One of the last memories I have of the Adriatic Sea is standing on its rocky shore in Trogir, Croatia, bending down and picking up a smooth stone to take back to America with me. To place on my grandmother’s freshly dug grave.
It was a beautiful day in September. Blue sky. Bluer water. And, that day, I just knew she was going to pass away. The thought hung over my head much like the gray clouds which tended to rush over the green hills surrounding the beach in the late afternoons there.
She was dead, and I was in Croatia. Alone. Love, life, loss … far, far from home.
And, then there was the memory later that day. Sitting on the ground, feet dangling over the clear water, and sobbing uncontrollably as I thought about her struggles with ALS. My parents back home. My isolation on the other side of the world. Those few days after death, leading up to my eventual re-entry to America and my arrival to her resting place in Pennsylvania were some of the hardest in my life.
But, I handled it. I cried. I grieved. I mourned. I left the tiny rock from the sea on the broken up dirt above her casket.
In the nearly four years since she passed, there have been a few moments where I find myself tearing up over her leaving the world. It can be a memory like the first time I realized her health was deteriorating in Atlanta and sitting at the airport with my mom, head buried in my hands as I cried, likely harder than I have cried in my life. Or, it is pulling up the PDF of the note she left when her body was shutting down, but her mind was still alive. Or, it is thinking about my parting with Croatia, devastated.
Today, as I walk down the street in Trieste, I know where I am going: back to the Adriatic Sea. Nearly four years is long enough to be away from a place I relate with changing my life. A body of water that is just a body of water, but also symbolizes my new life, complete with triumphs and struggles. Only now, it also symbolizes my grandmother.
I’m pretty OK as I walk down the sun-soaked street of the Italian town that hugs the Slovenian border. I’m really only here as a stop-over, since I arrived too late to Milan from Tel Aviv to get to Slovenia the day before. But, after arriving to my accommodation for the night and letting the idea of being solo soak in, I decided I needed to have a moment in the town.
After I drop my bags at the bus station, I follow the signs to the center of the city.
My moments in Trogir run across my mind like the flashbacks from a movie. Sliding down a stone wall … collapsing into tears … wandering the maze of the old city numb … listening to “Sideways” on repeat … and just like that, I melt into two worlds. And burst into tears. Tears I thought I had cried out. But that’s the funny thing about death; you think you’ve mourned, you think you’ve grieved all you can, but there is no limit to either.
I walk closer to the blue water, closer to the Adriatic Sea. This time, I pause at the edge of the dock, next to where the fishermen are hauling in their loot from the morning, next to where couples stand, hand-in-hand.
Four years ago, I hadn’t imagined this would be where I would return to the Adriatic. Italy wasn’t even a glimmer four years ago. Hell, it wasn’t a glimmer four months ago. But, here I am. Standing in front of the sea I love, and letting the grief wash over me.
It’s delayed mourning, but it is still mourning.
I stand there for a few minutes, marveling at my journey over the past four years, marveling at the spot I am standing in, and then I continue on into the center of Trieste to breathe before I move onwards to my next destination on this European adventure, a place I have dreamed of for ages: Slovenia.
This post is part of the D Travels Europe (and Israel) series. Stay up-to-date on all of my adventures by following along on Twitter (#dtravelseurope), Instagram,Trover, G+ and Facebook. And, for a look at the health and wellness side of European travel, be sure to follow along at The Comfort Zone Project and on TCZP’s Facebook.