In early November I received a call to say my mom was heading into Hospice and that it was a good idea to head home.
The morning before I left, I called her and we had a long 2 hour chat. She was in good spirits and excited to see me. Her friends tell me she was like the old Eleanor.
The day I left L.A. it was so foggy, you could only see the bottom foot of the palm trees. And this fog caused havoc with flights leaving LAX so we left an hour late.
The flight crew assured me that we’d make up time in the air and they’d call ahead to the gate and hold the flight.
I managed to get off the plane first along with another lady. We needed to cross terminals and ran as if our lives depended on it. My lungs felt like they were bleeding and I was gasping for air but the lady running ahead of me kept me pushing forward.
Let me state for the record THE PLANE WAS ON THE TARMAC when we got to the gate. The Delta flight HAD NOT TAKEN OFF. The lady with me was trying to make her brothers’ funeral the following day.
We both explained our situations and the staff went to check things out. Ten minutes later they returned and told us that unfortunately we weren’t able to board the flight.
Tears, screams (aka snot and trane), foot stamping, rolling on the floor, begging and pleading ensued … The Delta staff were down right rude (I have vowed never to travel with them again).
We were getting nowhere. At one point I was so hot I removed my scarf and my Magen David broke free from its’ chain and flew across the room. I took this as a sign … And I passively sat in a heap, as I continued to take deep breathes and tears poured down my face.
They offered to fly us to London and then Johannesburg. Basically 50 hours of travel. The other lady chose this route, but Saul pointed out I would only land there 4 hours earlier, so he encouraged me to spend the night in a hotel and fly the following day.
I managed to peel the other lady off the carpet and steer her to the First class lounge. There I convinced the staff to turn a blind eye and let her take a long, hot shower before her next flight. After all she was missing her brother’s funeral and I would still get to see my mom (or so I thought).
The other lady aka Jianca Lazarus, is a very talented South African photographer living in Hawaii with an amazing body of work. I hope to get the chance to work with her one day in the future (there are no coincidences). She later messaged me thanking me for my kindness and I believe this karma paid itself forward the following day…
I collapsed on my hotel bed emotionally drained. The next morning I awoke to find my phone exploding with icons. Missed calls and tons of messages. Something was wrong. I checked a message from my mom’s oncologist Dr V ( my best friend Edva’s dad) informing me he was sorry but my mom had passed.
I dialed my sister and we sobbed for what seemed like an eternity. I then called Saul who was on his way to drop off Jade at school. I was so discombobulated, I cannot believe I allowed him to take a 13 year old to school, after hearing the news about her Gaga. Bad, horrific mom. I know… I carried the guilt all day once I realized what I had done.
Everything was spinning. Nothing seemed real. I wanted to crawl out of my body and escape the pain. I couldn’t process it. My head was foggy. I considered heading down to the hotel bar for a breakfast of vodka, but I had to keep a clear head. I’d already missed one flight.
I was in a strage city where I knew no one somewhere between here and there on one of the worst days in my life. I was all alone and the fear and grief was threatening to cripple me.
I looked out my windows to see a mass of commercial buildings. I wanted to see trees so I called down to the front desk and explained that I wanted to go to a park and walk in nature. I also decided I’d get my hair blown so I could feel better and at the very least I would arrive pretty for the funeral (I know… shocking. But I have already admitted to being vain).
The staff at the Sheraton Atlanta Airport Hotel performed miracles. They were so incredible. When I arrived downstairs they all came to hug and console me. Each of them had recently experienced a similar loss. You see we are all walking a long hard road…
I arrived at the salon early and headed over to Rev the local coffee shop in the area. It was going to be a long day (the flight left at 7pm). Tears were flowing freely and I was looking puffy and swollen. Like a hot mess. The staff, customers and owners hugged me tightly and stopped by to just squeeze my hand. It was a safe haven, where I spent the next few hours staring blankly into nothingness. I am so grateful for their kindness.
At 11am I headed to the salon. A bright green van with decals offering on sight mobile manicures, pedicures ,blowouts, pamper parties and extensions with a 1800 number pulls into the drive way.
Out steps this vibrant, happy, smiling woman. Rassalyn Willis… my real life earth angel.
After checking her purse she discovered she didn’t have keys and called some people to bring a set. She needed to pay her electric bill at the city and asked me to walk with her. I was only too happy to tag along. I was like a puppy on a leash. Wherever she went I follwed.
In fact we ended up having 3 hours of time to kill before we are able to get into the salon. But it was fate. Cause during this time I learned a lot about this amazing woman.
Rassalyn is an owner of Xclusive Hair Studio & Spa in Atlanta. She is the daughter of a US Air Force General and was born in Italy. Yes Italy. No co-incidences in this life.
She is funny and smart and has a heart of pure gold. A dedicated single mother of four children, she is also the executive director of the “Motherless Daughters Foundation”. A foundation that helps young girls aged 9 -16 who have lost their mothers. I mean could the universe have been screaming any louder???
The goal of the foundation is to assist the young girls and help them achieve academic success, make positive decisions and encorage them to aspire to be great. And her passion for her community work oozes out of every pore of her being. She is freaking “Wonder Woman”.
She is one of those people who is larger than life. She sits on many boards and has recieved many awards, so I have no doubt that on her one day off, she had tons of errands she needed to run and things she needed to do.
But she stopped all of it and pushed pause, just to help out a complete stranger in need. This is how amazingly, epically, wonderful Rassalyn is.
I mean who does this? No one …. Life is crazy and hectic and we all have our own stuff. But this angel of a woman sat with me, spoke to me, hugged me, force fed me and made me laugh. She listened and nodded and supported me. A total stranger thrown onto my path when I was very lost…. This woman single handedly saved me.
The gratitude I have for her is hard to put into words. Let’s just say that Rassalyn is now my sister and if ever she needs me I will be there in a flash. We have a bond that will endure for a lifetime.
I hope she will inspire you and make you realize that the kindness, even of total stranger can shift another person’s reality.
I hope you will take a page out of Rassalyn Willis’ book and use each and every day to spread your light. Use every opportunity that presents itself to be kind and make other’s smile. We are all walking our own path and sometimes the road is bumpy.
Heading into Christmas her Foundation hosts a sickle cell Christmas toy drive to support the children at Hughes Spalding Children’s Hospital. If you are interested in sending a toy, donation or gift card to help you can email them at [email protected]
Or you can help others around you in your own community during the holidays…. A warm blanket for someone homeless or a hot meal on Christmas day???
The lesson in this is to PAY IT FORWARD and the universe will send you blessings. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a new year filled with blessings.
xxx Chef MM