Yes, it is OK to cry. In fact, as we go through each stage in life and knowing the horror of the way the coronavirus spreads, I really don’t know what will stop the tears.

I sincerely understand, being the mother of four, that you would have to take your spot, your private place so your tears won’t scare those who can’t handle it.

When I was traveling a whole lot to lecture to nurses across the country, I had many interesting conversations with jet seat mates. One, in particular, I would like to tell you about.

Now the true story.

Meeting new people is such a pleasure for me. Everyone has a life story and most of them like to tell it. Because I flew so much, every time I buckled up I look to the person next to me and look for a new story.

One time, while flying to Florida, boy, did I get a story. I had the window seat, an elderly lady took the isle seat and in between us sat this young man. Actually, he occupied his seat and half of mine. Later he told me weighed over three hundred pounds and was almost seven feet tall.

Our conversation started when he asked where I was going, and I told him and he followed me by telling me he was going to a construction job in Louisiana. Then he said how he hated to be away from his wife and two little girls.

I smiled as he continued to say that he had turned his life around a few years ago. As he talked, I noticed he began pushing his shirtsleeves up his arm.

“See there? They are scars from knife stabs and here,” opening his work shirt, there were bullet holes. Then he was quiet seemingly to let me absorb his words.

Announcing further, the man said he was in a street gang. “I got to be the gang leader.” Then he said, “Lady, I have seen everything and I’ve done it all.”

Well, he sure had my attention then. So I asked him just what turned him around to get his mind going in a different direction. The sweetest smile crossed his face. And he said, “My wife. I fell in love and I wanted to marry her. But she said she wouldn’t marry me if I was still a gang leader. You have to straighten up your life if you want to be a daddy.”

And here came the hardest part. He said, “See, lady, I still have this awful temper. I flare when I get angry and I lose it,” he said. “Then one night I did lose it, got in a terrible fight and lost every dang tooth in my head. See? My temper won and my wife don’t like how I look now. And she says she don’t like how I kiss neither and that ain’t funny.”

I felt a little chill inside as I saw his jaw tighten and his hands fisted in his lap. I said to him, “So you’re not in a gang anymore and no more fighting. That’s great. The swap to take care of your little family is much better than fighting.”

“Yeah, but don’t get me wrong, I would fight to the death to protect my family.” He stiffened his spine and narrowed his eyes, “Listen lady, I ain’t scared of nothing. Not one thing.”

I felt even more uneasy so when the snacks were passed around I turned my attention to that. It gave him time to pull out of his bag his magazines. I stole a quick glance at them. Every one was a weapons magazine with many illustrations of guns.

That did it. I decided I really did not want to hear the rest of his angry thinking or story. So I laid my head back and closed my eyes.

Well, I must have fallen asleep because I was startled awake by the roll and pitch of the plane. The pilot was saying on the loud speaker that very bad weather was ahead. Well, he wasn’t kidding.

Rarely have I been on a plane that was being tossed around in the black sky like I was. Lightening was striking all around. I glanced at my ultra tough former gang member who was afraid of absolutely nothing. There he sat, his face white as a sheet, perspiration literally pouring down his face and neck. His arms were crossed over his massive chest to protect himself.

He caught my glance and stuttering badly said, “Lady, I am scared out of my skull. We’re going to get killed right here.”

The terrified giant next to me took his seriously shaking hands tattooed with swords and snakes and he wrapped them around my hands. He held them for dear life. I squeezed them and said to him, “I’m with you, so hang on.” His weapons catalog slid off his lap onto the floor.

Finally our jet flew out of the storm and evened itself once more. Only then did my fearless new friend release his grip on my hand. Without a word he wiped the sweat and the tears off with his open palms and laid back against the seat completely and utterly spent.

As we left the plane, this guy turned to me and said, “I thank you. I guess I learned an important lesson. Sometimes the tough aren’t so tough after all. Also I learned it’s OK to cry when you’re scared.”

I’d like to end this column by saying to everyone reading this, that if you’re getting through this unprecedented battle with a virus that we don’t know enough about and we break down once in a while and cry, well, the release will do you good. Grab my hands and hang on for dear life. Remember, I’m in this exactly like you are, like we all are, and it’s OK to cry.

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