There she was, smiling and looking down at her smartphone on a giant Delta ad that said: "This Is What 'See You Soon' Looks Like."
Natalia Harris had been gone for nearly a year, but she was still showing up for her mother in ways she never expected. Last month, on a flight from New York City to Florida, Egli Colón Stephens stopped in the sky bridge and spent a moment with her daughter.
"All these signs and the message, 'See you soon,' it brings me peace. It makes me realize we think we are here for so long and in reality it is just a breath," Stephens told TODAY. "She gives me the strength. I know she is with me through the many signs."
Harris, a model who appeared everywhere from the cover of Vogue Knitting to "Project Runway," died on May 6, 2020 of renal medullary carcinoma, a rare cancer of the kidney that predominantly afflicts young adults and is almost exclusively associated with sickle cell trait. She was 24 years old. Harris had already shown what a fighter she was. As a child, she re-learned to walk after surviving pediatric cancer.
Stephens hadn't been on a plane since her life turned upside down, but on March 29, she went on a month-long beach getaway in South Florida with her husband. She wasn't expecting to see her daughter's ad.
"We just purchased our tickets and whatever we could get on sale. We were looking for the best price, not specifically Delta," she said. "To find the ad was hit or miss. It was not at every gate or terminal, but seeing it was breathtaking."
Stephens stopped and took a few photos with Harris' ad before she got on the plane to Florida. She shared the special moment on social media, but a month later, when she returned to New York City, Harris was once again there waiting for her mom to board the plane in Florida and when she landed in New York City.
It was another sign for the proud mom that her daughter was still with her. Overcome with emotion, she shared her story with the flight crew and they took a photo with her and Harris.
"I thought I had stopped being a mom (when I lost my only child), but I realized I am always going to be a mom, I am just mothering in another realm."
"They were so kind and said they see her all over all the time, and now they will say they know her mama!" Stephens said.
A family friend shared the story with Delta. Stephens said the airline was "so kind" to send her the framed advertisement and a sweet note. She's grateful, but having large photos of her daughter on display in her home is too raw at the moment, so the photo is being stored in Harris' bedroom. But it's a memory she cherishes.
"I thought I had stopped being a mom (when I lost my only child), but I realized I am always going to be a mom, I am just mothering in another realm," she said.
When asked about the beautiful young woman in the photo, Stephens said her goal is to keep her daughter's legacy going.
Stephens, who holds a doctorate in education, said her favorite title is Natalia's Mom.
"I used to tell her, 'Wow, when I grow up I want to be like you. She was so composed, so gentle," she said. "One of the things I recall vividly is a friend of the family said this world needs more Natalias. She was so compassionate."
Even after her mom's trip, Natalia is still showing up.
"This morning my husband took a flight on Delta and also found the picture," Stephens said. "She is on to something!"