A mother's post about connecting with a stranger on a flight home to Calgary, Canada, has gone viral.
The sweet story, shared on Facebook by Holly Graham, began on the way home from a recent trip to Florida. Graham was traveling with her wife, Alex, and their two adopted young sons, Jaxson and Niko. Both boys have Down syndrome. Graham told TODAY Parents that the family had difficulty getting home, with flight cancellations, a surprise overnight stay in Toronto and two cranky kids making the final leg of their trip a "nightmare travel experience."
But everything changed once they boarded the plane. She and her older son, Jaxson, were sitting in one row, while Alex and their younger son, Niko, sat a few rows behind.
"We're dirty, we just feel all gross, the kids are exhausted," Graham said, noting that they hadn't had their luggage overnight. "We sit down, we get the kids settled, we're watching people file on the plane, and we noticed a couple with their young man of a son who had Down syndrome."
Graham said that they were immediately excited to have another passenger with Down syndrome on the flight. The young man and his parents ended up sitting right in front of Graham.
"We watch them walk on the plane, and we're both just like, admiring him, and then they sit down right in front of me and Jaxson," Graham said. "I'm like, 'Oh my god, this is going to be the best flight ever.'"
Graham said she quickly noticed similarities between her son and the young man sitting in front of them —both were very "lovey."
"This young man was exactly how Jaxson was," Graham explained. "I spent the first 20 minutes of the flight on the verge of tears watching him... He kept turning around, playing with Jax, they're making faces at each other, and his mom kept trying to distract him, kind of like 'Stop bugging those people behind you.' Then she turned around, and she saw Jax and noticed Jax had Down syndrome and her face just lit up."
Graham explained that the family in front of them didn't speak much English — the mother spoke what she described as "broken English," and the father didn't speak much — but the two communicated to share information like names and ages. The couple's son, Graham said, was 20 years old. Jax and the son continued to play with and entertain each other until about halfway through the flight.
"Alex was sitting a few rows behind us with Niko, so she came up and brought Niko to me and we switched kids," explained Graham. "The mother sitting in front of me saw Niko, who is 2 years old and still looks like a little baby, and noticed he had Down syndrome. This mother could not contain herself."
Graham said that she's typically a helicopter parent, and her son is typically shy around strangers, but Niko and the mother bonded almost instantly.
"She just instantly started playing with him, singing him songs, petting his face between the seats," Graham said. The woman then stood up with outstretched arms, asking to hold Niko. "She needed to have Niko in her arms, and without any hesitation I handed him over."
Graham said that Niko sat in the woman's lap for more than a half an hour, playing games and snuggling together.
"Her son was petting Niko's face, kissing his cheek," Graham said. "It was just so neat, watching this mother just love on him. I just knew that she saw her past when she looked into Niko's eyes. It was so cool to see that love that she had for him, and she didn't even know him, or us."
Unfortunately, when the plane landed and the families disembarked, Graham said that she and her wife didn't think to get the other family's contact information.
"In hindsight, I'm kicking myself that we didn't, but with hunger and exhaustion and tired kids we just didn't," she said.
Graham shared the experience on her personal Facebook page, where it has amassed thousands of shares and comments. In the post, she wrote that she "saw her future" in the interaction with the young man.
"I would never ever hand one of my kids off to a complete stranger," Graham wrote. "But you weren't a stranger. Despite never knowing you ... You weren't a stranger. You are family, you are my tribe, you are me. The connection, the understanding, and the bond we share because of our journeys. One of my favorite things about parenting our amazing sons. The giant family we automatically joined because of 47 perfect chromosomes."