The weather was gorgeous yesterday, just perfect for a late afternoon row. I hadn't rowed in three weeks- some due to travel, some due to bad weather. I was itching to get out on the water. And, more than just wanting to row, I needed to row. We're now in training for the Vogalonga, a 32 km row around the islands to be held on May 24.
At the last minute I received a message reminding me to show up at the boat house 30 minutes early, there was to be an emergency meeting. I had a hunch what this meeting was all about. One of our members had been in the hospital for the last week, and I suspected we were going to be told something about her status.
Even though we were all pretty sure there would be some bad news, I can assure you, we were not ready for the news we got. It was the worst we could have imagined. This poor woman, who is fairly young to begin with- and remember she has already suffered through breast cancer-has just been diagnosed with one of the worst types of cancer you could have, and the prognosis is not good. Not good at all. We're sitting in an enormous salt warehouse, centuries old, with no windows, and you could have heard a pin drop. There was a mix of silence, tears, sniffles and then the long wails of grief stricken friends, as the realization hit.
The meeting was called to a close, with a final word to treat the situation delicately, for the poor woman's sake who was having to process this herself, and- to go do our row. Trust me, none of us were in a mood to row, no matter how gorgeous the afternoon was. I glanced around the room, taking in the faces of this group of women who now have come to mean the world to me. I don't think I've ever been as moved as I was yesterday witnessing this collective sadness.
Somehow, we mustered up the will to go out and row. We left the salt warehouse without words, hugging one another, giving support to those that were taking the news the hardest. Still without words, we loaded up into the boat. The entire row was in silence, which is very out of character for this chatty bunch. Normally our helmsman spends a good bit of his time yelling " Silenzio". Yesterday, no commands were necessary. We were all lost in our own thoughts as we rowed over the Giudecca Canal, through the narrow canals of Giudecca island, and out to the lagoon. For an hour and a half we rowed, almost as one, strokes in perfect synchronization, gliding silently through the water.
There is something very magical about being in the waters surrounding Venice, with no noise at all other than the sound of your paddle slicing the water. For a brief time, you are at one with the universe.
My thoughts were this: I've received yet another confirmation that life is short. There are no guarantees on how many tomorrows's we'll have. That's what made me move to Italy in the first place. This is what makes me know I'm in the right place, living a quiet, simple life, focusing on what is truely important at this time in my life. Days are not to be squandered, I need to make each one count.
And that's my message to you - make each day count.