Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage by Cheryl Dickow, Part Five

Where had her life gone became the bigger question. What happened to her dreams of teaching at a local college or of having taken one or two significant family vacations? Time was running through her fingers like sand in an hour glass and each grain became a tear of remorse or regret or fear. She could no longer tell. And so her plan began hatching.

She became fixated on reports that said that a person’s forties were the new thirties. By those calculations she was only thirty-eight! This was math that she liked. She found great comfort in that. Thirty-eight was quite young and a great age to take a trip. Once she had recaptured the past ten years, she had to decide on what kind of trip she would take. Her sister had just returned from France and England. Beth listened intently to stories and enjoyed all the pictures and yet none of it stirred a desire in Beth’s heart. The pictures of the Eiffel Tower at night were truly magnificent as were the expensive, melt-in-your-mouth chocolates but still Beth had no inclination to visit those parts of Europe.

Later that week, Beth was writing down everyone’s dental appointments on her calendar when her eye caught the calendar’s notes for Yom Kippur and Sukkot. In that instant she knew where she was going: Israel. Her childhood memories of growing up in a predominately Jewish neighborhood and having attended more than a few synagogue services came flooding back. She wanted to be in Israel. Actually, more accurately, she needed to be in Israel. And her planning began.

Beth was next in line. She took a step forward and felt as if she were walking with God for the first time in a long time. She was overcome with peace as she moved through the vacuous tunnel to the plane. This time she was focused on finding her seat and refused to get caught up in any of her day dreams. S3, S3, S3, S3, Beth repeated, until she was buckled in. She found that there were great benefits to paying attention.

She selected a nice, clean, freshly folded blanket and a crisply covered pillow from the empty, overhead bin. She easily moved into her seat and got herself situated. Although she wasn’t quite ready to make use of her pillow or blanket she was relying on her sister’s advice: Sleep during your flight, even if you don’t want to! You must do everything you can to make it through the first day on your trip without succumbing to sleep. Get yourself on schedule right away. Her sister had explained that staying up during this flight, and then sleeping when you arrived at your destination, really threw a wrench in your whole trip. So Beth planned on following her sister’s advice and doing her best to get to sleep as soon as they were in the air.

The woman for whom Beth had offered a prayer stood in the aisle eyeing her ticket and the numbers posted on the small plastic signs above each row. She looked at Beth, her toddler asleep in her arms. Beth smiled knowingly as the woman moved in such a way as to not wake up her child. Beth helped by removing the diaper bag from the woman’s shoulder and placing it on the floor, just tucked under the seat enough so that the woman could maneuver her way into the narrow space. Beth watched as the woman bent forward, ever-so-slightly, and then put the back of her hand against her child’s beautiful head so that it wouldn’t lunge backward causing him to wake up.
The woman thoughtfully eyed the armrest between her seat and the seat of her toddler. Beth instinctively knew it would be best to raise the armrest to create one large single space for both mother and child versus two small spaces. Beth reached over and in one movement pushed in the release button of the armrest while pulling it up to be tucked between the seatbacks. The mother smiled her appreciation, both women understanding the need for silence. Beth’s heart filled with gratitude to the Lord for having allowed her to pray for this mother and her child and for also giving her seat companions that would help her follow her sister’s advice: to sleep.

The plane was in the air, the young mother and her child were serenely tucked into their roomy seat. They were all on their way to Israel. Beth’s last cognizant thoughts, as she drifted off to sleep, were from the book of Jeremiah. For thus says the Lord: Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say; The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, The mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng.

Want to read more? This is the end of the excerpt but you can get the whole story at Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage

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