To the mother with a special needs daughter next to me on the plane:
I don’t know what brought you and your daughter from the back of plane to sit next to me on that late flight from Chicago to Orlando. I hope it wasn’t that someone was displeased by your presence; your daughter did so well on that flight. I’m sure you had no idea all the thoughts and emotions that observing the two of your raised for me:
I hoped that the flight wasn’t too disturbing for your daughter. I know that can stir a lot of anxiety for someone who is challenged.
I prayed she would feel ok and not be nervous. I prayed you would have patience and strength to do this journey.
I wondered if you were taking her to Disney, and I imagined her childlike wonder and joy if you do.
I thought about how this has been your life for a few decades, watching her, keeping her happy, caring for her most basic needs.
I loved watching her care for her baby doll.
I wondered how I could help her be at ease – if she would appreciate interaction, or if the attention of a stranger would disquiet her.
But mostly, if I could have sat next to you, I would have wanted you to know simply that I saw you.
I saw you patiently making sure her legs didn’t drift back into the aisle where they might be bumped. I saw you point out pictures in the magazine to hold her attention. I saw you when you had to speak for her to the flight attendant, knowing that must happen day after day, you communicating for her. I saw when you recognized that she was getting agitated, and you knew she needed her baby to calm her down.
I saw that you are a good mother. I know most people don’t give much thought to what it means for you to love and care for her day in and day out. I’m sure I don’t know the half of it, but I want you to know that there are people who see you, and want to support and help you in what you do. I hope you know that. I hope you have those people, people who can offer much more than just a prayer and a smile on a late night plane. You are seen.
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