When a heart breaks, it opens and then expands
Grief is a personal journey that takes patience and love.
This morning while I was contemplating what to write in my bio, the words “my five-year hiatus in the US” kept spinning back around in my head. I have used those words many times over the years to explain my absence from Florence. It was my way of containing the most challenging and yet also the most significant five years of my life. I rarely explained that time in my life because I was still struggling to make sense of it myself.
When the phone rang one evening as I was about to go to sleep, my mom called to tell me she had cancer. My throat clenched and I could not swallow. I couldn’t cry on the phone, but somehow the words, “I’m coming home,” slithered out. She tried to talk me out of it, but I would not remain in Europe, where I had lived the last ten years, while she was suffering alone.
Within a week, I moved out of my apartment and sent all my belongings back to California. I didn’t want my mother to think I was just waiting until the scale tipped one way or the other before returning to Florence. I wanted her to know that I was there with her and it didn’t matter if I stayed a month, a year, or a decade. All I wanted was to spend my time with her.
Earlier that year, before my mother’s call, I fractured my leg in the Parco delle Cascine. I thought that was a dark time in my life. Then, my boyfriend of two years broke up with me. I thought that was another dark time in my life. It was my mother’s failing health that was the darkest time in my life.
During the year and a half that we had together, our bond became even stronger. Our roles shifted. I took care of her like a mother would a child. My heart and mind focused only on her well-being. I wondered what else I could do for her, how I could help her regain her health, and what she needed from me. A part of me would’ve given my life for her to have her continue living hers. But there’s no bargaining with fate.
When she passed away, my heart shattered. As I was about to fall asleep that night, I…