This is the scene that greeted us this morning as we went for breakfast on board our river cruise ship. We are docked at Bamberg and will be going into town later.
As I wrote about on my Facebook page yesterday evening, Mark and I were a bit apprehensive about whether we would meet people on this cruise with whom we could connect. So it was with some trepidation that we went to our first social event - "afternoon tea" - yesterday afternoon. As it turned out, we immediately struck up a conversation with a woman - or rather she with us - whom we noticed had a cane next to her. An attractive blonde woman (she actually reminded me a bit of Ann Romney), I would guess her age to be about 50. She and her husband, who shortly joined us, had just arrived on board.
We proceeded to have a delightful conversation. They are from rural Massachusetts, and she has recently retired from teaching kindergarten for almost 25 years. The reason for her retirement, we learned, was that she has MS. As is the case with Mark, a Rhine river cruise had been on her bucket list for a long time, and this is their very first European trip. They had decided to go for it because, as she said, "I may kick it before I get another chance."
As I sat there listening to this woman and seeing her radiant countenance and beautiful smile, I had goosebumps. Literally. I mean, what are the odds that the VERY first person we met on this cruise has a terminal illness, just like Mark? And what are the odds that this person feels like someone I have known for years? Furthermore, after we'd been sitting there a while, the feeling came over me that we had seen these people in town that day. I mentioned it, and the realization dawned on us that we had seen them at the central market in Nuremberg at a stall where Mark bought a hat. We didn't see her, but we saw her husband (who was buying a pair of gloves for his wife whose hands were cold while using her "scooter"). He had impressed me even then as a kind, gentle man with a nice smile.
Life is so beautifully wonderful. This experience reminded me of how many wonderful people we have met on this trip. Giovanni, for example, our guide for two days in Venice, who loved to talk about his son, Jacomo, and his upcoming birthday party. We really liked him as a person, and I think he liked us. We generously tipped him the first day, then again the second, and as we did so the second time, he looked up, eyes ever so slightly watered, kissed us each on both cheeks and said, "Have a wonderful life." He never knew that Mark has terminal cancer.
|Giovanni and Mark sampling grapes in the hills outside Venice|
I also think of all the great guys we met on our Adriatic cruise, some of whom I had no doubt I was "supposed" to meet. Most Mormons believe that God guides our lives through the Spirit. As a practicing Mormon for many years, I also believed this. I rejected this belief upon leaving the LDS Church. However, while I no longer believe that "God" (in the traditional Christian/Mormon sense), guides my life, so many things have happened while on this trip that have compelled to believe that certain things are meant to happen to me, that I am meant to have certain experiences, and that I am meant to meet certain people.
I am profoundly grateful for this. Life truly is beautifully full of wonder.