Lucy’s Brooch

Gena Morina – Bajrami

More than ten days have passed and I still cannot detach my thoughts from Lucy. Since the day I first learned about her, not only has she become part of my life, I feel that every single day she speaks loudly to me and says, “Tell the story of my life. Let others know about me. Don’t keep it to yourself.”

When is a better time than for Valentine’s Day to tell Lucy’s story?

*****

I first learned about Lucy in Washington D.C. this past winter, on February 2nd. The annual Morning

Prayers, in the Capital of United States of America, had finished at dawn with President’s Trump speech. I had met so many eminent personalities from all over the world, participants in the ceremony. An invitation came to have lunch with one remarkable American ambassador, very popular for his devotion to resolving Kosova’s problem.

It was such a beautiful day, very unusual, for February in Washington, D.C. I once lived there, when my

husband had worked for Voice of America as Chief of Service for the Albanian section. Washington D.C.,

for me at that time, was a bleak city, not only because of the freezing winters but because of the people

too. They were also cold, or so it seemed to me. They were the opposite of the New Yorkers I was

accustomed to. Surprisingly, this time, Washington changed my mind. I felt closer to the city. It felt warmer. This feeling was reinforced, not only by the unusually mild winter weather and Morning Prayers, but especially because of Lucy’s story.

The lunch meeting was set for 2pm at the famous “The Capital Grille”. The moment I entered, the cozy ambiance and wonderful reception made me feel so welcomed. In Washington, if you want to honor someone with a lunch or dinner look no further than the Capital Grille!

A special table had been prepared. I was the only woman in the group, along with the ambassador and

other guests.

The conversation began. I thanked the Ambassador for his efforts before and after the war in Kosova, and his continuing support and friendship towards the Albanian people. He tells us so many interesting stories about his commitment to the Balkans, and diplomatic engagements there. What impresses me most is the sincerity he displays when sharing his personal story with us. He asks about my children and after I answer, he paves the way for me to inquire about his family.

“I have three boys and one girl,” the ambassador tells me. “My wife, with whom I had four kids, died in

2009. She had been so nice, and we had a very happy life.”

After offering my condolences I asked him how it was going, after the death of this wife.

“For few years after my wife died,” he explained, “I felt very lonely, and of course to defeat my loneliness I started to use the computer more. One day, through the internet, randomly, I got in touch with my girlfriend Lucy, whom I spent four beautiful and happy years with during college. Life drove us apart, because I was supposed to go on diplomatic missions abroad. We never heard from each other again. Reconnecting with her after 50 years took me back to the time when we were at the beautiful age of youth.

“We set up our first date. This was such an extraordinary moment for me, feeling very excited and nervous at the same time. I had so many questions. I was wondering ‘how will she look after 50 years? How much she will have changed? How will I feel in front of her? Will I like her as before? Will she like me again?’

 “Incredibly, Lucy looked the same. Her appearance had changed very little. She made me feel good again, just like on our first date. Our conversation continued where it had left off half a century earlier. We got married and lived together for three years. We were extremely happy, in love and in harmony. But unfortunately Lucy got sick and passed away last April.”

This was the ambassador’s  confession. We all were so touched by his extraordinary story, very happy and very sad at the same time.

After a short break, the ambassador continued his story.

“Lucy used to live in San Francisco. She had a beautiful garden with all kinds of flowers. Flowers as beautiful as Lucy. She loved flowers and took very good care of them, with so much passion. She loved

flowers, she loved people and she had such a beautiful soul. When we went to Kosova for the first time,

she was fascinated when she met the Albanians. She loved Kosova and she wanted to help. She even

started to work with another woman to help Kosova’s women. When this woman heard about Lucy’s death she was extremely sad and started producing a kind of handicraft in Lucy’s memory. She named them Lucy’s Brooch. It’s a decorative accessory, usually worn on the lapel of women’s jackets. Women of Kosova would embroider Lucy’s Broaches by hand in order to earn income to support themselves and their families. These brooches are designed by an Italian designer and shaped in the form of a flower,

symbolizing Lucy and her love for flowers. They continue to be made today by women in Kosova.

Lucy’s death left many people sad, the ambassador recounted, like in a movie, only this was very real.

We all were so moved by the ambassador’s story. A true story of love, like no other.

After we said our goodbyes to the ambassador, while my husband and I were walking and taking pictures in front of Capital Hill Building we discussed this extraordinary love story for quite some time.

It started getting dark and my husband asked if I would like to meet with his friend, a visitor from Kosova. I accepted the invitation with much pleasure. This man, who was also a guest for Morning Prayers, for three decades had been quite active in the cause for Kosova. Meeting with him took us back a long way, to the early nineties, when he would often visit Albanian Americans and American officials in Washington in order to work on behalf of Kosova’s independence from Serbia. We shared so many memories, many common journeys during a time when we were going to cover events and write stories for the newspaper IlIyria, and when he was a close associate to Dr. Rugova. Meeting with him again was very moving, recalling the beautiful memories of our youth, 25 years earlier when we had met for the first time.

We met at “Hilton Washington”, the meeting center for those of us who came in DC for Morning Prayers. Just before we said our goodbyes, our friend said that he brought me a present from Kosova.

Happy and delighted I accepted the gift, which even at first glance, I thought, was something very special. I opened the box and what did I see? A brooch, in the shape of a yellow rose, embroidered by hand with threads of gold and all the edges of every petal decorated with shiny red stones. It was the same brooch as the American Ambassador had described only couple hours ago.

Surprised as never before in my life, I turned to our friend:

 “Oh my God, this is Lucy’s Brooch! Only a couple hours ago the Ambassador was talking about them. How is it possible I am receiving this gift today?

After he heard my story about Lucy, our friend couldn’t believe it. I asked him if he knew anything about

this. He said no, but he said that he knew these brooches were made by women in Kosova, as part of a

campaign to help women to survive and earn a decent income. When I told the ambassador’s story about Lucy, our friend remained completely surprised.

“Wow, what a coincidence,” he said

After he left, still fascinated and amazed, I ask my husband, who was both surprised and a little confused,

“What time is it?” He told me it was 6:30pm.

It suddenly dawned on me that it was 12:30am in Kosova. The date here was February 2nd, while in my

motherland the morning of February 3 rd had just begun. February 3 rd is my birthday.

“Oh My God,” I thought. I feel like this gift came from Lucy. Lucy sent me this gift exactly on the day of my birthday,” I said to my husband. I couldn’t believe what had happened.

Without even thinking I felt obligated to finish the task given to me. I called the ambassador, who at that

moment was still driving back home. I couldn’t wait until he arrived home, so I quickly told him the entire story.

The ambassador, who was hanging on every single word, seemed to be confused and surprised at

the same time. The same as my husband had been.

 He asked how it was possible. “This is very, very interesting.”

Then I told him with complete conviction, “Mr. Ambassador, I believe that this gift today came from Lucy. This is a message from her to deliver to you and to let you know that she is very happy that you

remembered her today, talking about her with so much love and longing.”

****

This is Lucy’s true story; a beautiful, true story for Valentine’s Day.

Lucy and her brooch became part of my life, and I wanted to share it with all of you. This is a story of a

woman with a beautiful spirit and huge heart. A woman who loved flowers. And though I never met her, she left her mark on my life.

Every time I put this brooch on my jacket I will remember it as the most valuable gift, treasured for its

significance. It’s such a precious gift because it speaks to me in so many ways. This gift was dedicated with so much love by her friend. It was created by the sweat and effort of the golden hands of Albanian women. It was given to me on my birthday. And finally because it arrived on the very day when her last love wholeheartedly and passionately told me her story.

Can you hear me, Lucy? I hope and believe I delivered your message.  Happy Valentine’s Day!app

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