The last few days of a trip are always a blur, as you try to see everything you might have missed, force all the souvenirs into the suitcases and gather last-minute memories.
Ours was all that, overlaid with a sad difference. After we flew from Florence to Paris to Cincinnati to St. Louis, I left Cecile at the airport for another flight to Chicago and on to Sacramento so I could be with my brother at his wife's funeral.
Mark was once the blond; I was the brunette. Now we share gray heads and lifetimes of memories.
Watching memories cut short by a death is hell. I can hug Mark, I can tell him I'm sorry and I can just be there in love. But I can't really share the pain of losing someone who was is life for 35 years.
Ja'nice Bentley took her own life June 8 by driving to a beautiful mountain cabin and swallowing pain pills. She was depressed, as so many of us are at times. But I can't explain to Mark why on that day she chose to leave both the depression and all the stored-up good times. No one can.
The funeral was nice -- an oxymoron if there ever was one. A large, supportive crowd of neighbors, friends and coworkers from in and around Ione, CA, came to pay tribute to Ja'nice and share their love for my brother. Each family member was given a rose and we all placed them in a vase as a final present to her. The two preachers said words of comfort, we all exchanged hugs and then went back to the house for food and more shared memories.
That there were so many hearts opened to Mark took a burden from me. I know that he will survive, supported by the whole community of people I saw stand at his side.
And tomorrow I'll go home to the one who is always with me, and with whom I'll always be. And with a little rest, I'll refresh the good memories Cecile and I made in Florence and perhaps write a bit more about our Italian venture.
For what I learned so very well during this joyous month in ancient Italy and sad fews days in northern California is that there is no end. Good, bad and in between, life just is.