www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Today's fierce urgency is voter mobilization -1/25/2015, 5:02 PM

Duke, Muslims and politics of intimidation -1/25/2015, 5:02 PM

Right to hunt -1/25/2015, 5:02 PM

Pipeline: Foreign profits, American risk -1/23/2015, 7:47 AM

Social Darwinist 'Christianity' -- Chapter 3 -1/23/2015, 7:47 AM

Kiwanis generosity -1/23/2015, 7:47 AM

The state economy -1/22/2015, 10:23 AM

Restate of the union -1/22/2015, 10:23 AM

France needs our First Amendment -1/22/2015, 10:23 AM

Repurposing Washington -1/20/2015, 9:31 AM

March for Life -1/20/2015, 9:31 AM

Brownback, the budget and schools -1/20/2015, 9:31 AM

Sensible checks are no assault on gun rights -1/19/2015, 9:50 AM

Jeb Bush chooses expedience on marriage issue -1/19/2015, 9:50 AM

The State of the State Address and the legislative session -1/19/2015, 8:47 AM

Spending's not the culprit in budget woes -1/18/2015, 3:32 PM

Pilgrim's paradise -1/18/2015, 3:32 PM

Spring elections -1/18/2015, 3:23 PM

Kobach is back -1/16/2015, 3:04 PM

More with Les -1/16/2015, 10:03 AM

Understanding Hooper -1/16/2015, 10:02 AM

Basic economics -1/16/2015, 10:01 AM

Female governance -1/15/2015, 9:37 AM

2015 energy policy -- a unique opportunity -1/15/2015, 9:37 AM

The better option -1/15/2015, 9:36 AM

'Wall Street' a waste -1/14/2015, 2:50 PM

Trade already -1/14/2015, 2:49 PM

No media bias? -1/14/2015, 2:48 PM

Retirement funds -1/14/2015, 2:47 PM

Redefining public education in Kansas -1/13/2015, 10:06 AM

What the future holds -1/13/2015, 10:06 AM

Efficient education -1/13/2015, 10:06 AM

Terrorists usher in the 'End of Satire' -1/12/2015, 9:14 AM

Sexuality, lame logic, substandard science -1/12/2015, 9:14 AM

A tragic family story -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

For freedom, LGBT rights, a year of decision -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

Roberts' promotion -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

FHSU campaign -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

Fairness in U.S. -1/9/2015, 3:05 PM

Liberals' use of black people -- Part II -1/9/2015, 9:09 AM

Social Darwinist 'Christians' -- Chapter 2 -1/9/2015, 9:09 AM

Taxing situation -1/9/2015, 9:09 AM

Trust: Society depends on it -1/8/2015, 9:55 AM

Education schools lack a paradigm -1/8/2015, 9:55 AM

Congress convenes -1/7/2015, 10:07 AM

Simple way to fix gridlock: change committees -1/7/2015, 10:06 AM

Kansas is your customer -1/7/2015, 10:06 AM

Large budget shortfalls await solution -1/6/2015, 10:06 AM

The state and funding K-12 education -1/6/2015, 10:06 AM

Tree removal -1/6/2015, 10:06 AM

Republicans won -- now what? -1/5/2015, 9:13 AM

Social Darwinist religion, Chapter 1 -1/5/2015, 9:13 AM

Liberals' use of black people -1/2/2015, 9:53 AM

Ignorance abounds -1/2/2015, 9:53 AM

Superbug dilemma -1/2/2015, 9:53 AM

Thanks North Korea -12/31/2014, 1:26 PM

Sony gets the last laugh -12/31/2014, 1:26 PM

Free speech -12/31/2014, 1:16 PM

New Year's resolutions -- sort of -12/31/2014, 9:22 AM

A flat-footed backflip for Wall Street -12/31/2014, 9:22 AM

Dim the lights -12/31/2014, 9:22 AM

Some near-sure bets for the new year -12/31/2014, 9:21 AM

Adios, Rick Perry -12/30/2014, 8:20 AM

Budget strife means high-anxiety session -12/30/2014, 8:20 AM

Time for caution -12/30/2014, 8:20 AM

-12/29/2014, 10:01 AM

Court's raw deal -12/29/2014, 10:01 AM

Chris Christie's pork barrel politics -12/29/2014, 10:00 AM

A Festivus Miracle -12/27/2014, 4:18 PM

Faith, not politics, keeps Christ in Christmas -12/27/2014, 4:18 PM

EPA rule falls short -12/27/2014, 4:18 PM

2014: The year in Kansas higher education -12/26/2014, 9:39 AM

Methane from cattle -12/26/2014, 9:39 AM

Black progression and retrogression -12/26/2014, 9:38 AM

Up-Lyft-ing Christmas tale -12/25/2014, 1:22 PM

Terrorism on soft targets -12/25/2014, 1:22 PM

Story of Christmas -12/25/2014, 1:22 PM

Fabricated column -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

The Christmas spirit dwells in us all -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

Celebrating life -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

A visit from St. Nicholas -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

A look ahead to the Legislature -12/23/2014, 9:34 AM

There is a Santa Claus -12/23/2014, 9:34 AM

Cuban sanctions need to be lifted -12/23/2014, 9:33 AM

2016 presidential campaign already boring -12/22/2014, 9:08 AM

A rainbow coalition of protests -12/22/2014, 9:07 AM

Budget needs dynamic leadership, not scoring -12/21/2014, 1:06 PM

Sure, you can say that -- but please don't -12/21/2014, 1:06 PM

Holiday travel -12/19/2014, 10:16 AM

ALEC's starring role in the 'Wrecking Crew' -12/19/2014, 10:17 AM

Should profiling be banned? -12/19/2014, 10:06 AM

No right to misbehave -12/18/2014, 10:09 AM

Pompeo deserves thanks -12/18/2014, 10:00 AM

Executive orders -12/18/2014, 10:00 AM

Attack on Pearl Harbor -12/18/2014, 10:00 AM

Christ's role -12/18/2014, 9:59 AM

Governing vs. giving -12/18/2014, 9:58 AM

Adapting to change -12/17/2014, 10:30 AM

Brownback's 'vision' -12/17/2014, 10:30 AM

Young at heart -12/17/2014, 10:29 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

On the flight to San Jose

Published on -3/3/2014, 1:53 PM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

I am supposed to be working. I have the bags, under the seat in front, full of papers. I am not working. I am listening.

I have a colleague who hates to fly Southwest because he invariably finds himself next to a morbidly obese passenger in the middle seat. This never has happened to me.

I never have found myself next to a morbidly obese passenger. No, I find myself next to mothers who break my heart.

A few weeks ago, the woman next to me said she was going north to have her hair done. For a moment, I indulged myself. Imagine a life where you have the freedom to get on a plane on a Thursday to have your hair done. I felt self-righteous and hardworking, for at least the 90 seconds that elapsed before the woman told me the whole truth. She also was going north to tend to the garden she and her family planted at the site where her 17-year-old son drove off the road and died.

Not just a hair appointment. A memorial garden. I am more sorry than I can say.

Today, my seatmate was on her way to Stanford, where her daughter is a senior and an athlete, except right now, when she's in the hospital, as she so often is, because she has cystic fibrosis. She is having sinus surgery today. Her mother and I have a close mutual friend. We have seen each other through the years. Didn't I know that both her children have serious health problems? I guess I did. I guess I tried not to think about it.

When I was a kid, I heard more than I wanted to about the starving children in India. That their lives were worse than mine gave me perspective, but it never gave me comfort.

Sitting on the plane to San Jose, putting aside the work that suddenly seems not even worth talking about (much less doing), I try to feel like the luckiest woman on the planet. I am just going to a court hearing, not a surgical suite. When the plane lands, I make sure my seatmate gets out first. She has places to go. I'm just the lucky lady in the aisle seat.

Why is it so hard to hold onto that feeling? Why is it so hard to remember, to feel the blessing of all the things I'm not doing today, all the hardships I'm not juggling, all the pain, etched on my seatmate's face, delicately but there, that I don't face?

The woman whose son died told me her husband had a bad stomach, like me, only his got so bad after losing his son he had to have awful surgery. Take care of yourself, she told me. Maybe we were meant to meet. I try to hold onto that. As I sip my tea, I try to remember I am the lucky one, and I am. I know it. But knowing it and feeling it are such different things.

I am back at the airport now. My hearing is over, and I'm heading home. I sit at the airport thinking about the woman I met just hours ago, sitting at her daughter's bedside, maybe getting some juice, changing the station on the television -- life in hospital rooms. I have spent time in that life. I have done my best.

But tonight, I am not there. I am not tending to a sick child or pulling the weeds in a memorial garden. I am the luckiest woman I know. I might not feel that way, not all the time, but I am grateful, and my heart is full.

Susan Estrich is a columnist,

commentator and law and political

science professor at USC.

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News
AP Nation-World News

View this site in another language.

Kansas News