I am sure that you are anticipating posts describing the beauty and joy of “everyday” life in Paris…which it certainly has in spades, but I hope that you will indulge me as I unpack a heavy topic here. I had a really profound, and startlingly simple realization today that I wanted to share, because I think it might just resonate with some of you. I feel that transparency is always best when cutting to the heart of a sensitive subject, so I will be as candid as possible. Just incase this isn’t your cup of tea, I have also included some lovely pictures from my walk around Pairs today at the end!
One of the reasons that this sabbatical to Europe appealed to me now more then ever is that I feel like I have been searching for something illusive since my Mom passed away from cancer last spring. It is hard to describe, because I have had no idea what it might be, just a nagging feeling. After more then a year, the grieving is much better, and acceptance and grace do seem to come with time. But there has been something else bothering me that I haven’t been able to put my finger on. Beyond the typical residual grief of still beginning to tear up when I hear a piece of music, or see something that reminds me of Mom, there is a deeper sense of loss.
At this point, please let me make clear that this story is not about a particular religious denomination or set of beliefs, but about a place that has always simply “spoken” to me since I stumbled upon it on my first trip to Paris years ago. It draws me back like a magnet every time I come here. I usually drop my bags at the hotel I am staying at, and then proceed there immediately…not sure why. The location is Saint-Severin, one of the oldest churches in the Latin Quarter. But more precisely it is a small, unadorned, almost austere octagonal chapel tucked off in a remote corner of the church. I go there to sit, sometimes for an hour or more in silence, largely bypassing the gorgeous gothic church outside of it.
This little chapel was closed for repairs when I was back in Paris last fall, for the first time since Mom passed away. I attempted several times on that visit to go there, like a dog waiting to be let in on a rainy day, but no dice. I have gone twice since arriving this time, still closed. What was waiting for me in this chapel, and why was I so damned determined to get back inside of it? Answering an inaudible call, I went again today…and it was open!
Today was the first time that I have even taken note of what it is called, Chapelle Du Saint Sacrement. Translated this means “Chapel of The Blessed Sacrament”. Interestingly my Mom was buried from The Blessed Sacrament in Regina, the city’s second oldest church. The same church that Mom had attended as a young woman, out on her own for the first time, and where her Grandma also went as a young woman almost a hundred years ago.
Into the hidden, musty little chapel I went again today, at long last. Sitting down, I closed my eyes and let my mind go blank. After sitting like this for a few minutes a voice that was not my own entered my consciousness. It said two very simple things: “You are not alone. You are loved.” This mantra repeated itself for several minutes while I felt a wave of warmth envelope me. Two basic, simple statements that somehow connected all the dots for me. I now know what the disconnect has been for me since Mom’s passing. We all have people in our lives (parents, spouses, children, siblings and friends) who make us feel secure and loved, just by virtue of their being in the world. Mom was that for me. To loose one of those people makes you feel vulnerable beyond belief.
Less then a month before Mom passed away, I managed to come down with strep throat, tonsillitis, and a host of other nasty afflictions all at the same time – talk about stress making its mark on the body. Even though Mom was literally in the process of dying, she brushed off any notion of her not being well, and was instead completely focused on how I was doing, wondering if she should fly out to Halifax. I am here to tell you, even though she could barely get out of bed by that point, had I said I needed her, Mom would have literally dragged herself onto a plane with her fingertips. Period. Loosing that kind of unconditional love in my life has hit me far harder then I could have ever imagined. I have the most wonderful friends and family anyone could ever ask for, yet I now realize that I have been feeling utterly alone since Mom’s passing, even in a room full of the people that I love.
What is the remedy for this…who knows, time perhaps? Just realizing that this is what is behind the nagging feeling of displacement that I have been nursing since Mom’s passing is half the battle. I felt at least 100 lbs. lighter leaving that dusty little chapel today. Why? I guess because that voice inside of me has reassured me that I am loved, and not alone, no matter where I am. And there you have it friends. Know that you too are loved and are never alone…regardless of where life takes you, or who is or isn’t there with you. There is a great sense of freedom and lightness that comes with this knowledge. Today I began to truly appreciate that this time in Paris and Europe is a gift…for which I will be eternally grateful.