A Thousand Deaths

To say goodbye to you is to die slightly, a part of me that aches, then withers, and wishes that I could be in your presence for one last moment. And, in my final days of Nantes, I am saying goodbye to many people and places. I am to die a thousand deaths so that I may appreciate the value of life. It is when you say goodbye, that final parting, that you become so utterly aware of what that relationship meant to you. You better understand its value at its absence. And you realize that it may never be the same again.

When I leave a friend in Maine or in West Virginia, my worries don’t last long. I know I will see them again soon. I know that only a few states stand between me and them. But after spending a mere five months in France, a blink in the eye of a lifetime? I am not so sure that I will see these people again. There’s an ocean between us, and many rivers, lakes, and mountains. The other international students, when they return to their homes, may be even further than before. We’ll be scattered across the world and perhaps, I hope, our paths will cross again, if only I should be so lucky. But chance is not in my favor and so I begin to say my final goodbyes.

This I know to be true because I can see it in their eyes. When I say goodbye to someone here, we mutter something about Facebook and staying in touch, but we know. We know that there might not be a chance of reconnecting. We know that this goodbye might really be the last time we ever see each other…and what do you say to someone then? It was great knowing you this semester Sally and we’ll never see each other again but, uh…have a great life!

It is sad, but everything that begins must end. I was always aware that the end would come, but I just had no idea it would come so soon. Since I came to Nantes, I’ve kept a list of things that I’ve wanted to do. I’ve done most of them, but I still have a few things left on my list, which is like a bucket list of things to do before I go from Nantes. Now, I just have a few days to do them.

As you may remember from a previous blog post, I went to see the rings at night with Kacy. We ate chocolate on a hill and saw them from afar. I wanted to see them up close too. So, last night, I ventured out into the cold. Kacy has already returned to the United States so this was an adventure by myself.

I went at ten o’clock, but it was still light out. By the time I got downtown, it had darkened and by the time I reached the rings, it was night. The rings were larger than I thought they were and they went on for a good distance on the piers. Nantes has a huge history as a port town so it was interesting to walk near the old hangers, turned into nightclubs, and to actually walk on the Loire River (there were grates right over the river along the riverside). I don’t often go for walks alone. I’m usually accompanied by friends, which I appreciate. Yet, there is something about taking a walk by a river late at night by yourself. It was refreshing and the air felt quite pleasant.

After my midnight stroll along the river, I was walking back home across the pedestrian bridge. I looked down at the dark and swirling Loire River. At the peak of bridge, I paused and looked out at the lights of Nantes and then back at the cold river. I had one of those weird realization moments, one of those moments where you say to yourself…I’m here. In France. In Nantes. This is a foreign country. This is real. This really happened. I spent five months in France. And now I’m leaving.

I remember the first moment I had like this in France. It was on my way to school, as I walked past the university theatre. I remember thinking… I’m in France. This isn’t just a university. This is my university. I go to university in France.

I stayed on the bridge for a few minutes, just existing in sudden and overwhelming awareness. It was quiet, dark, away from all of the nightclubs and excitement on the pier. In this moment, I had a chance to say goodbye to the Loire River and to realize that just five months ago I was reading about the Loire River in the textbook and now I was above it.

Today, I went for a walk along the Erdre River with Kerry. I’d been meaning to take more walks along the Erdre, but the weather has been horrible in Nantes. Today, the sun was out and it was quite warm. There’s something about walking along a river with a friend that makes life make sense. The river brings out our dreams, our hopes, our fears…our pasts, our futures and our presents. The Erdre is beautiful. I will miss it.

This evening, I went to a get together with everyone who participated in the cooking project for Autour du Monde (the international student organization). Unfortunately, the other cooking teams weren’t as successful as my cooking team with Valentina, Etienne and Beatrice. I must say, I got quite lucky the day I met them. We didn’t just cook. We created memories and bridges carrying us across cultures and languages. I’ve learned so much about the French culture and language through my many meetings with them. And today was the last time we would meet. I don’t know if I will ever see them again, but I’m so grateful that I met them. I don’t have enough words in English or in French to thank Etienne and Beatrice for their time and complete compassion. This was an experience that I won’t ever forget and I can never repay them for the kindness they have shown me.

It’s Sunday night. I leave on Friday morning. There’s not much time left at all…and there are many more goodbyes to be said. It is sad, of course, but there is also a sense of naturalness to it. I often feel this way at the end of a semester. I feel a sense of fulfillment, that I came, that I tried my best, that I had fun, but now it’s time to move on to the next chapter. I’ve got to keep writing my adventures. I can’t rewrite previous chapters, but I can always reread them if I want to. The best books are always worth rereading. Trust me. I’ve read Harry Potter a million times.