Reunited and it Feels So Good

“He’ll be here any minute!”

Waiting at the bottom of the escalators in the Salt Lake International Airport for my nephew’s delayed airplane to arrive, I began to take in the scene. More than 150 people stood there with me, visibly excited, holding balloons, welcome home posters, and cameras. Grandmas and Grandpas were offered seats to rest. Children were running around with excitement. Babies were being passed from one hip to another. And there was a lot of hugging going on. Lots.

It had been two years since we had last seen my 20-year-old nephew. He had been gone serving a church mission, and our extended family turned out in force to welcome him home. We weren’t the only ones either. The mass included several families, in separate clusters around the baggage claim area, all welcoming their own missionary home. Ropes attempted to contain the excited crowd and preserve a walkway for the other travelers.

Soon a new wave of rumpled passengers took their turn to step onto the moving staircase. Few smiled; most looked hurried or exhausted. But they perked up with curiosity at seeing so many expectant faces, flowers, and balloons.

Then a young woman started her descent alone. I noted that she only had a small backpack and held a pillow tightly to her chest. She scanned the crowd. Then her face broke into a timid smile when she found what she was looking for.

I followed her gaze to a small group of five people at the edge of the crowd, holding high a poster that read, “Welcome home Abby! 21 Days Sober!”

Tears came to my eyes. I was so proud of her. She must have sent the message that a public celebration of her sobriety would be okay with her.

I was so proud of them. Because I work in the treatment field, I was 100% sure that things must have gotten pretty rough at home before she went into rehab. Yet this wise group didn’t find a way to bring her home quietly and under the radar. They showed up in celebration and love, making a big deal out of the three weeks’ separation and the changes she had made.

I wanted to push through the crowd to congratulate Abby and her “home team,” but my nephew was now descending the elevator. 

Read more inspiring stories like this in the newest edition of the Not by Chance Yearbook, available now at

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