Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Prayer, The Answer, The Plane

Until twelve years ago, I had never met anyone "interesting" on a plane.  Oh, I know amazing persons were all around me, but I'd never struck up a conversation with one.

That changed the day I decided to say a prayer.

I felt a little silly, asking for something as trivial as "could I please sit beside someone interesting on the plane?" It was a quick prayer, uttered as I hurried out the door, ready to board a flight to another (American) state. 

I don't remember exactly how the seating went, but for some last-minute reason there was a quick exchange. By the time we were airborne, Mr. and Mrs. S. had switched to the seats beside me.

I have no idea how the subject of "Australia" came up.  But here we were, shortly after take-off, going from hello-how-are-you into conversation about a land across the earth.  Mr. and Mrs. S. had never been there; I had.  They said they knew one person in Australia, a lady named Katherine, who was American and had once lived in their hometown.  Katherine had been a neighbor of Mr. S., and a good friend of his mother's when he was growing up.  After being widowed at a relatively young age, Katherine met and married an Australian gentleman.  As Katherine's story unfolded before me, I began to think of Kate.

Dear American Kate.  I'd met her when my husband and I were staying with friends in a tiny Australian town.  Kate was a member of my friends' Catholic parish, was so happy to meet us, and loved to talk with The Americans about "home."  She was elderly, and generous, and we wrote each other after my return to the States.

Mr. and Mrs. S. and their family had lost touch with their friend Katherine, but they'd been so intrigued by how she'd met her Australian husband that they told me more about it.

This was starting to sound familiar.  Why, Katherine had met her husband in the same way Kate met hers.  How unusual.  I told Kate's story to my new friends. The two accounts were identical.  

Could Kate and Katherine be one and the same person?  Mrs. S. was astonished at the very possibility.  I mean (she kept asking), what were the odds?  The Australian town was a tiny one, across the continent from Sydney... not a place many Americans happen to visit.  To sit on a plane next to a woman who'd been there and knew their friend would be an amazing circumstance. 

Long-story-less-long:  Katherine was (of course) Kate.  And through a last minute switch of plane seats and exchanged addresses, I was able to help long-lost friends re-establish contact across the earth.

Mrs. S. has phoned me several times over the past few years.  In almost every conversation, she has said, still with that obvious astonishment, "we know ONE person in the entire continent of Australia, and we happen to sit on a plane next to a woman who knows her too!?!!"  

Of course, the woman sitting next to Mrs. S. had prayed.  Taking a quick minute as she headed out the door, she'd asked for something quite tiny in the grand scheme of things.  Or so it seemed.  Only God knows how it has all played out in the lives of reconnected friends.

Mrs. S. phoned me a few weeks ago.  She wanted me to know that, just after celebrating her 100th birthday, Katherine had recently died.

Always when I think of that day on the plane, I am struck by the power of prayer.  I'm reminded of the truth that anything we ask of God can never be too "small" for His attention.  God answered my tiny prayer in a big way.

I sat beside someone interesting on the plane.

Painting: Penleigh Boyd, Ghost Gum at Kangaroo Flat, 1921 (Australian)

In memory of Kate.  May she rest in God's peace


  1. Nancy,

    Sometimes our world seems so big and impersonal, and stories like this one remind us that it's not that way for God. Yes, He has time for all the small things in our lives. And small things lead to big things when God's in charge!

    I will pray for Kate. Thank you for sharing this story!

  2. What an incredible and wonderful story. Thank you for the reminder of the power of prayer!

  3. This is a beautiful story on so many levels. Our God is amazing, that he knows each detail of us and loves us with an unfathomable love. I will say prayers for Kate as well. Thank you for the gift of your words and kinship...God Bless.

    1. Thank you all, my friends, for your words and your generous prayers for Kate. She had no children, and at the age of 100 may not have many people left here to pray for her. But WE now know about her, because of that day on the plane! Amazing how God works....

  4. Nancy, what a great story! I love how God really surprised you..I mean, what an answer to your prayer! But how amazing for your new friends...and then now we are all praying for Kate's soul. I think this post made God smile. How awesome He is! Thanks for sharing.
    Love you.

    1. Thanks so much, Patricia. Oh, He surprised me indeed! I can still "see" Mr. and Mrs. S's faces as we were all standing to leave the plane. I suppose "incredulous" would be the word for their expressions. By then we were all pretty sure this had to be the same person. I was away for a few weeks on that trip, and as soon as I arrived at my destination I contacted my Australian friend who knew Kate and asked if she would ask HER (I had Mr. and Mrs. S's information to convey). The 3 of us just couldn't wait to find out!

  5. Replies
    1. Thank you for letting me know. This is one of the things in my life that reminds me to pray for many things!