This I have learned…

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

The call came at 6:00 a.m. My mother-in-law, Joan, who was in the Casa de la Luz Inpatient Hospital, had passed away during the night.

Arrangements were quickly made to fly back to Ohio for the burial. We flew on a noted airline, departing out of Phoenix, ostensibly to fly the friendly skies.

To accommodate passengers and to avoid that darned assigned seating debacle, this particular airline established a rather sophisticated alpha-numeric system, which is supposed to speed up the boarding process.

People will have tickets A, B or C 1 through 30 then A, B or C 31 through 60 for boarding. There are steel poles with numbers on them which indicate where people should stand in preparation for boarding. After all of the A people are inside the aircraft, the B people are asked to board and, finally, the C people are asked to board (again in the same alpha-numeric order).

This is a nice system if you don’t particularly want to sit next to the person you are with. Of course, if you are C people, all of the aisle seats are taken by tall and, generally, bigger people who require additional space from the aisle. The C people, then, are relegated to sit in the middle seat which measures a mere 15″ from arm to arm. That’s where I ended up on our trip east. We booked the flight late so we were the C people.

Oh. And when you arrive at the terminal, you have to get your boarding pass, which is done by going to a free-standing kiosk (the new, interactive ones available from companies like KIOSK), punching in some numbers and some information and then the kiosk spits out the boarding pass as well as your luggage tag. Once you receive the luggage tag it is necessary to separate a portion of it, wrap it around the handle of your luggage and then affix the sticky portion to the non-sticky portion. Voila! You are ready to check your baggage; then proceed to the area for shoe removal, etc. It was a long day with long lines.

But, I can say that the funeral weekend went very smoothly except for the fact that there were fewer people present than we had expected. Considering that my mother-in-law was 95, that is understandable. As my husband’s sister Michelle said, “Those who came mattered!” It was consoling to be with family and friends at such a time. My mother-in-law was very well-known in Toledo and, besides the obituary in The Toledo Blade, there was a feature article on her also in the newspaper.

As the weekend drew to a close we braced ourselves for our alpha-numeric flight back to Arizona. Although we were B people for our return trip I was still in the middle seat, next to a tall man on the aisle. Sheesh!

It was a weekend of expectations for flight and funeral. But, I guess the best way to experience both is to not have any expectations at all.

This I have learned.

In remembrance of Joan Swartzberg