Finding the Sweet Life

Thank you for your questions since my last post; I love questions. Most have been about how Italy changed my life. It’s a hard one to answer, though. For the most part, I have no words to explain it, only to say it was like a veil had lifted.

Being in Rome at a church bearing my name on my husband Brendan’s 5th death anniversary wasn’t a coincidence. When I put our cottage up for sale late in the previous year, the agent asked what I wanted from the sale. Without hesitation, I said, “a trip to Italy.” A couple of months later, our agent sold our cottage, and the kids and I were busy making holiday plans. I ensured we would be in Rome at La Maddalena on the 31st of August.

After I lit a candle for Brendan and Mum at the church on Bren’s anniversary, Tyra called me to a pew near where she and Baden were standing. On top of the bench was a picture of an outstretched hand with a rainbow through it. Next to the hand was text in Italian. Translated later that evening, it said God wants a closer relationship with you. Not unusual when you’re in a church, but since Bren left, we see rainbows a lot.

During treatment, rainbows were a symbol of hope for his recovery. Something our community embraced too. It wasn’t so much the words translated that made me think as much as the rainbow ensured I saw them. That was hard to ignore, followed by a robust and energetic experience at the Pantheon only minutes later. I had some looking within to do.

Italy, far away from everything familiar besides my kids, was where I needed to be to see my life with clarity. I knew the peace and happiness I felt over there (on holidays) was something I wanted in my everyday life at home. I had been working toward a more straightforward, happier life. Italy had shown me it was achievable—peace, simplicity, connection and happiness. La Dolce Vita—the sweet life. That’s what I wanted to fill my suitcase with and smuggle home.

I knew from the day Brendan died that the depth of my pain at losing him was not a barometer of my love for him. No one loses someone they love without feeling the same unbearable pain I was feeling.


The depth of my love for my husband is not my pain or grief. The true expression of my love for him is how I live with the pain and grief. And my choice to live well. Those choices were reconfirmed in Italy. The last five years had been about doing because they had to be. Now it’s time for BEing, and that’s exciting. I’m sure both have made and will make Bren proud. After all, he’s still trying to help me navigate this crazy life without him, and he knows his work is cut out.

Now I have a question. Is it too soon to be planning my next trip to Italy?

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