I scooched around in my seat and got ready for the train ride that would take me on a visit to my grandchild. I certainly did not need a mirror to know that I was smiling and filled with joy. As the Wolverine Line of the Amtrak train departed the Ann Arbor station, I grabbed my camera so I could photo document the trip and the views. Life was good. We raced past meadows, Main Streets, wooded acres, homes, and factories. I kept busy with my camera. But curiosity finally won out and I pushed the camera buttons that were necessary to review my photographs. “Drat,” I thought to myself as I looked at a series of photos blurred by the motion and speed of the train. “It’s all a smear.” I disparaged. But, then again, the smile came back. “Yep,” I thought, “my own life is going by so quickly that my memories are like these streaked photos.” A train in motion and my life in motion too. “I am a grandmother, I am a grandmother,” I kept repeating to myself almost in rhythm to the wheels. I tried to think where all that time had gone since I was holding my own babies. Where?
The gentleman across the aisle started to address me, “Good Day, are you on vacation?” he asked.
“Something much better.” I replied and then I explained, “I am going to see my grandchild. I am pretty happy.”
“I could tell you looked pretty excited.” He said and I decided right then that I liked him. His company and conversation would be fun. “My name is Dave.” He stood up and reached over to shake my hand.
“My name is Claire.” I shook his hand and looked at his kind eyes.
The next half hour was filled with him showing me a train app on his phone. He showed me exactly where we were on the tracks and our current rate of speed.
Eventually, our conversation became more personal. “I am 59 years old and I am so happy to be a grandmother.” I told him. “I guess I am an old woman now.”
Dave said, “Well, I am 79. I am so old that you could ask me anything and I would know the answer.” He finished that zinger by giving me a genuine smile.
In life, you do not always come up with a quick retort, but this time I certainly did. “Ok Dave. So, I can ask you anything, but how much do you remember about everything?”
His belly laugh startled some of the other passengers. I started laughing too.
I got a bit more serious. “Ok, if I can ask you anything, then how about this one? What is the meaning of life?” I said it with a smile, but his answer was profound.
“Oh, I’m honored to be the one to tell you that the entire meaning of life is to love. I suggest loving as many people as you can. I suggest that you spend time with your grandson and love him. I suggest you spend time with your elderly widowed father and let him know your feelings. Keep falling in love with life.” He looked over at me. “Just love.” He concluded.
I was filled with emotions. I understood. I met a stranger on a train and I finally understood. It was not my job, not my house, not my appearance, not my intellect or humor. None of those was what we refer to as the meaning of life. It was so obvious and simple now. Just love.” I smiled and smiled.
And then, just like that, Dave stood up and told me that we had reached Battle Creek and it was his stop. He wished me a pleasant visit with my grandson, and he was gone.
“It’s like that with the people in our lives who we like, cherish or love. They have different journeys. But we shared a moment.
I learned a lesson about life on a train and I wanted to share it with you. I wanted to tell you to Just love. Oh, and “Go ahead, ask me anything!”