American Airlines flight attendants propelled her into first class and spoke to her personally through the loudspeaker. Pardo spent the flight telling them about his mother and the loving and accomplished person she was. “I think at times like this, the pain of losing your mom is exacerbated by this scary time,” Pardo told CNN. “The kindness of others is what will help us get through this. “
“I want them to know what it means to me,” said the 59-year-old. “It was super positive, which I did not expect from this trip. “
One last trip to see his mom
Pardo boarded the flight from Washington, DC to Boston on March 27. She only flew for one day because she wanted to minimize the risk of getting sick.
His anxiety increased when he arrived at the airport, thinking that exposure to the virus would be bad. It was lifted when she realized the few people at the airport.
“The second I arrived, I realized that the airport was safer than the grocery store,” she said. I think we all have this attitude of planes that are really dangerous, and there would be exposure, but there was nobody there. “
Most of the airport was locked, with the exception of one Dunkin ‘Donuts, she said. Only a few people were seated in the departure lounge at 6 a.m.
Unexpected pleasure was found in flight
From the calm of the airport to the energy of the flight was a warm welcome.
The flight crew and Pardo laughed at having only one passenger. They had fun with that in the otherwise scripted integration message.
“And we have Sheryl as a passenger today, living in first class, mom,” flight attendant Jessica said in a video. “Everyone is yelling at Sheryl, the only passenger on the plane. “
Later, the captain came and said, “Sheryl, we are now 10,000 feet away. “
Pardo and the two flight attendants even took a selfie together. Don’t worry, they were standing 6 feet apart, even if the angle makes it closer.
“The flight attendants were so great … and it was pretty fun,” said Pardo. “I was obviously anxious to see my mom for the last time, so it was kind of great to laugh. “
She was touched by the mild humor and the way a particular flight attendant asked questions about her mother without making her sad.
Jessica told Pardo about her “whole life story,” and the two instantly bonded with their similar personalities and optimistic outlook, she said.
“It is not a tragic situation because my mother had dementia and had really decreased,” she said. “She was living at a stage in life that she would not have wanted to prolong and she was in hospice. “
“(Jessica) was like the perfect antidote,” she said.
Her mom has dedicated her life to helping others
Jessica asked Pardo about her mom and wanted to know what she looked like.
Pragmatic, get things done and love – these are the words Pardo used to describe his mom, Sandra Wilkins.
Her mother worked as a school nurse and later in life returned to school to obtain a master’s degree in human ecology. She spent years helping refugee families in the United States and volunteered in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
The family came together to help their mom as she fell under the cloud of dementia.
The past two months have been difficult, with frequent trips to the emergency room, a fall and infections. The rehabilitation center where she resided was closed to visitors due to the coronavirus, so Pardo and his brother could not even visit for a while.
Pardo was able to spend a day with his mother, who was already moving away to the next life. His mother, his model and his biggest fan, died the next morning on March 28. Her son and daughter-in-law held her hand.
She was 83 years old.
Pardo and his family plan to host a memorial, perhaps in summer, when things are safe. They plan to celebrate it in Ithaca, New York, where their mother raised them.
“When we are all released from captivity, we will celebrate Sandra’s life together,” said Pardo. “I feel like reality is on hold at the moment. I feel like it will hit me differently when life returns to normal. “
The scene was just as surreal when Pardo returned the same night from Boston on a 10:30 am flight.
“It was also the very strange experience of being the only one to drop off the car for hire, the only one on the bus to get to the airport,” she said. “The people at TSA were delighted to see me. “
She became a VIP passenger again – she was the only person on the return flight.
“It’s fun to have people who care about this story and to raise flight attendants who have a really tough job and who, I’m sure, are afraid of working right now,” said Pardo. “I want them to know what it meant to me. “