Sometimes decisions come easy. Other times, making them is torture. And still other times, God takes them right out of your hands and makes them for you.
In March, my future-nephew’s groomsmen began to plan a destination bachelor party in Costa Rica to celebrate the groom. As a groomsman, my twenty-two-year-old son was invited to take part in the festivities. Taking into account the many factors of participating (e.g.: traveling out of the country unaccompanied by... um me, roving with a pack of unpredictable twenty-somethings, the traditional “bachelor party” activities, and the inevitable “partying” and consumption of alcohol), it’s only fair to say that I was uncomfortable with the prospect of my son going. In addition to the list of potential concerns, I considered the financial aspect of an international trip. My son is a golf caddie at two private courses, which offers financial benefits, but not without a price. He works long, hard hours, especially through the summer season, and his caddie-master would have to approve the 4-day August getaway.
I knew how much it meant to my niece and her fiancé for her cousin to bond with the wedding party, so I began to look at flights. With apprehension to wholeheartedly consent to the foreign country soirée, we booked his flights on a carrier that allowed cancellations without penalties. He would fly from Long Island, layover in Baltimore, and meet the rest of the bridal party at the airport in CR. The worst case scenario was that he wouldn’t be able to go, and he’d have the credits towards future travel. We expedited his paperwork to renew his passport and covered as many bases as we could to prepare. We invited God to add His two cents (there’s no substitute for His invaluable input) and we both knew that if God wanted my son to be there, He’d watch over him along the way.
My son was pumped for the trip. Unbeknownst to him, the best man had rented an extravagant waterfront mansion with a private chef and house staff on-hand. Zip-lining, quadding, and boating excursions were all planned. It would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a twenty-two-year-old (or anyone for that matter).
My kids know that my tireless faith is often paired with preparation and information. In classic mom-like fashion, I researched all the dangers of traveling to Costa Rica (like any paranoid – I mean practical – mother would). The Internet warned visitors of pick-pocketing and theft as the number one danger, so I encouraged my son to separate his money into different compartments and be aware of his surroundings at all times. He even agreed to leave one of his favorite accessories, his Bulova watch, at home, to avoid being targeted.
At 3:45 AM on the morning of the flight, with just a few hours of sleep, I swiped my alarm off and jumped up. Within minutes, my phone rang; it was my son calling from his room in a panic.
“Mom, my flight’s been delayed five hours! I’m going to miss my connecting flight!”
Completely caught off guard, I went to my Southwest app to get the flight status.
“Just get ready, we’re out of here in fifteen minutes,” I insisted.
I immediately phoned the airline to see our options. They offered a flight out the following morning, but had nothing available for that day. Reluctant to accept the airline’s offer, we headed to the Islip airport, joined by every other passenger on that flight... and then some.
While waiting in line for over an hour, my niece and I searched online for another flight that would get him to Costa Rica that day. The rest of the groomsmen were scheduled to leave out of Orlando at 11:45 AM and there was one seat left on their JetBlue flight for $409. In an attempt to get my son to Florida before the departure of that flight, we realized that a Southwest 6:05 AM flight was boarding upstairs. The Internet booking showed the flight as unavailable, but when we finally approached the counter, we asked if he could go stand-by. The agent tapped the screen of her computer quickly then said, “I can get him on that flight, but his luggage will never make it!” I looked at my son and his luggage, which was a full-sized bag, containing enough toiletries to serve all ten groomsmen.
“I am not traveling all the way to Costa Rica without my stuff,” he promptly stated. I irrationally asked if I could run the luggage out to the tarmac myself.
The representative wrinkled her nose, yet proceeded to answer my ridiculous request. “TSA has strict guidelines, but we are running out of time… the flight is boarding now. I’d have to call up to the gate to let them know he is coming.”
We briefly expressed regret for not using the 21” carry-on size luggage. At the time, we’d figured if the bags flew for free, he may as well enjoy the luxury of a larger bag.
With a defeated response he asked, “Is there anything else? Even if I have to go tomorrow?” But there weren’t any other flights headed that way. The next morning flight, which we turned down earlier, was now booked solid.
“Don’t cancel your 11:00 AM flight to Baltimore,” the representative suggested. “Go sit down and see if you can get from there to Costa Rica on any other airline, then submit the cost to Southwest, along with a straightforward explanation of what happened. I bet the airline will reimburse you.”
As we walked back to the car to swipe through the truly unrealistic options left, my son’s countenance began to change. We considered everything from getting on the first lag of the trip to Baltimore to driving into JFK, LaGuardia, or even Newark to get a direct flight to Costa Rica. With each effort, our options were shot down due to unavailability or an astronomical fare. I kept saying, “If we can get you on this one, you go, if not…”
But to my surprise, my son shifted gears. He swiftly turned and headed back into the airport. We waited in line once again, but when he reached a different representative at the counter, he concisely and clearly stated his case. The woman listened and after listening to her disappointing response, he spoke: “Cancel my flight.”
“Wait, what?” I was shocked. “Bud, before you do that, let’s think about this.”
“I have thought about it. It’s very apparent that God doesn’t want me to be there. I’m not going.”
“Sir, do you accept this cancellation?” the Southwest agent asked.
I jumped right in, conflicted and confused, still fighting for his case, “No! He has nine groomsmen waiting on him.” But he was resolute and accepted that the tap of her finger would be the final step of him not going to the bachelor party.
I couldn’t believe how maturely he handled the situation. With grace. As soon as we got on the road toward home, he called his caddie-master to let him know his trip had been canceled, to which his boss replied, “Awesome! Well, terrible for you, but awesome for me.” Then I heard him say, “It’s the busiest weekend of the entire season. You’ll have work all weekend. Be here at 11:00 AM. Caddie meeting.”
Neither of us can say why God had a different plan for my son that weekend. Was He protecting him from something? Maybe. Was he just asking him to trust Him? Probably. We reflected on the many possibilities. But the most incredible divincidence had yet to take place.
The following day at work, all the caddies were shocked to see my son with a golf bag over each shoulder. He scrolled through the pictures the groomsmen sent of the Costa Rica mansion, when one of the caddies pointed to the photo and said, “Hey, that’s Mike’s cousin’s house in Costa Rica!” Mike was a caddie at the course. With a confirmation that it was, in fact, his cousin’s house, Mike managed to get my son an open invitation to stay there anytime he wanted.
My son’s flight may have been delayed, but God’s delays are not always denials. He will get to take the once-in-a-lifetime trip… when God decides.