July 30, 2019
This week I had planned to write about more exciting travel moments. This week was going to be all about discovery, time with family and friends and surviving travel foibles. Instead, I am sharing with you the story of one of my newest friends in Chiavari, a story of Jeanette Walti.
I first encountered Jeanette and her family at the local Chinese Restaurant while I was hunting for my apartment in February, 2017. The family was all so very nice, especially Jeanette. They offered to assist me in any way I needed and invited me to attend their church. Jeanette’s husband, Lee, was the minister. I took their phone number but lost it. And I really did not want ot get involved with their church. But I remembered Jeanette.
Almost two years later, Jeanette approached me on Facebook. We tried to meet each other at the Lungomare but our timing was not good. Finally, I ran into Jeanette and Lee on the promenade, the Lungomare, and the laughter began.
I was walking with my friend, Sandra, and she already belonged to their church. The four of us spent a couple hours together laughing, joking, talking about that Chinese restaurant and living in Italy. Jeanette had already been in Italy for 10 years and had raised her five children here. She had survived, learned Italian well and kept her sense of humor through it all.
In fact, what I noticed right away about Jeanette was the feeling that I was with one of those rare people we meet when we are lucky; a warm, caring soul of light and love who can hang with anyone and find goodness wherever she goes. I definitely wanted to become her friend.
We were invited to her home for brunch the next day, I believe. We sat on their huge balcony with views of the sea and were served coffee and treats by Jeanette’s youngest daughter, Abby. Sandra and Lee talked together for quite a while as Jeanette and I shared stories. Even though I told her that I would not be attending their church, she still welcomed me as a friend. When someone mentioned something about gay people being sinners, I told her that my sister was born that way. I told her that I knew there was something different about her when she was a cute little girl. I did not believe God made mistakes. He made her and she is as he made her. I did not believe it was a sin in any way, shape or form. She asked me about it all but again, did not judge. And she still chose to be my friend.
Moving to Italy alone or with your family is a challenge. Making friends in a new place is another challenge. Every day is a challenge with the language, the local customs, the laws, the shopping, everything. I have had difficulty making friends here and keeping them. But Jeanette welcomed me into her life just the way I was and I treasured my chance to spend time with her, to get to know her, to laugh with her.
About 2 weeks into our friendship she asked me some personal health questions. She knew that I had experienced some dramatic illnesses in my past. She was suffering some similar pain and issues that I have experienced. We talked about trying gluten-free foods, organic only foods, cutting down on drinking and going to the doctor.
But my beautiful new friend, Jeanette was so busy taking care of others that she put herself on the back burner. It took her quite a while to visit pronto soccorso, the emergency room and, by that time,
She had stage 3 colon cancer. After surgery and the best Isreali Chemotherapy, she began to feel better. Throughout her treatment, she was always smiling, trying to help others, and as giving as she had always been. She did not complain. She kept fighting.
About a month ago, things got worse. Her husband took her back to the hospital in Lavagna and not to the Cancer specialty hospital in Genoa. We do not know exactly what went wrong, we do not know if it would have been better in Genoa, but last Thursday night I was notified that she was being moved to hospice care.
She was with her five children and her husband when she passed away on Sunday night. I do not know what happened or why it happened. I had seen her on the 16th and she was recovering well, looking healthier and promising to fight. Twelve days later she is gone.
Despite the heart-wrenching pain of losing another person I care for, I feel so fortunate to have known her, even for a little while. She was loved by so many people and she deserved it all. I will remember her gentleness, her kindness, her sense of humor and her willingness to see people as good even when they were different. Thank you, Jeanette, for being a part of my life for a little while. I am so glad you are at peace. My wish to all your friends and especially to your family, is that they can feel your peace and remember every little thing about you. Celebrate it.
For the rest of us, let’s make sure we treasure those around us, tell them and show them we love them just the way they are. Let’s have patience with them as Jeanette had for others. And let’s share laughter whenever we can. Friends are like gold. Treasure them.
Ciao for now!
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Ciao for Now!
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