. She only cared about loving her boys and providing them with many experiences so the abuse wouldn’t define them. She worked for the local government to issue passports and birth certificates in a nice office with nice people for 25 years. The boys became men and are now grown and successful in their own right, although she worries about ones marriage. Her sense of connection she feels for her granddaughters was touching. Her sense of pain she feels at the way her daughter-in-law treats the family was heartbreaking. Her willingness to share so much of her truth with me was humbling.
As the trees whipped by us through the windows so did the years of her life go by just as quickly, only the meaning behind the most vibrant memories emerging to tell a story of raw life.
She stopped a few times in between her tales to remind me that my eyes were so beautiful- that the kindness she saw in them was rare.
After the 4th time I felt like she was doing it because she sensed I wasn’t really believing what she was saying. I was taking it and letting it roll off into the aisle rather then seep into my skin where it could stay for awhile and possibly become true. I worked that time to let it sink in. She squeezed my hand.
As the french conductor came over the speaker to explain her stop was 10 minutes out we were suddently kicked back into the marroon seats we were sitting in. An hour went by so quickly.
She turned to me with her hands still holding mine.
"I am not sure what has happened recently or maybe it was long ago, but I can sense your sadness. I suspect it was created from cowards, that’s usually the story. Yet still, you have those eyes and that smile that shines despite it all. I am old, and I have made many mistakes, which is why I know things and one thing I know is when someone has true strength- that shows even when life is not roses. That’s you.
From an old woman to a young girl I will ask this of you because if we don’t pass things on we are here for nothing. Know that what you need is coming to you. Tenderness, love, respect, success. Don’t settle for less and walk away when those things aren’t there- and that will hurt, but do it anyway. Even if you tried to get rid of your strength, you can’t - it is in every atom-so this is how I know you will be fine.
The same way you seem focused on work- focus on love too. I am sure you have stories like mine so learn from them and take only the pieces from each of them that makes you brighter. Everything will turn out just as you are expecting.
I am so proud of you already so imagine where you will go now!"
The train stopped and she kissed me on the cheek, hugged me tight, tilted my head to look into my eyes one more time. She said," I love you" from a place coming well beneath her heart. For a moment in her aged face and under the bright pink blush I saw a reflection of me, that thing that makes us all the same.
She scurried off the train and I sat there for a few minutes soaking up the gratitude for experiences like that on days when breathing in air needed to be an intentional thing; hard from the large amounts hazy self-doubt and healing.
I looked out the window to see who was picking her up, or if she was walking but she was gone, or maybe I just didn't open my eyes quick enough to catch her. I wonder if her job from god is to go around on trains giving people love and sharing stories.
I hopped off the train for a few minutes at the next city longing for the cold air again. Breathing felt different this time, more reassured. The conductor ushered me back on after reminding me we would be in Montreal soon with a warm smile.
Normally, I would have gotten on that train and put my head down to read or distract. I would have read all about the theory of advanced vertical development and how to get there. I would have kept digging for knowledge or words on a page that would somehow make me stronger or better so all the things in my life that I want will manifest.
Instead, there was this Ukrainian woman. A human to remind me everything I need I already have, and everything I deserve is waiting because my strength shines even when I can’t see it. She reminded me of beauty. She was there to hold my hand while she told me about it.
I write this on the train right after as not to lose the memory, 8 more stops to go till I reach Montreal. Even without sleep, what an exciting life to live.