This is Luke. He is our oldest child. I wanted his name up here on the menu bar, appearing prominent, representing that he is part of every experience, every site, every bite and every blog post in Italy. On July 9, when we left Seattle, it had been 5 years and 5 months since he died. His death still feels impossible. I knew the hardest part about leaving home would be leaving all the memories that surround us there. Luke is with me always, but it seemed so much more tangible when I could walk by his bedroom, touch his pillow, look at the pictures he drew and cry with friends who are familiar with that indescribable pain.
Walking through the charming, narrow cobblestone streets of Perugia lacks a direct connection with Luke; we were never here together. There is no gelataria he loved, no bookstore he visited, no cafe where we sat together and no school where he attended. As beautiful, rich and vivacious as this country is, it can occasionally feel empty. We miss Luke.
However, I have found some unexpected comfort lying in the history of this place. It’s so old here. There are so many stories. Throughout the ages, there has been so much creativity and so much life. Great people have walked here. Many of the world’s formative ideas were born here. But these cities also know death. There have been epic wars and devastating plagues. I know these piazzas have been covered with blood and sadness. Walking into any palace or cathedral and I can feel the centuries of loss. The sacred, earthy air gives me comfort because I know I’m not alone. Thousands of mothers and fathers have lost children. In fact, it use to be very common. So while there is no bench dedicated to Luke where I can sit while studying Italian verbs, I can walk into a church and light a little candle. Or I can touch a stone at some ruin. Or I can visit the underground cities. I can be part of this ancient country. I understand a little of what these people experienced.