But then, the week before we boarded our flight to Paris, the unexpected occurred. I had a severe allergic reaction to a chemical in hair dye. We debated about canceling our trip and would have done so, except for the fact that we were traveling with relatives.
The discomfort from this reaction was notable, but after a steroid injection and additional prescription medications, I decided I could manage the pain and constant itch. Unfortunately, my optimism was misguided.
After three days in Paris, where I had barely slept, we flew to Ireland. Another doctor treated me, placing me on even more medications. Within a few days, my burning scalp calmed a bit and the swelling receded. It was then that I realized that I didn’t know what day it was, or what was next on our carefully planned itinerary. My focus had shifted through the ordeal to the present. And, I saw an Ireland I did not expect.
The green fields dotted with sheep and the mountains stretching high were the backdrop to my discovery. I had planned on attending a performance of Irish Step Dance and Irish bagpipes, but such would not be the case. I found a different beauty—in the people we met. They understood, they cared, and they opened my busy heart to their reality.
One day while walking silently among the ruins of Glendalough, an elderly man surprised me. I had left the tour group which was meandering between one structure and another, to walk among the ancient graves alone. I simply wanted to be with those who had passed before me. I wanted to pray. My intention inadvertently brought me to this gentleman, who stirred me from my reverie.
“I’ve been watching you,” he said kindly. “Where are you from?”
“The United States,” I responded, wiping tears from my eyes.
“I thought so,” he said, gazing across the ruins. “It’s beautiful isn’t it…the stones centuries old. I live just down the road and come here every day.”
As he spoke I saw him…saw his heart, softened by years, by struggles, by love. And I became still--just him and me, standing in a graveyard.
The stones worn by time guided my feet through the centuries. But, this gentleman saw me, because I saw him through the history that he loved.
When I think of Ireland, I think of this proud man...and the kind doctor who treated me, the young mother on the bus who helped us find our way, the proprietor at the B&B…and so many others. Strange as it might seem, my discomfort led me to the Ireland of my deepest dreams.
Have you had a similar experience?