Friday, January 28, 2011

God Is My Travel Agent

This week I did something I don't think I've ever done before. I attended the funeral of a person I never met. And it was awesome.

First, a bit of background. Frank was the brother of my good friend Jim, whom I met online (via FriendFeed) a couple of years ago. Frank was diagnosed with sarcoma last spring and battled cancer courageously until succumbing to it on January 19. The FriendFeed community had been following Frank's journey through Jim's posts, joining as virtual members of "Team Frank" and trying to support the family through our prayers and good wishes. We even had specially designed logos that a number of us used on FriendFeed:


(Kudos to FFer Jeremy for his great designs. The extra F in Frank is for FriendFeed, by the way.) Eventually the Team Frank movement even made its way to Facebook, where a number of Frank's real life friends and supporters used the logos, too.

And now, back to this week. We knew Frank was fading fast, but all of his virtual fans were still shocked and saddened when we found out about his passing last Wednesday night. We mourned with his family and friends, crying and posting messages of support for his family and each other. We shared posts and photos from his sister Maria's Facebook page as well as songs and videos to encourage everyone involved.

Some FFers were even closer to the situation.

Jim is a pastor, and Frank had asked him to conduct the funeral service. Jim requested and received help from his pastor friend Will and from a FriendFeeding nun, Heather.

Over the weekend, my husband and I were talking about the funeral plans. He said he didn't mind if I wanted to go; he could stay home with the dogs. Well, of course I'd love to go, but how on earth could I manage it? I'd have to get from Georgia to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and last-minute plane tickets aren't cheap. I looked at some tickets online and found some reasonable prices, but that didn't take into account getting from the airport in Philadelphia to the funeral in New Jersey or finding a place to stay. Was I really up for renting a car or trying to find some kind of shuttle service?

Cue FriendFeed. On Sunday afternoon, I posted that I wanted to fly to PA/NJ for the funeral but was having trouble with the logistics. Heather and her husband, Scott (yes, she's an Episcopal nun, so she can be married), were driving up and offered to meet me at the airport Monday night if I needed them to. Patricia, another FriendFeeder, was planning to drive up Tuesday morning for the funeral and could also get me from the airport. Pastor Will was on the road when I posted but said he would call from home. I updated FriendFeed with the possibilities.

At that point, Heather commented: "Be not afraid - your path will be made clear." And you know what? She was absolutely right.

  • Will called me and said he could pick me up from the airport and even provide a place to stay.
  • The cheapest flight I had seen on Travelocity that afternoon was from United. It had disappeared, and I was getting nervous. The next time I logged in after talking to Will, a new flight was there from Airtran. And it was four dollars cheaper than the missing United flight.
  • I was pretty sure I could get time off work, but I needed to go to a Monday morning meeting. I texted my boss to see if I could take Monday afternoon and Tuesday off. Yes, no problem.
I made my reservations, firmed up plans with Will, and made the trip. The service was wonderful, and I got to meet Maria as well as Jim's parents and family. After an amazing lunch at Cafe Antonio's, Will and I said our goodbyes to the family and headed to the airport. Will apologized for dropping me off so early, almost two hours before my flight, but said there wasn't really any place to hang out at the Philadelphia airport. I told him that was ok, thanked him for his kindness, printed my boarding pass, and went through security. When I got to my gate, there was no flight information on the screen and no customer service representative there - it was too early. I walked to the next gate just to make sure my flight hadn't moved, and I saw the screen there read "Atlanta, 5:38." Hmmm. My flight was scheduled for 7:03.

I asked the Airtran employee if they had any available seats. She asked if I had a seat on the next flight, and when I told her I did, she said she had some available. She changed my reservation, handed me a new boarding pass, and sent me down the ramp. No charge.

I ended up getting to my house at the time I should have been landing in Atlanta.

Every single thing about that trip worked out perfectly. I couldn't have asked for anything better. So I leave you with this thought:

If a nun ever tells you, "Be not afraid - your path will be made clear," you had better believe it.

Rest in peace, Frank.


Will said...

Heather is a little like a Chritian Yoda, and I mean that in all the best of ways.

Laura said...

Exactly! :)

Laura said...

I realized I didn't explain the title. It came about when I was talking to a friend on Wednesday about the trip, and I said, "God is my travel agent." She replied, "Sometimes that's better than being your co-pilot."

Jennifer L. said...

Okay, so even though I knew the story, it still brought tears to my eyes!

MellissaD said...