Today is All Souls Day, a day when Christians remember and pray for family members and friends who have died. Not everyone who dies goes straight to heaven. There may well be a place of waiting called purgatory. The Jewish faith (2 Maccabees 12:42-46) and the Catholic faith teach that the fate of those in purgatory can be affected by the prayers and the actions of those who are still living.
On this All Soul’s Day, a favorite story comes to my mind and heart —
There was an Uber driver who got a call to pick up a woman at 2:30 AM in a quiet part of town. The driver imagined that he would be picking up a hung-over party goer or somene on their way to the airport. When the Uber driver arrived the building was dark. Most drivers would honk their horn once or twice, wait a minute, and then drive away.
But this Uber driver was different. He got out of the car, walked up to the door and knocked. “Just a minute,” a frail, elderly voice called. 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 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 boxes filled with photos.
“Would you carry my bag to the car?” she asked softly. He took the suitcase to the car and returned to assist her into the car. When they were both in the car, she gave him an address and then asked: “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 a hospice.” When he looked in the rearview mirror, he could see that her eyes were glistening. “I haven’t any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.” The Uber driver reached over and shut off his smart phone.
“What route would you like me to take?” he asked. For the next two hours they drove through the city. She showed him the office where she had worked and the home where she had lived as a newlywed. She pointed out a warehouse that was once a ballroom where she had gone dancing. Sometimes she asked him to slow down or stop in front of a building. She just sat there and stared in silence into the darkness.
At the first hint of dawn, she suddenly said, “I’m tired, let’s go.” They drove in silence to a small convalescent home. Two orderlies came out. They were expecting her. They helped her out of the car. The Uber driver 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.
“You have to make a living,” she protested.
“There are 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, turned and walked into the dim morning sun and back to his car. He could hear the door shut behind her. It was the sound of the closing of a life. He just sat in his car for a long, long time.
The Uber driver didn’t pick up any more passengers that night. He drove aimlessly, lost in thought. What if she had gotten an angry driver or one who was impatient? One who had honked only once and had driven away? He sat there thinking that he had not done anything more important in his entire life.