Several years ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. because I had been recognized as one of the nation’s outstanding poets and had been nominated for Poet of the Year. I was beyond humbled and was physically shaken by the honor. However, there was a small problem; I did not live in Washington, D.C. and considering that I was both in college and a mother of small children, I had no way of getting there—translation, I was broke.
I mentioned the opportunity to the chairperson of my department and she lit up with excitement! I assumed that it was a good thing, but the reality of how good of a thing it really was had not registered with my brain. See, I used to get things like that a lot when I was younger: I was chosen to go to the White House as an intern during the Clinton administration (*offset stare…yes, it would have been during that); years before that, I had been chosen to go to the White House to sing during the Bush administration, and then there were several other opportunities of similar magnitude that have since escaped my mindspace (I hear that happens after 40). However, I was never able to go to any of those events because, you guessed it, I was broke, my parents were broke, and everybody that I knew was broke. This history made this new opportunity and easy bleh.
I wasn’t trippin’ because the other issue with this was that for some reason, they were expecting me to get on an airplane to get there and that simply was not happening, so—–. But, I had opened my big mouth. My chairperson called the dean and the dean called the President of the University. Before the end of the day, I had a plane ticket and my hotel room was paid for. I was stunned! Shocked! And, pissed beyond explanation (sorry, I use colorful words from time to time). Now, don’t get me wrong, I was overjoyed that the door had been opened and that there were people who were willing to help me, but I could not understand why on God’s green Earth that these people could not see that I was NOT going to be getting on NOBODY’S airplane. First of all, nobody that I knew—personally— had been on an airplane (a complete lie) and this was shortly after 9-11, so—–.
So, insert my next excuse: I had transportation and accommodations, but I didn’t have money, money. Welp, can’t go (DeRay shrug). Except for the fact that my church gave me some money and my father found a way to give me some as well. I had never been so disappointed in folks in all my life. I just knew that there was a conspiracy against me. Now, I was equipped with all that I needed to see this on through.
Well, I had considered myself a praying woman and a woman of faith, so you can imagine how I responded when, during my prayer time, I heard the Holy Spirit say that I was going to die on the airplane. “Come again, say what??” Ummm.., I hung up that mainline with the quickness because clearly there were some connection issues! I walked around with this revelation for over a week in COMPLETE FEAR, but I packed my bags and prepared for the journey. As a last ditch effort to get God to clear up this misunderstanding, I asked him to give me a confirmation that I had really heard what I had heard. (See, I was like most Christians: I wanted to go to Heaven but I had no intention on dying to get there).
On the night before I was to leave for the airport, I was getting my sons ready for bed and my oldest son (later to be known affectionately as the Other One) burst out into tears! I asked him what was wrong, and this little boy told me that I was going to die on the airplane. COME AGAIN, SAY WHAT?? Now, you know I was shooketh—old testament, “thou art shooketh!” But, like every good mother, I could not allow my children to be in fear. So, I told him that I loved him and that no matter what tomorrow brings nothing can change that and that he would never be alone because God was with him, always. That was all I had. In hindsight, I could have said something more inspirational, but considering that his tears dried up and he ran off to his room like, “Alright homie, I’ll holla at ya later,” that he was in peace. My youngest son (affectionately known as Tha Boy) could have cared less.
Four o’clock showed up, with its stankin’ tail, and my husband whisked me off to the airport. I began talking NON STOP (like that girl from the Cosby show) and the closer that it got to me getting on the plane, the faster I talked. My husband was looking at me like I was an alien because I am not a talker— a speaker, yes; a teacher, yes, but a talker, no. Then it happened. They called for my plane to board. Now remember this was post 9-11 so the security was tight. I walked up to the check-in and my husband was trying to walk with me to make sure that I got to the right spot, but the big ole mean man with the uniform said, “No, she has to go without you.” Rude.
I grabbed my suitcase and began walking. For every two steps, I would turn to look and see if my husband was still there. Once I could no longer see him, I tightened my grasp on my suitcase and patted my belly.Well, not my belly, I was checking to make sure that I had what I was taking on board: tickets, hotel address, wallet and Bible. I needed my money and you better believe I was taking my Bible. I figured if I was going down, the Word was going with me!
When I got to the boarding area, I found a seat and sat quietly. The woman next to me was very talkative.
“Hey honey, first time?”
She laughed. At me. Then she turned to one of the passengers across the way and said,
“It’s her first time.”
The woman on the other side of me joined the conversation and decided to let me know that I was cute. They kept talking but I couldn’t hear them because I was watching this black woman and her daughter pulling off their shoes and opening their coats.
We were finally allowed on the airplane and when I found my seat, it was next to the black woman and her daughter. When I sat down, I spoke and sat quietly. It took a while to get moving, but when the plane started moving, my heart sank. The woman next to me, reached over and gently held my hand and explained everything that was going to happen. I didn’t ask her to, she just did it. Slow….Slow….turn….fast….fast…faster…take off…then we leveled off. As soon as that happened, she let go of my hand and I went to sleep.
Right before we were supposed to land at O’Hare, a storm came. Of course it did, I was dying on the airplane, duh. The pilot told us that he needed to get above the storm to see clearly (that’ll preach, right there). I got to see the storm coming and us getting above it. Once we were above the storm, it was clear and sunny and the clouds looked like cities. I was amazed! I wondered how people could have seen stuff like this and not believe in God—so I thanked Him for letting me see it—you know, before I died.
Our detour kept us from the storm and somehow, we still arrived on time! The woman that was next to me had her daughter take me to the next place and I checked in and walked right on board. The plane was not as full as the other one so I was able to sit on the row by myself; I chose the window seat. I wanted to see more of those cloud cities! Before long, we were preparing to land and I saw things that I had only seen on television!
I got off the plane, found my bags, hailed a taxi, and was off to the hotel (It NEVER dawned on me that I was thousands of miles away from home, by myself, and navigating around like a pro). When I checked it and made it to my room, the conference itinerary was there and I scheduled my next few days. During my break, I called my dad. He said that he was proud of me and that he had never been on an airplane. I knew that, but hearing him say it was calming. Throughout the weekend, I met amazing celebrities: writers, actors, the creme de la creme of the literary world. I was so in my zone. Finally it was time to leave so I gathered my things and headed off to the airport.
I got there HOURS before it was time to leave, so I decided to walk around the airport. I found a bookstore (or it found me). I didn’t have much money with me, but I wanted a book (of course I did…that is the universal kryptonite of nerds across the globe). I wanted a good one, so I prayed for God to lead me to the right book. No sooner than the words left my mouth did I see this strange little book, The Greatest Miracle by Og Mandino
(https://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Miracle-World-Og-Mandino/dp/0553279726). The cover was not alluring. But when I opened the book, there were two things that almost made me drop the book. There was a mandate that simply said, “Go, write it. Tell it in a book.” And, the other was even more breathtaking, “who shall I send…” Now, let me tell you WHY this blew my mind. Well, the first one is easy, I am a writer and I wanted to write books but I was struggling with insecurities. BUT THE OTHER THING….I had just written a song a week before I left for D. C. and these are the lyrics:
Who shall I send? Where will they go?
Who shall I ask? Who won’t tell me no?
Can I ever find the one to die upon a tree?
I’ve searched all over, I couldn’t find one.
So instead decided to send me
The cross where the wounded are made whole
The cross where there is rest for your soul—
Well, you get it. Needless to say, but I will, I could not put the book down. I read it as I waited for the plane. I got on the plane. I read it while we were flying. I got off the plane and transferred to the next plane. I read it all the way to DFW. I got off the plane, called my husband and told him that I was 30 minutes aways. I read it as we flew. I read it while I was waiting for him to pick me and I tried to read it while we were in the car going home.
He kept asking me about my flight and the conference. I mean, I answered, but I really wanted him to be quiet because I wanted to think about this book until I could get home to get back to reading it. When I finally got home, I looked in on my babies (so precious when they are asleep…issa trap) and I rested on the couch—to finish the book.
As soon as I closed the book, looked around the room.
“Ummmm…hey God, how did I get home? I thought that you said that I was going to die on the airplane.”
He simply replied, “You did.”
See, it took a lot of faith to keep moving in spite of my fear and I learned something about myself: there is nothing wrong with being afraid to die but there is EVERYTHING wrong with being too fearful to live. Jesus said that he came so that we could have life and so that that life could be full and abundant. Abundance can be money and things, but the real abundant life will give you the Faith to FLY.