[Above: Ephesus, the ruins of the library. This place left more of a mark on me than any other place I’ve ever been.]
Psst: song embedded below. Get on that smooth listenin’.
I’ve always looked back on the short time I spent in Turkey as a total game-changer for me. I fell in love with the place and the people—right on the heels of equally stunning places like Hydra, Santorini, Croatia, and Greece, but it won. It was hotter than hell, busy, a lot to take in, a few rough edges—and I adored it right away.
Turkey stuck with me, like a hole in your sweater your fingers are always drawn to fiddle with.
It wasn’t until just last night, however, that I realized just how much of a mark it had left on me.
[The house of the Virgin Mary.]
I haven’t gotten to share anything about this trip—the trip that ended exactly a week before life as I knew it ended. In that respect, it was all a bit tainted, lost in the shuffle, and forgotten too quickly for what it was. It added to my sense of loss, as superficial as that sounds, that I couldn’t bask in it a bit longer because of the sort of sick truth about it: that he went on it with me, full-well knowing what would happen a week later when we got home.
We arrived in Kusadasi in the morning and I could tell it was going to be hot. Like, super hot. The port was packed with people and buses and pushy salespeople but I just had this feeling—this sense I was going to love it. We greeted Bulent, the kind-eyed guide my parents had met on their last trip there, and piled into a frosty air conditioned van to head up the mountain to the House of the Virgin Mary.
Yes, that Mary.
My ears popped on the steep descent as it dawned on me how significant this place was I was in at that moment. The cradle of history, of Christianity—of civilization. A place that had never been on my radar before was suddenly under my feet and under my skin. This had been where she spent her final years, essentially in hiding, and finally, where she passed away. I walked into it—into her home. Her room.
I don’t care what religion you are (I’m not much of any), but this took my breath away.
Something tugged at me, though—something that had been trying to get my attention for years, I imagine. It wasn’t religion; it was different. It was my inability to really feel my downs—to explore those troughs of emotion and really sit with them. Being in this place where people were openly weeping made the tall walls I’d built seem suddenly shameful.
I begged myself to be present.
I followed the tide of people like water making its way down a hillside, by myself. Suddenly, I came upon the wishing wall—the only thing I know to call it. I saw people approaching it with scraps of paper or fabric or tissue, tying these to the wall, then pausing, some bowing.
“They’re praying to Mary, making a wish,” Bulent said. After, you drank from the spring, washed your face with it, your hands—up to you. My sternum tugged me toward the wall, whereas typically I’d feel sort of fraudulent doing something like this.
I found a bit of paper from my pocket and knotted it around a twisted tissue, and I said the first thing that popped into my head. It’s as clear to me today as it was a year ago. With a sunny mood and a full heart and a half smile, I whispered:
Please, please, let him find some peace.
Without thinking much about it, I walked away, feeling light and happy.
[Turkish apple tea, a post-prayer treat I almost turned down but am so glad I did not, because it symbolized a lot for me from that day onward.]
[Lunch in Selçuk, one of the best meals of my life.]
[Later, standing on the former Senate floor of Ephesus (separate post to follow) decorated thousands of years ago with a small flower—a Senate that was typically a women-majority governing body, if my memory serves me correctly. Women had a way different place in society for the Ephesians, respected for their brains and level-headed opinions and their nature—another ‘holy shit’ moment of this trip.]
That his peace ended up being truth, and that truth ended us forever (and also set me free)—there was something seriously insane going on in the second I made that wish. I don’t know what I believe generally, but I believe that for that entire day, my brain had plugged in to something bigger than me, and it set something in motion. I was possessed by something that day—a calm and a rapture.
That I’m just now recalling this, a year later, exactly 2 days after the anniversary of the day he dropped that bomb on me—it’s as if it took a year for me to remember the wish, because only a year later would I be able to realize that my wish had come true.
Guys. I prayed to the Virgin Mary for something I didn’t even understand. Something I maybe didn’t even want. There were so many things I could have wished for, selfish things, desperate things. But that’s what popped into my head. I believe my prayer was a surrender—and one of the least selfish things I’d ever done in my life.
I almost—I can’t—I don’t even know what to say.
Except: She listened. And I think—no, I believe—she made it come true for me, not for him.
p.s. Today is the one-year anniversary of the first time Chad invited me to hang out—clearly I wasted no time, and I think Mary might have been behind that one, too. 😉
[Deets for the cheap seats: Joie linen blazer, MinkPink romper, Rag & Bone slides.]