Treat people with dignity by showing them respect is motto of the firm I work for – Vistelar – but it is far more than that.

Earlier this week, my wife and I sat stranded in New York’s La Guardia Airport after laying her father to rest over the weekend.

As our plane joined the long list of “delayed until further notice” due to weather and runway congestion, I started up a conversation with Lisa.

Lisa has triple cancer.

Her doctors told her 14 weeks ago that she only had 12 weeks to live.

She began the conversation by explaining she had just spent a week in New York with one of her two daughters. She also said she and her husband planned a Caribbean cruise in two weeks. And, she has another weeklong trip planned with another daughter in Chicago.

I asked her why all the celebrations and she answered that she’ll be gone before the end of the year.

“Oh, I cry in the shower and when I’m alone in the car. But my family doesn’t have to see it. I have a bucket list and I’m working my way through it,” she told me with a smile. “ You know, you’re only the second stranger that I’ve shared my story with.”

There wasn’t much to say with my words – so I let my eyes do the talking. They said that I was listening and willing to hear more.

By the way, I’m no more skilled or able to hear a story like this than you are – in fact like most of us, my initial reaction would probably be that I wouldn’t want to hear such a story. But here Lisa was sharing an extremely intimate part of her life – that it was ending. And she was facing it with the courage of a thousand lions.

I felt respected because she was willing to share such a story with me. I wanted her to feel respected for not only her willingness to share it but for the battle she is facing so bravely.

She went to the bathroom and came back with some fruit. “I wanted one of those New York pretzels but the line was just too long.”

This seemed so wrong to me. Her last chance at something as simple as a pretzel but her strength was waning after a week of partying in NYC so this item remained on the bucket list.

When it became clear we weren’t going anywhere for a while, I took the long walk to the only men’s room in the terminal. On my way back, I saw the pretzel line and quickly joined it. I spent about 15 minutes in it when my wife called to ask me to get back to the gate. There still were two people in front of me. The line moved quickly and I had my prizes in hand. (One for Lisa and one for my wife.) She was grateful both for the pretzel and the fact that my wife and I were patiently hearing her story.

And then she broke down.

The announcement came over the loudspeaker that our flight had been cancelled for reasons that were hard to understand. But it was clear that we were now stranded.

Lisa started to shake and cry. My wife and I stood there for a moment and knew we needed to do more than offer her a pretzel and a reassuring hug.

We walked Lisa over to the customer service counter and my wife did the most amazing thing.

She announced to all of the angry, impatient passengers — desperately trying to get booked on the only other flight our airline offered that day from NY to Milwaukee — that Lisa has cancer and needs to be home for treatment the following morning.

She asked everyone in line if they would step back and allow this woman to get booked right away.

And like the story of the Red Sea, the people parted and Lisa got the next ticket and found out the true meaning of being treated with dignity by being shown respect.