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Chiara, My Friend

Chiara came into my life quietly, gently, slowly.

At first, it was with her husband, my neighbor, at a summer cocktail party in our back garden. Although an introvert, I become quite animated and chatty at parties, but I tend to focus and hang out with few not all, going deep into conversation with like-minded folks.

I barely talked with her that first evening. She stayed close to her husband, smiling, talking little. Speaking English exclusively was still becoming her new norm.

Then it was an occasional dinner out with a group, grilling on their deck with friends…and with each conversation, I began to get to know her little by little.

It was the conversation about her job as an oncologist that was the turning point. I sat rapt as she described the privilege of being with someone as they lay dying.

I had never heard someone speak that way.

I didn’t feel that way myself at all.

I knew I couldn’t do it.

I would be a mess, crying and distraught. I couldn’t work every day in the medical field, particularly when sometimes, for all ages, there was dying.

Again, calmly, softly, she just smiled.

And so, slowly I learned that not only is she brilliant…but she just might be an angel sent from God.

Her kindness and genuine compassion come from a very deep place in her soul.

They say people come into our lives just when we need them most. Chiara is undoubtedly one of those people for me. She has taught me so much just from her way of being in the world.

Her European love for life and the depth of her love for family are beautiful.

I can only hope her traits wash over me. I am always uplifted after spending time with her.

Travel is her passion. How she loves to see new places. She is unafraid and will travel anywhere with others or alone. She has seen more of the United States than I have, and yet she’s only been a citizen of our country a dozen years.

She came to the U.S. for work, met her husband, married, and became a U.S. citizen. She misses Italy and is naturally sad each time she returns after visiting her father and sister, brother-in-law, and baby nephew.

She Skypes her father most days while she sips her espresso for breakfast and he has his lunch. I’ve seen her walking her laptop around her yard in summer to show him their garden, the grapes growing, their new hammock, how the trees have changed color, all the while speaking their beautiful language.

On a weekend get-away, I was so moved by this hard-charging physician expertly using the hula hoop in the children’s play area of the Mount Washington Hotel while her husband and mine played horse shoes and wiffle ball.

As I lay on the grass enjoying the warmth of the sun of early spring, she kept going into the children’s toy shed bringing out more toys. She tried badminton and jumped rope. She told the men there was a “hand” in the shed if they needed it for wiffle ball…..a.k.a baseball glove!

I couldn’t help but observe the need for her spirit to play, to release.

She works 12-hour days and both weekend days. For most of the year, she drives in and home in the dark, never seeing the light of day except for days when she has to meet patients or work on call at the hospital. Her work and her patients are all consuming.

And yet, on a brief weekend away, this preeminent cancer specialist, played like a child.

I smiled, knowing how great the need.

And when she returned to her patients on Monday morning, I knew she would give even more of herself.

Because having a respite, a laugh, a little travel in nature and a walk in the woods, she would have even more to give them.

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