September 16, 2020

This is one of those “it just so happens” stories that by all rights ought never to have happened. The fall of our younger son’s senior year, we made some road trips to colleges he was interested in attending. The longest trip was from our home in Hershey, PA to Brown University in Providence, RI, some 342 miles each way.  

On the drive back home, after all the traffic on I-95 around New York City, it was a relief to get onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike just west of Philadelphia. Speaking of relief, a bathroom break was overdue, so we made a pitstop at the Valley Forge Service Plaza. I got in a long line for the Women’s Restroom, which inched along. Finally, I was at the head of the line. Out of a toilet stall stepped a woman who looked just like my mother. Stepping out of the stall, my mother spotted a woman who looked just like her daughter. After double takes, we hugged, laughed, cried, and told everyone in the restroom, “this is my Mom”, “this is my daughter,” as if we had been separated for years. Once we calmed down, we asked each other, “What are you doing here?”

Mom was on her way to Atlantic City with her husband, my stepfather. They were on one of the daily casino-sponsored bus trips that ran from Pittsburgh PA to Atlantic City, NJ. It was a way to spend two days for greatly discounted price at one of the casino hotels, with coupons for free meals. Mom anticipated time walking on the boardwalk and people watching, while my stepfather loved the slots, where the casino made up for their loss-leader. 

They lived just north of Pittsburgh, and while we stayed in touch, we hadn’t talked in a couple of weeks, and so had no idea we might be “ships crossing in the night,” one heading west and the other heading east. What are the odds that we would be at the exact same place at the exact same time, at that particular restroom stall? Only God knows.

A couple years later, Rod and I moved to Wisconsin, and then on to Hawaii. At the same time, Mom’s health began to decline, and visits became more and more difficult. Over the years, I think back on that odd, unlikely experience, and the absolute surprise and joy we felt. I hold onto the memory as a kind of foretaste of heaven and the absolute surprise and joy that will be ours’s. I consider it as pure gift from the One who is somehow integral in those “it just so happens” moments. 

With joy ~ Anne

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