Don’t forget compassion

I have flown hundreds of times but every time I have anxiety before the flight. Last October, I worried more than ever. I had to be in Miami no matter what. My husband, Bill, and I were flying to important medical meetings, which were difficult to coordinate and organize. It took us weeks to schedule them. My future would be planned for the next seven months according to the results of these meetings.

In addition to my nervousness, Hurricane Nicole, following some riddle of nature, flew at a crazy speed towards Bermuda. It was supposed to hit the island in the next two days. The airport was expected to close the day before.

On the way to our flight, the weather began to deteriorate. The wind intensified. A grey and unfriendly ocean crashed mighty waves on to the South Shore beaches. “I will become a real Bermudian when I experience a hurricane,” I told Bill with a tense smile. “But I hope not this time.”

Absorbed in my own thoughts, I mechanically handed the passport to an agent to get my boarding pass.

“Your passport is invalid.”

The strict words of the airline agent returned me to the present moment.

“What? It cannot be true,” I exclaimed, still not believing what I just heard. I clutched my passport and saw that, for some reason, I’d grabbed my old and expired passport. My despair had no boundaries. All our well-prepared plans instantly collapsed like a house of cards.

While we were moving away from the counter, the scenario of the next hours unfolded in my head. It was doubtful we would be able to fly the next day. The only flight to Miami was full, and expected to cancel. Nicole was predicted to make landfall as a class-4 hurricane. Our cottage on the point at Cavello Bay was right on the water. Almost all hotels were booked to capacity. Our appointment schedule was out the window.

I felt so miserable, so low and enormously guilty. My carelessness resulted in a mistake that triggered a series of very unpleasant consequences. I didn’t understand how I could not check my passport before leaving. I looked at my husband in tears, expecting justifiable complaints and even some harsh words for my absent-mindedness. In such situations, it’s so easy to vent your frustration in anger: how could you … you’re always ... you never look ... why did you ... and worse.

Bill looked at me and then he looked off into the distance for a few seconds. Not a single word of criticism! Suddenly, he hugged me and whispered in my ear: “Cupcake, we will make it happen!”

I cried with relief and believed him. We would make everything happen because we are a strong team. The next morning we were on the last flight out. We did everything that was planned in Miami and even more.

I asked him then why he did not blame me. He answered, “You were already so unhappy that I just had no right to hurt you even more. How would it change or improve that situation?”

I will always remember this priceless lesson. It has many aspects: hold back when you want to blame someone, even though it seems that you have all rights to do so. Forgive in the moment, and do not surrender to anger. Do not react by going on the offence. Remember that your loved one is a human, and we all make mistakes.

Bill has a simple way of remembering all this. When I asked what he was thinking about with that far-away look at the ticket counter, he said: “I was remembering the words of the Buddha: let us not forget compassion.”