As One Year Anniversaries Go…
Yesterday, well it kind of sucked. It’s all a bit surreal I suppose. By all accounts, one would think I should be having the time of my life. I am in the south of France. The countryside and foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains are gorgeous. The weather is almost perfect, less the on again/off again rain each day. There is café au lait, fresh baked croissants, and every kind of delicious cheese and cured meat imaginable. But this isn’t exactly a vacation. And it isn’t exactly the type of anniversary one normally looks forward to.
A little background info: Shannon and I have been traveling practically nonstop for almost 2 years. Both of us lived in Washington, DC, and eventually we met, dated, loved, traveled, loved some more, moved in and started building a life together- and through it all, kept on loving- each other and our lives together.
While I was working on a documentary film project in Australia for several months in 2K11, we both decided we wanted to take a year to assess our life situations- personal and professional- and determine, what it would take for us to be able to pack up our lives and create the ability for each of us to be able to sustainably work, while we travel (and not go broke, die of exhaustion, or kill each other in the process.)
On June 29, 2K12, after much excited planning, fretting, nervous anticipation, and enough gumption to move a small mountain- or at least die trying- we turned in our keys to our wonderful DC apartment, loaded up the UHaul (with amazing help from Shannon’s parents!), and we started our journey. So far, we’ve hit over 30 countries and about 17,000 unique miles across the U.S.A. and Canada. The original plan was to leave the U.S. on November 6th, 2K12 and not return for at least 1.5 years.
But then on May 2, 2K13, my mom died. During this last year, Shannon and I have mourned, loved, lived, mourned some more, and loved even more. Our lives seemed to be in a state of ambiguous hiatus for about two months after the funeral. But as is the case with life, it moves on, and we are all compelled to keep up, or it finds a way of inevitably dragging us forward, even if by kicking and screaming.
So life did move on, and Shannon and I started working and traveling again. And traveling some more. And then even more. In fact, in the year since my Mom died, we traveled to Louisiana, New York, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Georgia, California, Washington, DC, Texas, North & South Carolina, Turkey, Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Italy, and France.
So now we are here, this one year anniversary to my mom’s death- the first of many I assume I will endure, and I think probably the hardest one I will face (hopefully). But I cannot simply endure my grief indoors- I am in the south of France after all. So I owe it to my mom to explore her namesake, for which we came here, in order to find some sort of solace in, in the first place.
I am laying witness, for the first time in my life, to the original Grotto of Lourdes (I’ve seen several replicas in years past.) The rock cave at Massabielle is where Saint Bernadette Soubirous proclaimed to have seen the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Bernadette, a 14 year old peasant girl, claimed she witnessed the Virgin apparition on February 11, 1858, in a cave while gathering firewood. She claimed to then see the Virgin Mary’s apparition 17 more times. Bernadette was later canonized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Notre Dame of Lourdes had a stark, quiet beauty about it. It left me temporarily speechless-those who know me, know, this is no small feat!
The altar was particularly striking. I have never before seen one this unique.
I took this foto from behind the altar, looking towards the front of the church. It was a quiet moment, before the hustle and bustle of tourists started to pick up an hour later.
The murals throughout the Notre Dame were spectacular. Each one made from individual, appropriately colored tiles, less than 1 square inch apiece. A painstaking amount of work went into the creation of the Notre Dame of Lourdes.
So the whole thing is just surreal. This. This place I find myself in. I am simultaneously feeling an odd mix of emotions, of excitement, sadness, cynicism, and anger. I suppose these are the elements of life one cannot control when dealing with such complex internal issues. I’m emotionally exhausted and only barely anticipating what tomorrow shall bring.
Distance: Could care less really…
Location: Lourdes, France
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