Learning to live in the moment and face what comes your way is still a challenge for me. I'm much better at it than I was all those years ago when these steps began. Facing the unexpected is difficult regardless of whether it's schedule changes, death, loss, hurricanes, etc. Arriving in Paris during February of 1995 to discover that my friend Madame Vera had literally passed away while my plane was landing, threw me into a sea of unknowns and floating time. That moment was heartwrenching.
Here I was in Paris at Mardi Gras, having come off my month surgery respite to discover that my friend had died.
It felt as if my life was in total disarray! My knee jerk reaction was to adjust my ticket and catch the next plane home. I stayed. I'm so grateful I did. How different my life would be today if I hadn't?
Paris has always been my professor of living in the moment, letting go, and facing the unknowns. And so today, I share a post with you from the 2009 archives. I've adjusted a few photos, sprinkled in some pertinent pictures, and am retelling Laury's and Vera's story. It's rather grand and special. I hope you will enjoy OUR story:
9/13/2009-Have you ever looked back from where you are in your life right now, and wondered where you'd be today if just one thing had or hadn't happened? I don't know about you, but I have had many such experiences. Maybe it's the luxury of being almost 55 this year, but I can see the patterns and pieces of my life over the years to now exactly the way they fit. As I examine each step along the way-hold each piece to the puzzle in my hand and in my heart-I sometimes ask myself what if "Just One..." were different? Today I honor "Just One..." that has hugely impacted my life journey to now, with a photo and a poem and a tad bit of our story-my friendship with Madame Vera Volmane.
"Madame Vera"as she was introduced to me by my brother Tom, was someone I absolutely had to meet and see on my first trip to Paris in 1992. Vera was already in her 80's when I met her that January. She didn't leave her apartment on Rue Ballu anymore, but it didn't matter.
She made France and Paris come alive inside those walls for me.
We'd sit and talk for hours over coffees with her Marlboro cigarette flapping in the breeze with every word.
Shortly after our visit, a handsome ex-pat walked up to me on the street and asked if I had time for a "little conversation" that grew into a two-year romance. Every time I came to visit him, I'd be up to visit Vera at least twice. The ex-pat and I were the stuff of fairy tales that don't come true, so when it ended I still came to see Vera and stayed with her.
Speaking to Vera by phone just days before my 1995 arrival, she said: "I will have a coffee waiting for you."
And so...a poem to Vera:
There is a friend upon my road. She loved me to the end of her earthly load...in Paris.
She spoke by phone from the Rue Ballu: "I will have a coffee waiting for you."...in Paris.
Eighty-seven years of writing and giving, she etched Paris on my heart by heart with her joy for living. I had to love her right from the start...in Paris.
To be in Paris and grieve alone, quite unexpectedly on my own, from hotel to hotel in a misty rain, never to see my friend again...in Paris.
I love returning every year. I walk, I write, I "coffee" my days. She lives in my heart. I hold her near. It never really matters where, but the memories rise always...in Paris.
From New Orleans to Orly to the Rue Ballu, "I will have a coffee waiting for you."...Always in Paris.
I'm sure Vera is smiling. It's not Paris, but she sent me here. I ended up in a hotel where the concierge and I became friends and stayed in touch. Wendy and her husband were buying two old ruins in the Lot valley and invited me to visit. Because I lost Vera-I now have More than Paris.
The photo I chose is of Vera and her husband-a Russian actor. I teased Vera that someone should write the story of her life. I returned in '95 with a hand held tape recorder hoping to get the details of her amazing stories down. It wasn't meant to be.