Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Beyond the Sunset - In Memory of Gemma Paybara

For My Friend Gemma

Woman and man standing at a restaurant specials board sign on sidewalk near city street
I don't travel with many people. Or should I say not many people travel with me? In either case, I have been lucky to encounter so many people along the way. Everyone has their own journey to take, and fortune allows our paths to cross sometimes. If we pay attention, we see we are blessed with some very good people to either join us or at least stop and see along the way.

My friend Gemma came to me and offered that we should both visit New York City for the first time together back in August of 1998. We drove in her car from Washington, DC, and just before we entered the city, she asked me if I would switch seats and take the wheel going through the Holland Tunnel and into the bustling metropolis that was still foreign to us. I obliged, even if a bit nervous myself imagining what madness and dangers we might encounter. That was the only time I remember her nervous or not smiling. Two curious souls spent about a day and a half from Central Park to the Statue of Liberty to the tops of the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center. Her smile was not gone for long.

Years would pass, and we would go our separate ways finding new adventures and international discoveries. She and her sister even showed up in Florence, Italy when I was studying there for a time. I had to reprimand her for bringing instant cappuccino mix into my apartment that was situated just two floors above a real Italian cafe where you could get the real thing for just a couple Euro. Later I would visit her and husband Joe in San Francisco, and I remember seeing her beautiful photographs from their honeymoon in Asia. We truly shared a curiosity for the world.

For some reason, I don't spend much time wondering why a woman in her forties, mother to two young children, friend to many, loving wife, and explorer of the world should be taken from us too soon. Perhaps because the life in her years was abundant. Perhaps it is to make the rest of us stop and appreciate the people around us and the world in which we walk. But my friend has moved on, and now a lifetime of warm smiles only exist in our minds and in the photos we keep.

Travelers are often privy to the opportunity of time and place to appreciate the extraordinary, such as the colors of the sky as the sun sets at the end of the day. Gemma would have known and appreciated this. I'd like to think she has now gone beyond the sunset and is on an exquisite new journey the likes of which we couldn't possibly fathom. The space between is only what we can see in the beauty of this Earth - which itself is vast. So for now she can travel with us in our hearts, or at least her smile can, because I'm not sure I can shake it. Nor do I wish to.

Rest in peace, my friend.

man and two women seated at a table outdoors with plastic cups of white wine
Orvieto, Italy

Woman sitting on a boulder with trees and skyscrapers in city background
Central Park, New York City

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