Strange Easter. We had decided to spend it up north in an old monastery outside of Orvieto. Being an ex-pat, the holidays are more challenging. There isn’t a well-worn back yard for games and hunts, nor a comfy old den with closets full of decorations that only need a dusting and reason. No family to stop by with cakes and laughter or friends to visit with beer in hand. It’s just us three, trying to carve out our own traditions so that our child has some known footprints to follow throughout the world. Our first such tradition is when a holiday rolls around, we roll around. Taking the car this time, we drove north through the back roads, enjoying all the beauty and small towns hidden from plain site. About halfway up we stopped for lunch on Lake Bracciano. We couldn’t believe our luck when the restaurant we found, right on the lake, had one table left for the special holiday feast. With an already planned menu, we were bombarded with food the minute we sat down. As we were eating a woman passed by a few times. I couldn’t help notice her. She was probably my age, maybe a little older, dressed to the nines and full of life. She passed again and I watched her go to her table where she was sitting with her family. I looked back down at my food and continued eating until I heard someone screaming, “papa, papa,” over and over. I looked up and it was her, standing with an old man’s head in her hands, screaming and crying, “papa, papa, no.” People started running and surrounded the old man and he’s lying there and the whole thing is so horrible and Ross told me to look away, but I couldn’t. I grabbed our girl and turned her so she couldn’t see as they finally grabbed him and picked him up to carry him away, brushing against our table as they passed. That is how close he was. The daughter screaming the whole time, “papa, papa.” We don’t know what happened. We think a stroke. His eyes were still open when he passed, but I just don’t know. I know he wasn’t there like he was there only minutes before. We tried to finish the meal, but just couldn’t do it. I took our little one out to walk along the lake as Ross paid the bill. Back in the car, heading north again, not 5 minutes later, I see a young woman standing outside of a car screaming and crying and I thought oh no, it’s happening again, and it did. As we pass them, an old man (it might have been a woman) was being pulled out of the back seat, completely limp and placed on the ground and the young woman is just standing there, screaming. We rode the rest of the way in silence. I thought about Uganda and the things I had seen there. The aftermath of dangerous roads, images that never leave you. I thought when we left, we’d left that behind and here it brushed the table we were sitting at, was waiting at the turn we took. The two fallen here were old, full lives to be celebrated. The ones I saw in Uganda, lives only partly lived. But the tears of sadness are always the same and as I will never forget the scenes in Africa, I will never forget these women’s cries. We did make it to the monastery, and it was very beautiful, and we made sure to be grateful for every moment.
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