Sue and her daughter Lucy were on their way out, back to England after four days under the Tuscan sun. As we stood together having a last minute chat, I was gifted a magical story - and with their permission, I have the privilege of sharing it with you.
Sue was telling me about the one time she and her husband “who is not the adventurous type” had spent some time in the United States, in the 1970s.
It had started a year before, as they were hiking the windy cliffs near their hometown in Portland, England. On the trail somewhere, they had struck a conversation with a much older American couple, and had invited them over to their home. After some time together, a friendship developped and their new friends made them promise to visit them in Philadelphia, sooner than later.
Which, Sue tells me, they did. At this point, she turns to Lucy and asks: “didn’t we?” Lucy nods and answers: “yes, you did.” For some reason, I loved that.
The two couples had a beautiful time together. Sue and her husband got to visit New York, they met their American friends’ son - who was also older than them - and went home grateful for the continuing magic of the friendship. Over the years, they kept in touch with them and with their son Tom, and when the American couple died several years ago, they stayed in even closer contact with Tom.
Two weeks ago, Tom had called while on a trip to England with his partner. He wanted to spend time with Sue and her husband. Would they please meet them?
This story of ongoing friendship, over time, space and generations was filling my heart.
The way people meet, seemingly randomly (as if there was such a thing), and then carve a special place into each other’s lives, making them richer, sweeter, bigger. The seeds of gifts that hospitality plants, and the way these seeds bloom. The way all of us had met, too, under Marta’s roof.
And that’s when Sue turned once more to Lucy and asked: “do you fancy I can tell Laura why the two of them were in England?” Lucy smiled and nodded, and Sue, with a huge smile on her face, began telling me the following story:
Many, many years ago, Tom had met a well known American actress, and they had struck a deep friendship. My understanding is that even though they did not get to spend much time together after that initial meeting, the woman did meet Tom’s partner at some point and had grown a friendship with him as well. For decades, letters were exchanged across the Atlantic between them as the friendship grew. Having seen the play “Love always, Patsy,” my mind was soaked with the flavor of such a relationship, and with the awe of people who make time for something so wonderful, in a world of rapid firing texts and WhatsApp.
Last year, when the actress had died, she had left the two men “a Hollywood will,” and every three months since then, Tom and his partner had continued to receive a letter from their friend. A very special letter.
Each letter was written by her, and each one notified them of a special gift they were to receive. Once, they were given two seats at the ballet anywhere in the world, all expenses paid. Both men being artists, and now in their 80s, this had been a huge delight. Then, there was the cruise aboard the Queen Mary 2, with one of the best suites on board. There had also been the invitation to go to a Lexus car dealership “and pick their favorite one.”
This month, they had been told to pack for a one week trip to London, as they were to get picked up at the airport and driven to the Savoy Hotel, where a butler was waiting for them. Which brings us back to why and how they were hoping to spend time with Sue and her husband. From what I was told, the two men weren’t quite sure what to ask of the butler.
I was floored. The friendship, and how it had kept on living, over decades. The thoughtfulness and delightfulness of this woman, and the way she had prepared to continue to enchant and wow her friends, after she was gone. The humor, the generosity. Sure she could have left them a chunk of cash - but where would be the whimsy in that?
And sure, we can have all kinds of opinions about the expense and what-else-could-she-have-done-with-it-to-better-the-world? Which, really is none of our business.
So here you go. Life. Relationships. Surprises. And taking the time to share stories with each other.
I love it all so much.
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