One Last Love Letter

Dearest Uzès,

It’s so hard to say this, but although I’ve loved you well and truly for several years now, the time has come to leave you.  A bitter time.

It’s especially hard to leave in winter, when you’re chilly, deserted.  It seems that you might need me more, when your streets are empty. When the summer people are gone, the rest of us huddle together a bit more, breathe more freely, take a little more time to talk.  It’s too hard to go today, but it won’t be any easier tomorrow.

Your casual summertime friends, on their way to the Office of Tourism, know you so differently than I do.  They see your classic beauty

and not so much your quirky asymmetries.

They might wander the Rue Sigalon, but would they ever imagine that within the tiny cinema one can see a live Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Carmen, or a live performance of the Vagina Monologues?

They might stop for a glass of wine at a sidewalk café

but would they ever find their way into our favorite spot, where Odette knows our order before we ask?

They might stop into Hervé’s shop, but will he cut their hair as tenderly as he does mine?

Walking and weeping my way around town, bidding my au revoirs, I almost couldn’t bear to say nous partons.  We’re leaving.

How to say goodbye to Christi and her adorable husband, who sell Shel’s favorite roast chickens, who will be having a baby soon, a baby that we won’t be here to see?

How to leave André

and Christian, who have sold me fruits and vegetables hundreds and hundreds of times, Christian who calls me “charmante dame?”  No one’s ever called me that before.

How is it possible to move away from a house that has a bakery right next door, where every morning Shel goes, barely dressed and combed, to get something freshly baked by Monsieur Quanté?

But harder than that, oh, much harder, for me at least, is leaving my dear Nadine and Marie, keepers of the butcher shop of my dreams, where they’ve given me the very best of everything, including cooking instructions, recipes and little French language lessons, always with the brightest of smiles, and who sent us off to America with a gift of soft warm scarves to protect us against cruel fate.

And oh dear heaven, Dorindo and Thierry, who have brought so much beauty into our home, always knowing what was needed to fill our lives, and the lives of our guests, with the sweetest of the flower world, and who sent us back to America with dozens of kisses and some lovely embroidered covers for pots of homemade jam, jams that I used to share with them, but now, won’t.

And then, Marie.  Marie who has kept our house and our lives in order from the beginning, teaching us how a French household should be kept, tending Beppo and Zazou when we were away, doing everything possible to make our lives easier and tidier than we’d ever imagined.  If only I could put her in my pocket and bring her with me.

So many faces I’ll be longing to see as soon as we’re away from here.  And that’s not even mentioning our friends, the people you’ve read about here over the years, the people that have made our lives rich beyond imagining.

But our bags are packed, and boy are there a lot of them – 21 to be exact, a whole life reduced to 21 containers taped and bubble-wrapped to a faretheewell.

A truck on its way from Spain to London pulled up at our door, only 5 minutes after the last box was taped shut, and now our whole life is on the road, out there somewhere.

Beppo and Zazou have their French kitty passports and they too are out there, somewhere.  Actually, they’re in the kitty hotel, waiting to be sent speeding across the sky, in a way quite unnatural for cats, to join us in another 10 days.

We’re all going now, every one of us, every last scrap of stuff, leaving behind these beloved faces and places, a trail of tears and sniffle-filled Kleenex littering our wake.

Because as much as I love you, Uzès, I love Shel more.  Yes, even more than I love our French life.  And we have to go where he has a chance to get well, so we can come back here and kiss those dear faces once again.  And if we can’t come back, well, we’ve had all that we’d dreamed of here, and more. We’ve spent the happiest part of our married life right here, in your arms.

Yours forever, gros bisous,


Explore posts in the same categories: At Home In France

28 Comments on “One Last Love Letter”

  1. Ujwala Samant Says:

    Dear, dear Abra,
    Your post brought tears to my eyes. I can imagine l’angoisse for you, for Shel. I sincerely hope you return to Uzes, to your little corner of heaven after his treatment. I am sure Uzes must be sad to see you leave and as they say in India, “Kabhi alvida na kehna…” “Never say good bye….”

  2. Hansje Says:

    What a heartbreakingly moving French Letter. Be safe my friend, you and Shel both.

  3. Mikki Says:

    This one made me cry because I know how sad you are to be leaving. Your friends in Seattle welcome you and Shel back with open arms. France will be there in your hearts and waiting your return.

  4. Kathi Says:

    What a beautiful, yet heart-wrenching tribute! You are loved by so many people and have had the chance to love in return. I wish for you and Shel the very best beauty the future has to offer.

  5. Eden Says:

    Adieu for now Uzes. Thank you so much Abra for not only sharing the beauty of your little town with everyone through your blog, but for your amazing generosity in inviting Bill & myself to actually come & stay with you there and sharing Uzes with us personally for a magical week. We’ll never forget it!

    My best wishes for Shel’s recovery so you can be back in france together soon!

  6. Cindy Says:

    I can’t see as I write this, too many tears.
    Life is strange, lovely, exciting, scary, and very sad. Why does it have to be so hard?
    We all love you here where you’re coming home to and we will all take good care of you when you return.
    Whether it’s French arms around you or US arms around you, you will be hugged.

  7. islandlass Says:

    Oh Abra, that was beautiful! I can see and feel the pain in your heart on leaving, but as others have written above, you are both coming back to a very welcoming place. Bon voyage.


  8. Jeanne Says:

    I am crying too. Thank you for sharing your goodbyes and for the pictures of your many friends and fellow villagers. I hope the next time we see their faces, they will be smiling a welcome back to you.

    Safe travels on your way back to the US; our thoughts and prayers travel with you.

  9. Sharon Says:

    Godspeed my friends.

  10. Margaret Pilgrim Says:

    Nodding and weeping with every previous comment, I’ll just repeat Ujwala Samant’s words, “Never say good-bye…”

  11. John DePaula Says:

    Seeing all those packed bags is just heartbreaking. But, you and Shel continue to be an inspiration to me about how one should live life: embracing new opportunities, sharing your talents, and making new friends. Bravo!

  12. Jeanne Says:

    Oh, such a lovely and bittersweet letter. I just discovered your site. I wish all the best for you and Shel. And home is where the heart is, clearly. And your heart is with Shel.

  13. Phyllis Taylor Says:

    Bon voyage, Abra. You have touched more lives than you’ll ever know, like the ripples caused by a pebble dropped into a pond. When the time comes for you to have a happy distraction, please think of the pleasure you have given to so many with your writing and photos. You and Shel are treasured on both sides of the ocean.

  14. Barry and the Bands Says:

    Safe trip you two , keep in touch and return safely one fine day . M.B.D. will rise again !

  15. silvia carry Says:

    This is entirely heartbreaking. Praying for Shel’s recovery and your return to this magic place you love. God Bless you both.

  16. MJ Says:

    Hi, I’m a new reader here. I’m sorry to hear about you leaving Uzes under the circumstances. I’ve dropped by a few times after a bit of bouldering in nearby La Capelle, and it *is* beautiful there. I’ll be leaving my little corner of France (Vaison-la-Romaine) soon and I’ll be sniffling in my Kleenex as well!

    Wishing you and your husband the very best!

  17. Jennifer Southcott Says:

    Looking forward to hearing about the journey “home”.

  18. Linda R. Says:

    Thank you for introducing us to so many of your wonderful French friends -it is always the people whom we will miss the most.

  19. Fabre Says:

    Abra & Shel, may your journey back to the United States bring you much love and healing, and thank you for sharing so much of your hearts with us.

  20. chefjess Says:

    Abra, your goodbye letter to Uzes is so lovingly beautiful. It is clear how much the town and the people mean to you and Shel. I hope that the cancer treatment is kind to Shel and that you both are able to return quickly to France. In the meantime, welcome back to the States and I know that your friends in Washington will be there to help you. Safe journeys.

  21. Lori Says:

    Thank you Abra and Shel for so often brightening our days by allowing us to peek into your adventures and every day life. You’ve allowed me to dream of one day being able to explore somewhere for more than one to two weeks. You’ve shown us how to make our lives more joyous and see beauty all around us.

    Your “letters” brightened many of the days when I was ill several years ago. I am hoping that we can help make your days a little easier in some way during this time. My sincerest hopes and prayers go out to you and Shel during this time.

  22. Lucy Says:

    Gros Bisous.

  23. zuleme Says:

    What a lovely letter. sigh. I will be hoping for your return. And mine. And I hope you will keep writing about whatever you want. It is wonderful to see and hear about French people. I hope I will see Uzes someday.

  24. Debra Lane Says:

    Safe travels and although it is bittersweet, there is promise of a brighter day and when you return, you’ll be happy to see the trees and bulbs in bloom awaiting your return.

  25. Karen K. Says:

    A sad farewell to a loved home. I hope you and Shel will find what you need on the West Coast for your hearts and your health. Sending you so many warm thoughts, and I’m looking forward to hearing about your travels and your safe arrival.

  26. geri Says:

    Seek And You Will Find The Cure For Cancer

    From: Marjoa-Leena Hirvonen

    Life is a journey and now I’m going to tell about my own journey and why it led me to the pH Miracle

    I was raised in the countryside where I learned to know what is right and wrong by experiencing and evaluating. I became an indivual with a common sense.

    I was interested in nature and it gave me everything I needed (and still does). That’s why I studied biology and chamisty at the University. By coincidence I hung into pharmaceutical industry without any earlier experience/understanding about it. I have now been working there for 25 years with 23 years in oncology (cancer care) therapy area. The latest years with opinion leaders mainly.

    During these years I learned a lot about cancer and met both patients (patient organizations) and doctors. In the congresses I was wondering why numbers and statistics pay such a big role. Etiology of cancer was described in a way I couldn’t accept. When I discussed this with doctors they told me that it doesn’t indicate an individual patient but is true on a population level. However many patients felt quilty and claimed themselves. Connection between body-mind-spirit was not presented because in medicine (and all natural sciences) everything has to be measured before you can believe on it.

    In clinical trials, treatment quidelines and even in golden stantards there is a hypothesis (set years ago) where diagnosis, prognosis and treatments accordly are based on and nobody ever critizises it. The hypothesis gets variations according to the treatment/drug which is in case.

    Big Pharma is finanzing most of the clinical trials and cancer care is the fastest growing business segment of all therapy areas. Signal transduction, viral vaccinations in cancer etc., new molecules are worth tens of thousands per month. Imaging technique finds the smallest lesions and the cure is more aggressive and lasts longer. Both older and newer treatment protocols have side-effects and a variation of medication is needed to avoid those.

    The following is how I got personally involved into cancer and had to re-evaluate my values.

    My own experience about the cancer is strong – I was devastated as I thought that I’ll never get cancer because I’m so healthy.. However I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 and had surgery (local resection; lumpectomy) and radiotherapy. Within the first year there wasn’t a day when I didn’t think about my cancer.

    A couple of years later I lost my voice. Diagnosis was Dysphonia Spasmoides (SD), the most severe voice disorder.. I was offered Botox to my vocal cords, I didn’t accept it after having red Cochrane Library -results about Botox and it’s efficacy in treating SD. This was the first time my eyes were clearly opened. Why were doctors are offering Botox in the whole world without being able to show clear evidence.

    I analyzed my way of living and came to the conclusion that breathing is my problem and it causes my SD plus emotional stress, inbalance in general.

    I travelled to Tampa to a voice rehabilitation course and learned that breathing is very sensitive when a person is facing a crisis. Keeping breath to stop more worries to come. And like Pavlov’s dog you learn in which situations this is needed and soon it becomes a habit.

    Body-mind-spirit arouse as a key to my life in theory but not in practise. That’s why…

    After being disease-free for six years from breast cancer an inner voice (unconsciusness) said: go to MRI. And so the recurrence of my breast cancer was found as two metastases in the same breast area. I understood that now it is not curable any more. I was offered chemotherapy and endocrine therapy for the rest of my life after that. I started chemo as I had learned that it is necessary in these advanced cases.

    This period of time was a real chaos. I was reading scientific articles about my prognosis and this knowledge nearly killed me. I told my family members and friends that I wont’ live so long.

    At the same time I got some strange strength to change my attitude. I was reading a lot and found out that the biggest wisdom is lying just in the crisis. I learned that the universe leads us and we have to follow whatsoever happens.

    My affirmation at that time (and still is) was:

    In each moment and everywhere I have everything I need. I’m in the right place of my life doing the work, which I like most. I can use all my talents and use them right. On everything I do God is guiding me and giving inspiration. I think, speak and act as is right. I enjoy my life and make other people enjoy their lives. I am creative and active, looking for the data and seeking the truth.

    I used chemo for one cycle and was gathering information on other options. Found out that chemo in itself causes asidosis and oxidative stress, which according to my understanding is the cause of my cancer. So I wanted to stop it. I got hormone therapy instead as I’d learned that oestrogen is the bad thing and should be eliminated. I used hormones for two months and stopped using them as well because strange things started to happen.

    I had found something interesting from the Internet and met a person who I knew is doing microscopic blood analysis. This is what I’ve been looking for and didn’t hesitate. I contacted Dr. Young and we agreed that I would travel immediately to his ranch and can have nutrition plus microscopic analysis training at the same time.

    I met this person, Dr Young, who belongs to the 0.1% of persons who can fly as a wild bird, free, but knowing where he is going to. As I have noticed, there are persons who are highly educated though have no common sense, take the direction which is given. Persons who are intelligent, but through the whole world history intelligence can be used to false, even fatal purposes (Hitler, Stalin). Then: there is a tiny group of persons who have wisdom. It is to be seen as humanity, open mind, spiritual vision, awareness of the truth, love and care. Dr. Young is such a person, absolutely.

    What he is teaching makes sense and is simple to understand. He says: there is only one physiological state of imbalance – the over-acidification of the body. He has documented this and shown in practice. I fully agree. Cause and effect relationship – this is needed as well as our own commitment to our well-being.

    The secret of life is duality as Dr Young puts it. I have seen it in my life as well. You have to experience darkness before you find the light, feel unhappy before you understand what happiness means. Follow opinion leaders before you dare to take your own steps.

    I have learned through my hard times the relativeness of things. Meaning of strong and weak varies. A person can look strong but is weak and vice versa. A person can be strong strong, strong weak, weak weak or weak strong. But weakness is the original strength.

    Why I want to take weakness/strength – duality in this context? Because if you have a disease you are an object, seen as a weak link of the community. System (hospital, clinic, whatsoever) is taking the lead and you are suited into the needs of the system. It is not the purposeness, reliveness of your needs which is the driving force. At the pH Miracle Center this is different. You as the subject are actively taking part in your ‘destiny’.

    ‘Doctor managed perfect in the operation, but the patient died’; this is still true in many cases in medicine. Dr. Young’s approach is holistic and lasts as long as a person maintains the lifestyle.

    Ecological footprint is commonly discussed nowadays. I’d like to raise a new footprint designed just for Dr. Young: Give a meaning for the Universe -footprint. (in this case big footprint is ideal). For me he has given the meaning – to help people to learn to know about the pH Miracle. And it’s my duty to the universe to do it. My own cancer is gone and I have found a new level of myself. Pleomorphism, Dr. Young’s clever idea, can happen in a human being as well. Unbalanced, unhappy without direction, with fear —> balanced, happy, with faith, aware of what, why and how. Ruin off the previous concepts if there is something better to be offered. There is now and I have ruined the previous ones.

    To be or not to be – by Shakespeare. And, Shelley Young has said in other words prefer being instead of doing. Awareness and enlightment. These two things I have experienced during my visit at the ranch. Each person from the personnel tells the same story about Dr. Young. His dedication, vision and open mind. And this is true. Wild bird flies.

    I would like to express my deepest gratitude and honour to Dr. Robert and Shelley Young and the personnel at The pH Miracle Center.

    Seek and you’ll find. Knock, and the door will be opened.

    Marjoa-Leena Hirvonen
    Tapiontie 18 B
    Fl-02720 ESPOO

  27. I hate it when you make me shed tears. But unlike a fictional novel that evokes an emotional response – my love for you two is far more real and my hopes for a successful outcome are never ending. Thanks for all the “wonder”, the pictures, the stories and just plain sharing you’ve give us with your French Letters.

    Robert Barnes
    Santa Fe

  28. […] you might recall, almost exactly a year ago I posted this last love letter to France. On that sad day we left Uzès, which had come to feel like home to both of us, because there were […]

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