It would have been impossible to leave Milano without saying “goodbye” to Mary.
Our first meeting is a story in itself, finally happening last March after much anticipation. We’ve seen each other a few times since then, meeting in the little office behind the cemetery chapel.
Today I showed up in the afternoon, after the typical Italian lunch break, with red lilies in-hand for Mary. I found her at the altar, preparing everything for the next Mass. She lit up in surprise, and immediately went into the back room to split the lilies into 3 vases: 1 for either side of the altar, 1 for the Madonna.
She’s the sweetest, and implored that I NOT move away from Milano. But as I’ve told her before, I have family, friends and work back in Seattle that pull me there, so I must go. Don’t think she didn’t try to convince me to stay though!
We sat at her desk and talked for a long time. We exchanged mailing addresses and I told her that, with the computer, I can call her for free. She was thrilled.
She rummaged through the cupboards, wanting to send me home with gifts. She found a bottle of Muscat sparkling wine produced by the friars, a bracelet with pictures of 12 saints, a rose-scented rosary, a little bottle of holy water and half a dozen copies of the photo of Don Giuseppe Gervasini, Milano’s very own protector. If I carry his image with me, he will protect me from all harms, she explained.
Mary also gave me a couple dozen pages on which she has written, in her “rotondo penmanship”, the names of the dead being honored at the chapel masses.
Father Francesco came into the office a few times. I had met him in my previous visits; during the last, Mary asked him to bless me for the answer to my prayers.
When we finally said our goodbye, I said “first, an Italian kiss, then an American hug”. We kissed on both cheeks, actually several times, then I gave her a big hug goodbye.
What a dear, dear lady. Meeting her has been one of the great treasures of my time here.