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Showing posts with label Rome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rome. Show all posts

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Graduation, Europe and Loss in 2017

I realize I have not posted anything new here since July of last year.  For me, 2017 was a year of joy, sorrow, adventure and pain.  Last year at this time, all of my focus was on graduating from college with my bachelor's degree.  School literally was my first priority above everything else. I figured if I could successfully graduate from college at my age (51 at the time), I would be ready for anything.  Last May, not only did I graduate from the University of Arkansas, I did so with honors.  It was a very proud moment for me.

Earlier in the year, as a graduation gift to myself, I booked a 3 week fall trip to Europe, specifically, to Germany, France and Italy.  I was thrilled not only to visit my favorite place in the world (Italy), I also planned on visiting the small town in Germany where my family hailed from, along with France for good measure. 

My happiness was short-lived, however.  My youngest brother, Jason, had been experiencing pain in his shoulder, which numerous doctors attributed to a pinched nerve from weightlifting.  He had been having trouble performing basic tasks such as tying his shoelaces, and he had fallen a couple of times.  On July 5th, as he was leaving his most recent doctor appointment about his shoulder pain, Jason was involved in a minor car accident. His left side had gone numb while driving and he ran into the person in front of him.  He was taken to the hospital by ambulance where tests were conducted.  That night, I got the news that he had a brain tumor.  Doctors had to conduct brain surgery to remove the tumor, but also, to see what kind of tumor they were dealing with.  The following week, the doctors gave my family the dreaded diagnosis.  Jason was diagnosed with the deadliest and most aggressive form of brain cancer - grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (the same cancer Senator John McCain has; he was diagnosed one week after my brother received his diagnosis.)  Jason was given 14 months to live.  I was told he cried when he got the news.  After he got over the initial shock, he announced that he was going to fight this beast with everything he had.

Jason Christopher Tillwach
Jason before his cancer diagnosis.
 Jason and I talked on the phone and texted several times shortly after he received his diagnosis.  He lived in the Phoenix area, along with my parents and another brother.  I live in Arkansas.  During one such phone call I received from Jason, I was seated in the lobby of my doctor's office undergoing tests for my own cancer scare, while Jason was preparing to undergo his second brain surgery later that morning.  My parents kept me posted on Jason's progress as he went through chemo, radiation and physical therapy.  The chemo and radiation proved difficult for my brother.  Once a healthy, intelligent and muscular guy who worked out at the gym several days a week, he lost the ability to walk.  The treatments resulted in his heart being damaged, blood clots in his leg and a significant loss of muscle mass.   It seems like the treatment for the disease was just as bad as - if not worse than - the glioblastoma itself.

In September, I departed for my trip to Europe, which shifted from a vacation to more of a pilgrimage on behalf of my brother.  I visited numerous churches and resting areas of incorrupt saints who are known for their powerful intercessions and miraculous healings.  I prayed hard and asked God to heal my brother. I even bargained for him to take me in my brother's place.  I remember sitting in the pew of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Strasbourg, France, tears running down my face, begging for my brother to be saved, asking for a miracle.

It was not meant to be.  While in Rome in early October, I received the dreaded phone call from my mother informing me that Jason's condition had significantly worsened.  I cut my trip short, cancelled my remaining hotel reservations in Italy, and flew to Phoenix to spend time with my brother, who was now staying at a hospice facility.  Although I was fully aware that my brother might be unrecognizable due to his significant weight loss, I was not prepared for the other ravages caused by the cancer.  Jason - who was a radio personality in the Phoenix area for over two decades - could no longer hold a conversation.  Any attempts he made to communicate were limited to just one or two words, and those were spoken in forced whispers.  The cancer had spread to his spine and testicles; he was in immense pain, so he was on morphine.  Also gone was the mischievous light in his eyes.  Ever the jokester, Jason's eyes used to reflect his fun-loving personality.  His eyes were now dull and emotionless and resembled those of a mannequin.   Before flying home to Arkansas, I said my goodbyes to my beloved brother; I had a horrible feeling I would not see him alive again.

Jason - at his son's first birthday party.
Jason - ever the jokester...
 A few days later, my mother called me with the awful news that Jason passed away.  She was crying; I could hear my dad sobbing in the background.  I had just returned home from my daughter's baby shower.   I don't remember a lot about that weekend; I think I was in shock.  I couldn't cry.  I just remember sitting in my dark living room for the rest of the weekend, shades drawn, mourning my loss.  My brother had been given 14 months to live, but we lost him just 3 months and 2 days after his cancer diagnosis.  He never stood a chance against the beast that ravaged his body, mind and personality.

It has been five months now since I lost my baby brother.  I think of him everyday.  They say that time heals all wounds, but I don't necessarily believe that to be true. I have my good days and bad days. Some days, it is all I can do not to slip into a deep depression.   Fortunately, I am cognizant of what happens when I start to feel depressed so I force myself to get up and get moving; it's all I can do some days to physically get up and do something to ward off my melancholy.

I fully intend to start blogging again on a regular basis.  I have so many things I want to share with my readers, including new DIY projects and recipes.  For those of you who continue to follow me - even during my prolonged absence from blog-land - I want to thank you for coming back time and again.  It is most appreciated.  ♥

Friday, April 19, 2013

Visiting the Vatican

As a life long Catholic, one of the places I absolutely had to visit while in Rome was the Vatican.  The Vatican itself is gorgeous.  It's huge, it's overwhelming, it's a "must see" kind of place.  My only regret during this portion of the trip is that I wore fashionable sandals instead of comfortable walking shoes at this time.  Never again.  The next time I go to Italy, tennis shoes will be the only shoes I take with me.
Not to worry - I ended up buying some New Balance tennis shoes while shopping in Naples.  What a relief to my poor aching feet!

Anyway, while at the Vatican, one of the highlights of this tour was being able to visit the tomb of Pope John Paul II.  I've adored this man for a long time and was very sad when he passed away.  This is an image of the area where his tomb lies at the Vatican.  A very large picture of St. Sebastian is displayed over the grave.

Other things I found interesting on display at the Vatican was the display of rings from past Popes and the sarcophagus' of Popes from days long past (located in the Vatican Grottoes).

And, of course, there is so much beautiful artwork and statuary to be seen everywhere in the Vatican.  Here are some of the statues that stood out to me:

And let's not forget the winding stairs:
When exiting the Vatican tours, we passed a wonderful little gift shop run by a group of nuns.  They sell all sorts of unique jewelry, tapestries, statues and other collectible and souvenir items.  We purchased several items during our visit.
Outside of the Vatican, there are tons (and I mean tons) of vendors hawking their goods and touristy-style items.  Many of the items are cheap, made-in-Asia items that you can find anywhere in most souvenir shops in Rome.  However, there was a nifty little magnet of David I just couldn't resist; it is now hanging proudly on my refrigerator door:
 Next up:  Our visit to the little town of Mugnano de Cardinale where we visited the Shrine of St. Philomena, and Naples.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life Got in the Way - But I'm Back!

It's hard to believe that my last blog post was in September at the time I departed for my long-awaited trip to Italy.  I apologize for my absence in blogger-land.  I have absolutely no excuse for this except for the fact that life got in the way.
That's not necessarily a bad thing.  I came home from Italy to find my sweet husband had surprised me by giving our home a much-needed update.  With the help of my son, Joey and daughter-in-law, Hailey, he repainted our bedroom, replaced all of the carpeting in the house with new carpeting in the bedrooms and wood flooring in the hallway and living room areas.  I'd been wanting wood floors in our home for a long time, and I was thrilled to come home to find all of the beautiful changes.  In addition, I was swamped with jewelry orders for November Confirmations and the Christmas holiday.  (Not that I mind - I love making jewelry, as you know! ;) )  Last, but certainly not least, for the first time in over 30 years, I stopped working full time.  I am working a part-time job now, and I began going to college as a full-time student.  I graduated from high school 30 years ago, so this is a huge adjustment for me.  My latest endeavor has me determined to earn my four year degree in three years, so I will be attending college full-time and during the summer to achieve this goal.  Wish me luck!

Anyway - to get back on track - we had a wonderful vacation.  I learned a lot during our trip, and I'm longing to go again in the near future.  I absolutely fell in love with Italy and her wonderful people.  It truly was the trip of my dreams and I cannot wait to do it all again.

I'm planning to share my experiences and photos from beautiful Italy with you here on my blog.  There's a lot to cover, so I will do it in increments.  In addition, I want to share other information here with you.  I have a lot of catching up to do, so let's get started.

Our trip began in Rome.  We stayed at a hotel called "Hotel de Monti".  It is in a convenient location - right down the street from the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica and walking distance from the Termini train station.  The hotel has a wonderful continental breakfast which is included in the room rate.  Each morning, we dined on our choice of various meats, cheeses, fruit, juices and beverages.  There is nothing quite as delicious as fresh squeezed blood-orange juice, homemade Formaggio cheese, prosciutto, croissants, biscotti and cappuccino for breakfast (among other things).

Here is a view of the street where our hotel was located.  In the center of the picture, you can see Santa Maria Maggiore.  It's not the best picture, but it was quite rainy in Rome that day.  And by quite rainy, I mean we ended up getting soaked.  But it was well worth it.  You don't get to see Italy every day, you know.

After we checked into our hotel, we wandered around our neighborhood and enjoyed all that Rome had to offer.  We stopped for lunch at a cool little restaurant called "La Carbonara."  The food was delicious and lots of locals eat there, which is a good sign.  Plus, they have a great sense of humor.  Check out this little card which was on our table:

After lunch, we walked over to Santa Maria Maggiore.  It is such a beautiful church - quite ornate, as they all appear to be in Italy.

 We shopped at this fantastic little gift shop called "Rosario" located near the Basilica.   You name it, they have it...everything from handmade rosaries, to statues of saints, medals galore.  There was a lot to see, and a lot to buy.  If you are ever in the area, be sure to stop there.  The prices are pretty reasonable and most everything there is really made in Italy, as opposed to China (like many of the gift stores in Rome.)

 One thing that I found quite interesting is that there appear to be no rules when it comes to parking and driving in Italy.  Now, I've heard those stories about speedy Italian drivers and the like, but I had no idea that in Rome, if you can't find a parking space, you can just leave your car in the middle of a street, and go about your business.  That's what happened here:

And don't even get me started on the parking:

Honestly, I don't know how people can get out of such a tight spot.  It's amazing to me...
I'd like to live in Italy one day, even if it's just to have a vacation home there.  It looks like I am going to have to learn how to drive and park like an Italian.  :)

I think that covers everything for this installment.  Be sure to check back for future chapters about our trip to Italy - including, but not limited to: the Vatican, Cascia, Naples, Pompeii, Venice and other fascinating cities in this beautiful land.

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