Back in 2007 I travelled to London, Paris, Florence, and Rome on a spring break trip with a group of high school students I was teaching. I was with my mentor, co-teacher, and dear friend, Patty. She was the travel club advisor and had taken kids all over the world. I was lucky enough to be able to tag along on some of her domestic and international adventures and get the opportunity to explore with my students the world outside the classroom.
Patty was the most active, positive, energetic, and inspiring teacher anyone could imagine. She was truly beautiful on the inside and outside. From the moment I met her during my interview, I knew that she was someone special that would change my life.
The story of my friendship with Patty and all the ways she changed me through her living and her untimely dying will eventually make their way into some official and polished writing. I owe her that. This past month has moved me closer to being able to make that wish come true. In truth, there is so much to say and sometimes my words feel insufficient to the task.
One story sure to be included would be that trip to Europe. Every Easter season I think about that epic trip we took together and all the memories that will be forever written on my heart. Spending Holy week in Rome, Florence, and Assisi was an incredible experience for me. The combination of unparalleled beauty, excitement, newness, jetlag and strong coffee mixed with afternoon glasses of Italian wine gave the sights and sounds a dreamlike feel.
On Easter morning our tour bus dropped us at the bottom of a steep hill into Assisi. The sun was shining and birds were chirping. All around the Basilica of St. Francis was strung artificial doves on clear wires to give the impression of flight. They were magnificent in the way they appeared to fill the air- their bright white against the clear blue ski.
I had the opportunity to attend mass at the Basilica that day and normally would not have missed the chance, but some students wanted to venture up high beyond the town to explore and I opted to do that with them. That hike up those cobblestone streets carried us above the shops and crowds of people. We climbed high into the bright morning sunshine and ended up spending a few hours with a handful of high school students and a parent chaperone perched on some ancient crumbling wall, snacking on Italian foods and talking. Of all the places I’ve visited, this particular memory stands out among the best.
Whether it happens only in dreams or in some magical afterlife, I hope to revisit that time and place again so I can sit in the sunshine with my youth and optimism and my friend Patty. If I do, I will certainly savor each second and the intoxicating feeling that had not so much to do with strong coffee or sleep or delicious wine, but more to do with friendship and love and the intense and fleeting beauty of the precious time we have together.