The Gift of Italy
A lot has happened since our trip to Italy earlier this Spring, but I think its resulting halo-effect will last a very long time. The trip was orchestrated to work out well for us from the beginning...the wonderful, free home to stay in (from the wonderful owners of Katherine's old modeling agency in Birmingham), credit card points covering our flights and car, and our parents watching James while we went, but as we all can attest, even our most well-orchestrated plans are never guaranteed to work out as we hoped, and yet, there is still hope.
I felt a slight sense of guilt on our flight over as I had uncharacteristically not planned very many activities. Truth be told, I guess in the back of my mind I feared that if I pushed beyond some of our untested limits, I might well end up killing the joy of travel in us forever. One of the ongoing jokes of the trip was that we were never quite sure of what time it was. Due to the internet being down, a recent Day Light Savings change, and a general nonchalant, Italian attitude, we were truly forced to adopt a more loose, less American temperament and accept the timelessness. Ironically, having fewer plans and not fully knowing the time allowed us to really experience and slowly, meaningfully enjoy those days.
Knowing "what time it is" is a practical necessity of life, and particularly after a life-changing, perspective-giving experience, like Katherine's stroke, time can be both a precious gift and a sort of burdensome, immovable presence. However, experiencing moments of timelessness are one of life's greatest pleasures (and a glimpse of heaven, perhaps?)...like getting purposefully lost while driving in the countryside; slowly unfolding a home-cooked meal over the course of a night in front of a warm hearth; laughing over a late afternoon lunch, then coffee, then another dessert; taking a stroll to no where at dusk.
Traveling to Italy was about so much more than just taking a special, relaxing trip together. It was a deep challenge, a gamble even, laying all our cards on the table in the hopes that this experience would be affirming and motivating, not disappointing and devastating. Honestly, it was a little bit of everything, but the major take away was that by the grace of God, we can do it! Katherine's stroke has always presented us with the same challenge across many areas of our lives, "Will we resign ourselves to this loss or will we rise to the challenge of finding new ways of living?" I can say with more confidence after this trip, that we are up to the challenge, and that we will continue the fight to find and experience life, in every form, now.