The Journey Begins

Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry come to you.

Do not hide your face from me now that I am

in distress.  Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer

me quickly.

Psalm 102:2-3

They say your pilgrimage begins the minute you set foot out of your door.  For us, however, our pilgrimage truly begins the day before we set out to travel.

Saturday, June 2, 2012, we spent the day packing and tying up loose ends.  I made one last trip to Walmart and Ron made several last phone calls.  We checked into our flights and printed out boarding passes.  Passports were checked and rechecked.  The dogs were taken to their new homes with their new families.

For me, the pilgrimage officially began with mass at St. Mary’s at 4:30 followed by supper with our whole family.  We sat and ate and talked about our trip.  Everyone was so excited about going on the plane and then walking where Jesus had walked.  We laughed and ate together as a family, a rare event for us having two busy teenagers.  We also talked about some rules.  We told the younger girls that we would be in places with a lot of strangers.  They would need to hold our hands and stay with us.  They may have to go into the bathrooms with us (something they don’t like to do).  If they get lost, I had given them each a purse that had a sheet of paper inside with all of our contact info: cell phone numbers, hostel addresses and numbers,our itinerary.  They were to go someone with a uniform or a police officer and show them this paper.  They all nodded and we moved on.

We left our home at 3:00 am on Sunday, June 3rd, arriving at the Minneapolis airport on time at 5.  Perfect!  We had enough time to catch our 7:00 am flight without hurrying.  After doing research, we decided to leave our car in the airport’s long term parking in the Humphrey Terminal and catch the light rail that would take us to the Lindbergh Terminal where our flight departed from.  We found a great parking space, took our bags and walked to the light rail.  It was sitting there, we hopped on and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  The security guard said, “I think that train over there might actually leave quicker, let’s go over to that one!”  And so we prepared to get off this train to move to the other one.  Aliza stepped off first.  And the door closed.  Our train started to leave the station.  I couldn’t see Aliza, but Ron could.  He and another airport employee on the train went into immediate panic mode.  Ron looking frantically for a button to stop the train.  The employee asking multiple questions: “How old is she?”  “Five”, Ron answered in haste.  ” Umm, Dad?  She’s actually seven…”  one of the other kids said.  For myself, I was in total shock.  I could not think.  I could not talk.  I could not breathe.  “What was she wearing?” the employee asked.  I looked down at my shirt and remembered!  I had dressed us all the same that morning!  “She’s wearing a green shirt and jeans,” I stammered. “And a purple jacket.  She has brown hair and brown eyes.”  Having found my voice, I began praying, “Hail Mary, full of grace….  Mary, please watch over my child!  Mary, please protect my child!”  I then started repeating, “She has her purse, she knows what to do.  She has her purse, she knows what to do.  Everyone!  Take out your phones!  Aliza will be calling one of us soon!”

Our train stopped and we got off, phones in hand.  Within a few seconds, mine rang, “Is this Wendy?  My name is Peggy (or Pat or Judy, I don’t remember, it doesn’t really matter.  All I heard is “This is your guardian angel…”)  I have your daughter Aliza and I will put her on the next train.  It leaves here in 10 minutes.”  Ten minutes?  It took 10 years for that train to reach us.    I prayed constantly.  I prayed silently.  the only noise in that train station was Alexander humoring the homeless man who had started a conversation with him based on his sweatshirt bearing our hometown’s name.  Everyone else sat in complete silence.  It was early and there were few other people there.  Finally, finally, FINALLY, the train came in and I searched for her frantically.  When she ran out, I grabbed her and we both sobbed.  She was shaking.  “You were so brave!”  I told her.  “You did the right thing!”  And then I said nothing and just held her.  Peggy or Pat or Judy or whoever she was didn’t even stop for me to thank her.  I am sure she had a plane to catch.  But, I wish she had stopped for me to hug her as I wanted to. I hope she knows what a hero she is!

I thought to myself, “What on earth was I thinking?  Why are we doing this?”  This was the first time this thought entered my head, but by far it would not be the last.  We gathered our things and walked on.  We would talk about this often throughout our trip and on the first plane, Aliza would ask me how to spell the word ‘separated’ as she recorded it in her journal.  i read it later “Today, I got separated from my family at the airport.”

I told Ron that this very thing had actually been one of my worst nightmares.  God told me, “See, even if your worst nightmare comes true, I am there with you.  I will always take care of you.”  My faith grew that day more than it ever had.

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