Monday, April 20, 2015
Take Off Your Shoes: The Holy Ground of Airport Security
A woman hasn't seen her sister in eleven years when she learns that her sister is dying. A car accident bogged down her effort to visit, and her sister died before she could get there. She went for a walk on the beach and found a long knotted rope. She started untying the knots, thinking about her sister as she loosened the knots and untangled the rope. Six hours later the rope was neatly collected and she was ready to take her place as the family matriarch. She hasn't flown in a plane since 1987. She just got married, so all her identifications show her maiden name. Her husband, a merchant marine, is at sea for two weeks. Her flight was, of course, booked at the last second. But you have to go, to return and be restored to your place in the family, as much for your family as for you. I want to call my sister, to tell her I won't let the years separate us. I want to cull the herd of my life so I can quickly go where I need to be in a hurry. I want to say something more profound and resonant than "She's in a better place" and "She's looking down on you in love" or "I'll be praying for you," as much because that can't really be comforting, even though she's clearly comforted by it, as because I must be a better wordsmith, a more sophisticated thinker, than that. I've got nothing. I just offer my prayers and nod in agreement. Her sister is in a better place than the place where she contracted lung cancer and lost touch with her sister for more than a decade. She is looking down in love, because love is the thing that survives death. We're in line together at security, and the TSA agent is wonderfully compassionate, even though she thought we were a couple when clearly I'm younger and could do better, right? And then we are through security and she's going to concourse N and I'm going to concourse C. I say goodbye and she doesn't hear me because she's in her own head. I haven't made a friend; I've just made my way through the security line. And it's not even 7am yet. But the world spins madly on, and the finger of God holds the axis steady, and my shoes are off, because the place where I am standing is holy ground.