It is here I met my lovely Contessa for the first time. But, it was not that simple. We were but two of a group of six friends both in love with someone else. Fate has a way of changing what is to what should have been. Even the greatest doubter has to believe that somewhere there is a power which controls our lives and events are not really random. There is an order to all things that will eventually come to pass and those of us who are lucky will, in time, see our luck win out. Birgitta and I were two fabulously lucky individuals who found each other pushing aside all obstacles to lead what I often call a charmed life. We each contributed two children to this family and, like she and I, they have grown to love each other and unless you are told or have a long time to observe them you would have a tough time discerning the parent of the child.
I have had the great fortune to be loved by two fabulous women. The beauty of it is that they also loved each other. They were different each with a unique set of strengths one complimenting the other which they recognized and used to forge a very special friendship. The sad part of the story is that they were both taken by an illness that could not be predicted, at a time of their lives when they still had years where they could have contributed to the life and love of others. One very early which provided the opportunity for me to find and learn to love the other. A perverse gift from the gods. Gun, was laid to rest in her small village of Kvarsebo in Sweden next to the church built in 1268 were we were married. Today we are here to place Birgitta in the place of her choosing. Actually there are two. Both had a special meaning to her and in our relationship. Fontainebleau, The Palace of Peace we had occasionally gone to visit its beautiful gardens and there is a small lake bordering the grounds we had visited she remembered and wanted to be placed. The second is in the Seine River which runs through the center of Paris where we often met. One the opportunity to be there perpetually. The other the chance to continue her travels in the waters of the world.
Chateau de Fontainebleau with over 1500 rooms at the heart of 130 acres of parkland and gardens, Fontainebleau is the only royal and imperial chateau to have been continuously inhabited it for seven centuries. A visit to Fontainebleau opens up an unparalleled view of French history, art history and architecture.
It is here in times past we visited and from a distance watched the crowds fight their way into the chateau. There was a small lake on the border of the grounds where the crowds seldom came. A large area of green grass and a lake with a low wall retaining the water. You could sit and soak you feet if you desired. Birgitta did, I remember. It was here in this tranquil place , watched only by a few ducks, I placed a small beautiful thimble full with her ashes. One of her mothers collection I had chosen just for this place. The beauty of this small object so matched the majesty of the lake. In the distance there were several couples sitting together holding hands or talking. It was the first time on this trip where I felt envy. How very lucky they were to share this beautiful sun filled day with someone. It was the first time I felt truly alone. The loneliness tempered by the tranquility and the sheer beauty surrounding me. Even in this sad minute I know how blessed I have been to be allowed to even to have known this wonderful woman.
PARIS — Point Neuf
The Pont Neuf is the oldest standing bridge across the River Seine in Paris, France. Its name, which was given to distinguish it from older bridges that were lined on both sides with houses which have long disappeared, has remained. It stands by the western point of the Île de La Cité, the island in the middle of the river that was the heart of medieval Paris. The bridge is composed of two separate spans, one of five arches joining the left bank to the Île de La Cité, another of seven joining the island to the right bank. Old engraved maps of Paris show how, when the bridge was built, it just grazed the downstream tip of the Île de La Cité; since then, the natural sandbar building of a mid-river island, aided by stone-faced embankments called quais, has extended the island.
It is here Birgitta and I had met for the first time I can remember. In the Cafe de l’Etoile there on what was truly the left bank. I remember thinking “What a beauty”. She was with Gun and they were discussing a trip they were planing to Spain. (They later made the trip) I was impressed with amount of research they had done in planning the trip. I was also intrigued by the way they seemed to finish each others sentences. They were really on the same wavelength. I was just getting to know one and for the first time met the other. Little did I know what fate held in store for me on what may have been the luckiest day of my life. So sitting there in oblivion I was counting my blessings at having met two beautiful Swedes. There was a group of Swedish girls who met together and had one thing in common “La Boheme”, a bar they all knew that I was just learning about. Now there was a Bar! Filled from early evening to early morning with revelers, all foreign, few French. The language of the night, English, loud music, loud crowds. What I thought then was great music. I still to this day remember some of it. Whenever you hear it it brings back memories. Often over the years when we heard a familiar song we would turn, look at each other and together mouth “La Boheme” with a big smile. A bevy of beautiful foreign girls, a group of American military from all services all over the Paris area. A formula for great times had by all. Every Friday two or three cars came from Loan where I was stationed, 85 miles North. We raced to Paris, last car to the Cafe de l’Etoile bought the drinks. That set the stage for the night. Next get a hotel room before they all filled up, a place to crash, hoping you could find a better use for it later that night.
It was there just in front of the Cafe de l’Etoile from this historic bridge, that I put another thimble of ashes into the Seine. The thimble, another small treasure from Mor’s collection. Surrounded by tourists on a river filled with tour boat traffic she would have loved the hustle and bustle, the noise, the myriad of people. Wait until the right moment, say a small prayer, and drop quietly into the fast moving stream. She begins another journey surrounded by activity. She would cheer if she could.
(I want to add a historic note and pay tribute to a great man. A German General in 1944 refused Hitler’s order to destroy this bridge and all the other French historic treasures. His response “I will not do it they are just too beautiful”. Without his courage there would have been no bridge for us to share today).
I lit candles for Birgitta in the two greatest cathedrals in Paris. After placing ashes in the Seine I went to nearby Notre Dame Cathedral. There amongst the many tourists I knelt in Prayer and lit a candle to my beloved. The place was crowded. I filmed a small portion of a mass to share with my brother Jack and his wife Maria. They both are very much part of the church at home. Later I climbed the hills to Scare Coeur Basilica, another very sacred church in Paris. Again the crowd milled around outside enjoying the view over Paris from the heights of Montmartre. Maybe the best show in town.
I rode the funicular railroad the last 100 meters and noticed an Irish Pub right their at the top of the lift. Just 50 meters from the church. Strange place, I thought, but it was gigantic two full floors. I had a Guinness and talked to the waitress she said the place is full on weekends. People do not just come here for the church. The area around the church, Montmartre, is noted for its nightlife and was the stomping grounds of many famous artist’s, Degas, Matisse, Toulouse-Latrec, Renoir, in the 1800s and retains its character today and is very popular but no struggling artist could afford to live their today. But they still come with their paints and canvas and you can see them on the square. They will do your portrait for a price.
I entered the church. Found the location where I could light a candle and did so. In spite of the crowds I only heard silence. We were alone at the top of the City of Light. The nearest place to heaven in town, just she and I.