Holding Hands

I’m on an airplane bound for New York, then on to Nova Scotia. My earplugs are in. My seatbelt is fastened and Ann’s book on Advent is open. I’m underlining words I’ll try to weave into Christmas music soon.

“He gave up the heavens that were not even large enough to contain Him and lets Himself be held in a hand. The mystery so large becomes–“

“Excuse me,” she interrupts. “Can I sit by you?”

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Without waiting for my answer, the woman unfastens her seatbelt, crosses the aisle and takes the seat beside me – takes my space, my quiet, my reading alone time.

She’s afraid and embarrassed. I stick out my hand and introduce myself and her panic turns to smile – her boyfriend’s name is Shawn. “Good vibes! I need all the good vibes I can get.”

But panic returns shortly: As we roll away from the gate Emily grabs my hand and squeezes.

Tires lift from the asphalt. A loud thud is heard and felt beneath our feet. Emily seizes my forearm with both hands now and closes her eyes so tightly a tear runs free. Every sound, every bump, stokes uncertainty.

“That’s the landing gear. That’s normal. You’re doing great.”

She apologizes again and again for wrapping herself around my arm. But she doesn’t let go as we climb toward the clouds and turn sharply toward our destination. “This is normal, right?”

“It is. I promise.”

“Everything’s going to be OK?”

“I promise.”

“Good vibes,” she whispers. And then we’re enveloped in clouds and jostled by turbulence and my arm is in a two-fisted vice again.

She clings to me for almost two hours. To distract herself with conversation, she asks questions and answers mine, tells me about her boyfriend and work and her dog and the bachelorette party she’s put together in New York. She leans in close. To hear the calm in my voice. To hear the promise that everything is going to be OK. She repeats my words, trying to believe – Everything is going to be OK.

And in the rare seconds of silence between so many words, Ann’s words repeat in my head. Soaring above the clouds, looking out across the wing at the vastness of sky…  God squeezed Himself into a woman’s womb, into skin, into the confines of a stable “…and let’s Himself be held in a hand.”

To hold ours. And keep the promiseEverything’s going to be OK.

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