31 March 2006

My Aunt Jane was a world traveler.

She never knew it. The only place she ever traveled was London. And even that left her insanely homesick. She wasn't really much of one to explore the world--at least not until now.

Jane Blair Chapman, or Aunt Jane as she was known to me, died on May 19, 2004. I was devestated. So was the rest of my family. Aunt Jane was our matriarch since I can remember. In reality, she was more of a grandmother to me in role than Aunt. I adored her. She loved me.

I remember the day she died, the only thing I could find to express what I felt was this passage from Lamentations 1.16. "For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my courage; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed."

It was true. The cancer won. I'm not sure any of us are over it. Maybe we won't ever be.

For the past week, I was lucky enough to spend time in both Budapest and Vienna. These cities were both beautiful, particularly Budapest. I had traveled to Vienna before, only in the snow the first time. This round found Vienna rather rainy and grey. Budapest, however, I had not previously visited.

Coming from the States, I knew very little about Hungary. They only thing I really associated with it were ideas of communism, the eastern block, and dispair (after all, the country was named Hungary). What I found was a laid back, thriving city--full of faded elegance and imperial majesty of days gone by.

We drove to Budapest first, leaving Copenhagen at 6:30 Friday night, driving through the night as well as the next day and arriving in Budapest (pronounced more like Budapesht) nearly 24 hours later at 530pm.

After that excruciatingly long, yet not miserable, bus ride, I found myself in a city full of charm. European facades loomed over wide avenues. And, it was warm! No need for a winter coat--a welcome change from Copenhagen's random weather patterns. I also found myself need a break from my companions. So, with a small group of friends, we headed out to explore the city by night.

I tried to be jovial, making jokes and laughing. Even joking about my major by quoting Bible verses like "I am the way, the truth and the life." But in reality, I needed space. A group of 3 or so had grown into 7 or 8. I did enjoy everyone's company, but there was part of me that just needed solititude.

I became irritated, and right when I thought I might have to say somthing, our group turned a corner and saw St. Stephen's Basillica looming over us, lit beautifully. Cue the choir of angels. It was amazing. I remember being in awe. We were on the backside of the massive stone edifice. As we made our way to the front, I, at least, was dumbfounded. Right above the entrance to the church were the words "I am the way, the truth and the life," in latin, of course, but still there. Perfect.

We ventured on to see the Danube (which I eventually got to hear the song inspired by the river...played beside river), and I realized what an amazing place and moment I was in. And I thought about Aunt Jane, and how beautiful it would be to her too.

As my time in Budapest and Vienna moved on, I decided to visit churches. I like going inside them because there is a connection to something so much greater than us in them. You feel attached to a history that just isn't present in the States. At many these churches, there are alters in side chapels which you can light candles and say prayers.

I lit candles for a safe journey home, for friends and family, but mostly for Jane. You see, she might not have traveled the world, but I am getting too. And each time I light a candle for her, I know that she is there with me.

My Aunt Jane is a world traveler.


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