For Meredith, Charlotte and my Botter.
The past few months I’ve been through three significant deaths: my grandmother for whom I’m named, my oldest and dearest friend who always inspired me artistically, and my other oldest and dearest friend who was a joy in my life.
I called my 97 year-old grandmother, Botter. No one in my family knows where it came from. Because I was named after her, we shared a special bond. I saw her a few months before her death and cried to myself in the car during the hour-long drive to the airport. I knew it would be the last time I saw her. She always wanted me to sit next to her. It was one of my favorite places in the world.
I shall not want.
My friend Meredith shared my love of art and Italy. Each semester in college, we would have a class together in either Art History or Italian, or both. I sometimes felt intimidated by her because she had that combination of smart, beautiful and creative; and with a genuine warmth. We kept in touch throughout the years, sometimes consistently, sometimes not. But we always picked up our conversations in the same familiar way whether we had just spoken 10 minutes or 10 years ago. When I think of her now, I think of her delicate hands moving through the air as she spoke. There was something calming in the way they danced with her words to make a point.
;he leadeth me beside the still waters.
Charlotte and I shared a deep love for Paris. Our last words were of her pending trip to our favorite city, just before her ovarian cancer returned. I was married to her brother for a couple of years when we were both very young. While my relationship deteriorated with her brother, she and I built ours into an enduring and special friendship. She was one of my favorite people.
The night before Charlottes’s funeral, I put out my Christmas decorations. It was early December and I needed to put my energy into something festive. Every year it’s like opening presents as I pull out the ornaments and decorations. I tend to forget which ones I have so I felt a pang of sadness as I unwrapped the Eiffel Tower ornament from the red tissue paper. Our last words to each other were of Paris. I hung the ornament on a gold glittered garland with the words JOY surrounded by small twinkle lights. That was the word I always used to describe her: joy.
;my cup runneth over.
As the preacher read from Psalm 23 I looked over at her father. A stoic man who was always kind to me but rarely spoke. He began to weep. In that moment, I felt the weight of the past few months finally land.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
When life gets challenging I start planning a trip to Paris. This is usually an unrealistic goal due to financial constraints or timing but the act of planning the trip is deeply satisfying. I look at flights and hotels and plan which museums or parks I will visit; always the Musee D’Orsay and always Les jardins des Tuileries.
The day after the last funeral, in my combined grief, I began to “plan” a trip to Paris. I would make it to the Louvre this time and finally go to Monet’s Garden at Giverny. I would stay at my favorite hotel, Hotel Eiffel Turenne, eat a baguette avec fromage et beurre (seulement) and enjoy my favorite past-time: people watching. Even though I’ve seen Paris many times, I needed to see it again to find some joy amongst all this sadness.
He restoreth my soul
There are still moments when I come across an old email or text about Paris, see an art history book from our college days or see my grandmother’s ring in my jewelry box and I miss them each again. My 40+ years on this earth have taught me that I will get through this. And, I will go to Paris and eat a baguette and watch people and life really will go on.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life