Who was it, sitting, during a long flight, next to photographer Linda Schaefer?
Let’s back up, for it started — this mystery of a stranger on a transatlantic plane — when Linda met Mother Teresa in Atlanta on June 15, 1995. At that time Schaefer, a former CNN editor and photojournalist, was covering the famous saint’s arrival at an airport, at which time, strangely enough, “[Mother Teresa] came right up to me, through the other people, took my hands, held them up to her heart, looked deeply into my soul, and I heard her say, ‘Come and see,’” recounts the former journalist.
That was all. Come and see. But coming from Mother Teresa, that was enough!
Two months later, unable to shake those three words, Linda found herself on a Lufthansa flight to India, headed for Bombay, Bangalore, then Calcutta.
At the time, Schaefer was “not in a very good place.” She had lost her first husband to cancer and was having trouble in a subsequent relationship. It seemed like a good idea: to get away and think things through — at Mother Teresa’s convent. She had no idea what to expect — why she was going. She was planing to return to Georgia in four months, though her visa allowed for a six-month stay. When she boarded, she was happy to see two empty seats next to her (meaning she’d be able to stretch out).
Just before take-off, however, a “small man” boarded and sat next to her. “He had gray hair and twinkling eyes and a little gray-silver beard, very well-dressed in designer blue jeans and a blue blazer,” she says. As the plane taxied, he said, out of the blue, turning to Linda, “You had a very difficult week last week.”
Linda looked at him and said, “I had a very difficult year.”
He had a slight Indian accent and — elaborating on her difficult year — somehow knew she had nearly lost her father.
“Now I’m looking at him like, ‘what?‘” says Linda. “And he said, ‘Yes, your father’s heart, but your prayers saved him.’” Her father indeed had heart failure and a close call. The stranger then said, “Don’t worry. Your husband will be there in six months.”
“I’m not planning on being [away] for six months,” replied Linda, with a hint of irritation. “I’m planning on about four months.”
“No,” insisted the short man. “It will be closer to six months.”
The conversation, recalls the photojournalist, went on for about three hours. “He told me everything about my past, about my present, and things that would happen in the future. He told me about her relationship and not to worry about it, that it would be fine. To test the man, he asked him her boyfriend’s name and the stranger, appearing to struggle a bit, then said “his first name begins with an ‘R’ and his second name with a ‘C.”
As it happens, his name is Ron Campbell!
The stranger was playing a little cat-and-mouse here. He told Linda she had a hole in her heart but that it would soon be filled with the birth of a child. In less than five months, she was pregnant. Ron came to India and she returned in January of 1996. The stranger had told her that she was about to embark on an “important journey,” and that she could never ever stop it — that sometimes she had embarked on projects before and then stopped due to her own insecurity.
“Sometimes you get a little angry, but you have a very good heart, a very good heart,” the stranger told Linda, smiling at another person and adding, “But you must always be like me, sweet. You see, they bring me chocolates.”
The flight attendants had been bringing him Swiss chocolates and hovering over him — as if drawn magnetically.
In the end, when she asked him what he did, he said he was in the fashion business. And he certainly looked the part. Asked what his company was, he said, “I work for a company A To Z.” When she later tried to call such a company, she found it didn’t exist. He also told her not to worry, that the next leg of her flight had been arranged. When she went to purchase a connecting flight, her ticket — which she had never purchased — was waiting for her.
Is it real? Was it good? Would an angel fudge his work place — and look like he was into fashion?
We have no idea. There are many similar accounts of well-dressed strangers that vanish after miraculous events — and pretend they are from this world but are from somewhere else. Linda is now a Catholic speaker and author of Come and See.
Angels. By their fruits you know them. In this case, it was peace for a troubled woman in Atlanta.