I arrived in Budapest on Monday afternoon with approximately 24 hours to spend on my own. This was the first time, I realized, that I had really been alone since learning of my grandfather’s death only five days prior.
A week later, the tears come suddenly, when I least expect them– usually when I am alone, in my bed at the end of the day.
Sure enough I found myself weeping alone at 1 AM. A few hours later, sadness and grief came over me on the bus to Brussels. Later that morning, as I gazed out the airplane’s window, my eyes filled with tears during take off. That afternoon, I navigated the streets of Hungary, eyes still swollen.
Many don’t know this about me, but there is nothing I love more than a hot, steamy, long bath.
I decided to make the most of my free afternoon and venture to the Szechnyi Baths, to soak, to reflect, and to find some tranquility.
Upon arrival, I immediately signed up for a 60-minute, deep massage.
I found myself in the crowded women’s locker room, searching for an open, clean, working locker to store my valuables. I was surrounded by both Hungarian and foreign women alike. Women with friends, family, or colleagues, getting ready to enjoy the baths together, while I got ready alone.
I took a deep breath, stepped outside into the fresh air, entered the baths, and almost simultaneously found a sense of relief.
My body felt instantly better– relaxed, stress-free, calm. I felt peaceful.
I settled into a stone corner in one of the baths, looking at the people around me– the tourists, the locals, the children, the adults. All around me, there was joy, there was contentment, there was life.
“I miss you,” I said aloud, “I miss you, Grandpa, and I love you. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I miss you.”
Tears, I realized, we’re again streaming down my face before I could stop them. I’ve never really had to grieve the death of a loved one before. In fact, I’m not really sure now it works. I know it’s different for everyone, but maybe that is what is so curious about it. Death is a funny thing. What I find even more strange is the concept of a living, breathing person just suddenly being gone. Poof. Life, in an instant, is over.
As I settled into the first bath, I let the water warm my blood, my veins, my soul. It felt so refreshing. I felt relieved, and at ease. Later, as the masseuse kneaded her knuckles into my back, my legs, my shoulders, I started to feel relaxed. I could breathe again.
A few hours later, I returned and perched myself onto one of the staircases in the hottest pool. I looked out to see the dozens of bathers, friends, families, lovers, other travelers; and I saw life. In the midst of sadness, and solitude, I managed a smile. I started to feel alive again.
My friends, my new friends, were there for me this week. I cannot begin to say how grateful I am for the afternoon teas, cinema dates, and casual drinks. Even though an extremely important person in my life is now gone, I’m learning that life, does in fact still goes on, and it still has meaning, and joy, and fulfillment. It’s up to us to carry on the memories and the legacies, and even in the darkest of times, find the strength and the courage to turn on the light.