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Some Moments of Joy…What If?

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I have listened to and told many stories over my 54 years as a priest. I cannot think of a story that has grabbed me more than the following story that I heard some years ago. I retell it in my mind falling asleep or waking up in the morning. It has such vivid images, words and sounds that give me much pause for reflection and prayer as I approach turning 80 myself……

There was a cab driver who got the call to pick up a woman at 2:30 AM in a quiet part of town. The cabbie imagined that he would be picking up a hung-over party-goer or someone on their way to the airport. 

The cab driver arrived at 2:30 AM and the building was dark. Most drivers would have honked their horns once or twice, waited a couple of minutes and then driven away. But this cabbie was different. 

He got out of the car, walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute,” a frail, elderly voice called out. He could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long wait, the door opened. 

A small woman in her 80’s wearing a faded blue dress appeared. She looked like someone from a 1940’s movie. At her side was a small, nylon suitcase. He got a glimpse of the apartment. The furniture was covered with sheets. In the corner were a couple of cardboard boxes filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you please carry my suitcase to the car?” she asked softly. He took the suitcase to the car and returned to assist her toward the curb. When they got in the cab, she gave him a torn piece of paper with an address that had been written with a shaky hand. She then asked politely: “Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” he answered. “Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to hospice,” When he looked in his rearview mirror, he could see her eyes were glistening. “I haven’t any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.” He reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” he asked.

For the next two hours they drove through the city. She showed him a boarded up building which was once an office where she worked. She pointed out a warehouse which was once a ballroom where she had loved to go dancing. They paused in front of an old three-story flat where she said she lived as a newly-wed. 

Sometimes she asked him to slow down or to stop in front of a building or an empty lot. She just sat there and stared in silence into the darkness of the night. 

At the first hint of dawn, she suddenly said with reluctance, “I’m tired, let’s go.” 

They drove in silence to a small, one-story convalescent home. Two orderlies came out of the door. They were expecting her. They helped her get of out of the cab. The cabbie took the small suitcase to the door. She was now seated in a wheelchair. 

“How much do I owe you?” she asked as she reached for her purse. “Nothing,” he said firmly. “You have to make a living,” she protested. “There will be other passengers,” he replied. 

Without thinking he bent over and gave her a hug. She held him tightly. “You gave an old woman some moments of joy,” she said. “Thank you.” He squeezed her hand and walked slowly by the dim light of the rising sun back to his car. 

He could hear the door shut behind him. It was the sound of the closing of a life. He just sat there in his cab for the longest time. 

He didn’t pick up any more passengers that night. He just drove through the city, lost in thought. 

What if she had gotten an angry driver or one who was impatient? One who had honked once and had driven away? He sat there thinking that he had not done anything more important in his entire life. 

Every time I think I have exhausted every aspect of this story, I find something else to think about and to absorb. Both characters in the story have so much to teach me. My eyes are filled with tears as I read it again now. I hope it will feed YOU as it has fed me for so many years…

Thanks to Mosoianu Bogdan for the picture.

What parts of this story move YOUR heart?


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