The Pantheon. Rome, Italy. A beautiful October day. Cobblestone streets, the smell of fresh baked bread, street musicians, and swarms of tourists. And don't forget loved ones. That makes everything better.
Upon entering the building, I got separated from my parents and Tanja for 10 minutes or so. After listening to an audio guide about the history of the Pantheon and admiring the incredible architecture, I decided it was time to sit. I found my dad in one of the church pews (the Pantheon is one of the few ancient historical churches that still holds weekly Sunday services) and sat down for a spell.
Sitting to my left was a lovely woman and a man whom I guessed to be her father. We started up a conversation (I overheard them speaking English--in a British accent, which is always music to my ears). They were so easy to talk to. I enjoyed getting to know a bit about their work, their travels, and the usual info (names, place of residence, etc.)
I learned that Tori (the beautiful gal next to me) is a single mum with a young daughter. She has a great career and a fabulous energy about her. She was so warm and easy and open. I could tell right away she was someone I wanted to be friends with. She asked about me and my family and of course I told her about my kids, including Lucy. I gave the abbreviated version of her accident but still included the major points. She didn't say much after I shared my story and I wasn't sure if I made her feel awkward by sharing.
Just then, an American choir started setting up and began singing. If I remember right it was a somewhat cheesy Josh Groban song. The choir was made up of mostly men and women in their 50's from the Midwest. (an educated guess) They weren't flashy or amazing, but it was an unexpected and pleasant experience to hear their voices floating through that historic building.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tori wiping away tears. My first thought was honestly, "Maybe she lost her mom recently. Maybe that is why her dad is here alone with her. Maybe talking about Lucy is opening wounds from her mother's death."
I don't remember exactly what I said, but I asked something along the lines if she had recently lost someone.
"No", she replied,
"I'm sorry. I just can't stop thinking about your little girl. You are the strongest person I've ever met."
You guys. I haven't shed tears with someone over Lucy for a very long time. And to have the sacred honor of a stranger (turned friend) shed tears with you, for you, caught me so off guard and melted my heart. Here we were--one of us from Utah, one from England, sitting in THE PANTHEON in Italy, having just met 10 minutes previous, and we are crying together.
It was beautiful.
I wanted them to spend the rest of the day with me and my family! I got Tori's info and added her on Facebook that same night and almost walked away without snapping a photo. I knew it was a moment I would want to remember and share...so I turned around and asked my mom to take this...
And though I don't look great, I felt amazing. I felt broken and vulnerable and alive and so thankful. I felt connected to Lucy and Tori, humanity and history.
You best believe I'll be seeing Tori on my next trip to England! She's the strong one. She left a failing relationship with courage to raise her daughter alone. She has a successful career and the graceful strength to cry for a stranger. The strength of her human heart, and those like hers, keeps Lucy's light alive.
Bad photo--great story.
We are all strong. But together, we are even stronger.