I thought I was in a dream,

a nightmare,

would I ever wake up?

My plane never landed in Italy,

but crashed on the runway in Holland.

She was sick, there were no answers,

in the end: not enough oxygen to her brain.                     

Her father stood helplessly watching, praying, while never leaving her side.

 

The dreams of Italy quickly dissipated and slipped away.

 

For seventeen hours I prayed, begged and pleaded,

I would dearly give my life so she could live in Holland.

I dreamed, “If only, we could be so blessed to live in Holland.”

I remember vowing to embrace, cherish and thrive in her life,

if we could only live in Holland.

It was not meant to be,

and her stay was cut too short. 

 

She, we, never even had time to smell the tulips!

  

I thought it would break me,

would I ever come to understand?

Would I ever feel whole again?

Someday they said,

but I wondered, doubted if I ever would…

 

I too spent nine months and ten days dreaming of Italy,

a place her great grandfather was born,

while her surname “Teulings,” ironically, is Dutch.

 

The “she” surprised me,

as well as the warmth of her small moist body when placed on mine.

But not the tilt of her tiny head nor her first gaze,

not knowing it was her last,

streaming into my eyes piercing my heart,

now forever imbedded into my brain.

 

My firstborn’s life was cut painfully short;

the excruciating pain it brought was unbearable,

suffocating,

my world came crashing in on me that cold,

bitter January day…

 

Time, time, time, time and more time they said.

 

With time, some of the pain subsided,

but the meaning daunted me

and remained blurry and grey.

“Why me?” I cried,

life has so many crowded lanes…

 

There would be more children they said,

but how could I expect them to understand?

“More” would never replace her…

There would forever be an empty place in my heart.

“Obviously there is only one first trip to Italy, Holland or Timbuktu for that matter,

but why didn’t they understand?”

 

There would be more visions,

four to be exact,

but this time the dream destinations would never be Italy,

there would be very little dreaming,

something would always be missing,

a part of me always gone...

Lisa Catherine is her name.

 

Time, time, time and more time.

 

I felt myself changing.

I felt children calling, pulling, and searching.

I became a tutor in my children’s grammar school.

I was not ready to let mine go.

 

Time, time and more time.

 

Ready or not, mine got older, they needed me less,

and they were firmly on their own way.

But there were more, many more,

some that even landed and lived in Holland!

 

I became a paraprofessional for a beautiful young girl that lived in Holland,

who needed me.

“Or did I need her more?” I often wondered.

I made her life better, richer, more independent. 

I taught her to count money,

find pages in a book, and estimate.

I watched her blossom, and then passed her on to caring hands in her next school.

 

I could do more,

I needed to do more.

I felt the warmth of the sun coming back to my soul;

my days became a little brighter and clearer.

 

I felt Holland calling, pulling I did not understand why.

Holland needed me,

or did I need Holland?

Maybe it was both, realizing years ago I had left a part of me there,

but never really knowing,

or understanding why….

 

I became a certified art teacher,

the road was not easy; family sacrifices were high.

Losing my father, but knowing they were together…

While the emotional support I needed was still missing,

I managed to connect a life that seemed light years away

with a new life never envisioned before.

 

Time and more time.

  

The haze was lifting,

The grey became clearer, the sun warmer.

But, always remembering that January day…

I promised I would have happily lived in Holland…

The nightmare began subsiding;

One day I woke and realized,

I was not meant to live in Holland,

I was meant to work in Holland!

They are a part of me,

I am apart of them.

They need me, I need them.

I want them to smell the flowers she never smelled!

I want them to create their Rembrandts that can release their souls!

I want them to feel the wind under their wings taking them places never dreamed of before!

Yes, Holland is where my heart thrives.

Holland is my heart’s home now.

 

More time,

 

Yes the pain never goes away,

but at some point I realized I could turn my pain into a gift,

and found when I gave from my heart to children that needed it most,

my heart became lighter,

the pain became easier to bear,

and my days became clearer and less grey.

I realize now this is where I was meant to be,

and if I had not crash landed in Holland,

I might have never found the ground at all,

maybe never even stopping to smell the tulips.

 

It’s been twenty-eight longing years…

Shortly I’ll be embarking on my first physical trip to Italy,

taking my second born with me.

She, and the three that followed are my everything.

 

Again, as fate would have it,

my second born was delivered six years to the day,

upon which a semester abroad in college found me sitting on top of the Giza Pyramid in Egypt,

watching the sun rise,

feeling it in my soul,

and feeding it in ways it would take decades for me to come to know.

She, my second born, now perusing a master’s in nursing,

will always have an inner light to help her find her way.

 

Soon I will experience Italy through the eyes of twenty-six high school children,

while sharing it with a nurse of my own.

This time I will land in Italy!

There will be the Coliseum,

Michelangelo’s David

Gondolas rides in Venice,

Pisa and Pompeii…

 

I know I’m ready, for now my heart is larger, stronger, and softer.

I know Lisa has been with me every step of the way.

I know I will never be alone…

I know her life has not been in vain,

she lives on every day in the children’s lives I share, touch and teach.

 

And yes,

wherever I go,

wherever I stay,

I will always stop to smell the flowers.