When Laura Genovich first heard that her mother had suffered a severe stroke, she had no idea how she was going to make it to Florida in time to be by her side. Her mother’s condition worsened very quickly and it became clear that Laura had to get back home as soon as possible.
Laura was on the runway on the plane but suddenly maintenance problems struck meaning she was stranded there with no chance to go back home. Overwhelmed and with a baby in her arms, she started to cry. We’ll let Laura explain what happened to her next but this is simply amazing:
In the middle of an extremely difficult time for my family, I have to share a story about the incredible generosity of a complete stranger and the unexpected kindness of a major airline.
Mom had a stroke the day before Thanksgiving, and at first we didn’t know how bad it was. I had been talking to the nurses by phone every few hours since Mom and Dad live in Florida and I’m in Michigan. On Friday morning, the nurse told me that Mom might not ever wake up. I knew I had to get down there and be with her and Dad. Within half an hour of that call, I packed up my baby Audrey (3 months old) and had my husband and two older kids drop us off at the airport with the hope of getting on an 11:09 am American Airlines flight to Orlando with a connection in Chicago. I got that ticket and boarded the flight in plenty of time, with baby Audrey in my arms.
Unfortunately, the plane needed “maintenance” so we sat there on the runway. During that time, I was on the phone with my dad, my husband, and my niece, talking about Mom’s health, that she probably wasn’t going to make it, and how anxious I was to get there quickly. After an hour, the flight attendant announced that they couldn’t fix the plane and the flight was cancelled. I broke down crying and called my husband, devastated that I probably would not make it to Mom’s bedside that day.
When I got off the phone, the woman in the seat in front of me turned around and looked me in the eye. She said, “My name is Mary. I’ve been listening to you for the last hour and I’ve been praying for you and your family. I am not leaving your side until you are on a plane to Orlando.” I could hardly talk for crying so hard, and the other passengers were staring as they exited. Finally, we were the last ones on the plane, and the flight attendant asked Mary to deboard, saying the airline would take care of me. Mary reluctantly left the plane.
In the meantime, my husband had found a Southwest Airlines direct flight that departed at 12:15. All of the other airlines’ flights were much later. I told the flight attendant that I needed that Southwest flight. It was 11:55 am. She walked me off the plane, and Mary was waiting for me. Mary reiterated that she was not leaving me until I was on my way to see my family, and she took my heavy backpack so I could focus on holding Audrey. We flagged down a ticket agent and I told her that I had to get on the 12:15 Southwest Flight. The agent (who had sold me the American Airlines ticket and knew why I was traveling) sympathetically told me that she could not do that because American does not have a contract with Southwest.
Mary asked her where the Southwest gate was, and the agent said it was just a few gates down. (Grand Rapids is a small airport.) The agent pointed to the clock, which now said 12:00, and told me that there was no way Southwest would let me on that 12:15 flight. I told her that I had to try, and Mary and I ran to the Southwest gate, her still holding my bag and me still holding the baby.
The gate for the Southwest flight was completely empty, except for a ticket agent (whose name I later learned was Gayle). I ran to the agent and asked if the flight was closed. She looked at me (tears running down my face, clutching an infant) and said, “I can put you on the flight. What’s going on?” I quickly explained, and as I did, the American Airlines crew was helpfully bringing my stroller and car seat (which I had gate checked). Gayle told me that the ticket was $400. Mary then stepped up to the counter and said, “I will pay for her ticket.” I told Mary that she did not have to do that, I could pay it, but she insisted, telling me that it was a Thanksgiving and Christmas gift to me. I cried harder, telling her I would pay it forward. She told me to go take care of my Dad, and to take care of my baby, and that would be paying it forward. Then she hugged me tightly and said, “I love you and the Lord loves you.”
The gate agent ushered me onto the plane – I think there were only two seats left. If you were on that flight, you saw me arrive late onto a plane, crying, holding a baby, and looking equal parts broken and relieved. Now you know why.
When I landed in Orlando early in the afternoon, there was an e-mail waiting for me from Gayle, the Southwest ticket agent. In part, that e-mail said: “My name is Gayle. I was the gate agent for Southwest Airlines in Grand Rapids working the flight to Orlando. I wanted to let you know that all of us here in Grand Rapids are sending you good thoughts and prayers. I hope everything gets better for you very soon and we send our greatest condolences.” She then gave me Mary’s full name and some information to contact her, and added that “[Mary] came back to the gate to make sure you were on your way and we got all your baggage.” The e-mail also said that Southwest Airlines gave Mary a voucher for a future flight. The e-mail ended with a “heart emoticon” from Southwest Airlines.”
Laura ended up making it to the hospital barely 15 minutes before visiting hours ended. Her mother passed away the day after, knowing that her daughter had gone above and beyond to be by her side.
Share this beautiful story with your friends and family today.