Hello Hello Hello. It feels so good to be back.

After 29 days in Europe, Brandon and I finally slept in our own bed at home on Saturday. And it was heavenly. There is nothing quite like being in your own bed, under the weight of your own sheets, snuggling up to the person you love. Especially after the week we had.

Let’s catch up.

After our 5 day trip to Celebrity Fight Night in Florence, we joined 5 other couples on a trip to a private island off the Amalfi Coast. It was unplanned and a bit of a scramble but when opportunities like this present themselves, you just say yes and figure the rest out later. Our last night of Fight Night was a long one – we were in the bar until it shut down and meandered out to the patio to talk until sunrise. At 6am, we walked our butts upstairs to pack our 7 suitcases to have them ready by 7am so we could be on our way from Florence to Amalfi.

Needless to say, we were tired. But the fun was just beginning. It was 5 hours of travel between planes, trains, and automobiles – well, there actually weren’t any planes but boats, trains, and automobiles doesn’t have the same ring to it. Around 4pm we finally arrived and were settled into our rooms at the private island of Li Galli.

Can you recall a time where you’re suddenly amazed that every decision in your life has lead up to this exact moment? Where an overwhelming sense of gratitude hits you. And you appreciate every good and bad thing that has come into your life. And you are so aware of the present moment that you wonder why you don’t choose to live like this always. Without worry. Without fear. Without regret. Just present. And feeling like you can take on anything.

I had one of these moments our first evening on the island. But what I didn’t know is the loss we were about to experience.

That night, the bliss continued. We drank wine, made new friends, connected with old friends, and were giddy about the coming week on the island of Li Galli. We joked that is was going to be adult summer camp. Our camp counselor Sandi had gone above and beyond to plan every last detail of this trip. We were going to a cooking class in Sorento, shopping in Capri, lunch in Positano, boating to see the Blue Grotto, dinner at the house with a private chef, and there was even a wedding planned for one of the couples in the chapel on the island. Every last minute of this trip was going to be spectacular.

All we needed on Monday night was a good night’s sleep to be ready for 6 days of activities come.

On Tuesday, I shot out of bed, excited to start our week together and ready to meet the other couples for breakfast. As I was sitting at the table, sipping my cappuccino, gawking over our view of Positano, Brandon walked down the stairs to join us at the breakfast table. But he only made it halfway down before saying, “Natalie, Natalie! Richie passed away.”

Can you recall a time where you’re suddenly shocked that every decision in your life has lead up to this exact moment? Where an overwhelming sense of sadness hits you. And you don’t understand the purpose of why we’re all here. And a pit in your stomach grows that feels like worry. Like fear. Like regret. And you want to be anywhere else as long as it provides you answers.

I had one of these moments our first morning on the island. I ran up to Brandon and held him. He was sobbing and my tears came shortly after. Richie wasn’t family by blood but by choice. He and his wife Linda have known Brandon for decades and were close years before I came along. But unlike the rest, Rich and Linda were Brandon’s first friends to accept me into their world. Without judgement and instantaneously. They’ve been by our sides through thick and thin. Brandon and the Burba’s have been business partners for 15 years and it was a true partnership – both sides adding value and contributing to their shared success. They live in Chicago but wouldn’t miss a family gathering for the world. They came to our first annual Dawson-Workman Thanksgiving last year and were instrumental in the setup and prep work. We just saw them for Brandon’s 50th birthday in May: they flew from Chicago to Portland for his family party and then 3 days later flew down to Cabo to celebrate for the big bash. We had no idea that would be our last time with him. He was healthy and looking forward for the next chapter in their lives: Rich and Linda had finally sold their business and had plans to travel the world together, snow ski, and enjoy retirement. He was in his early 60’s and ready to make the next years count.

Rich passed unexpectedly and without warning.

As I held Brandon on that Tuesday morning, I couldn’t help but think, “why now?” This was far from ideal timing. For us, we were halfway around the world, on a once in a lifetime trip, ready to live in the present. For Richie, he had worked his whole life to be able to retire and spend his days with Linda up at the mountain.

But death waits for no one. And people are taken from us in an instant. There’s no such thing as ideal timing when it comes to losing someone. Death causes you to ask the big questions. It’s the ultimate refocus and a painful reminder that we need to be fixated on the important things. The real things. And to let everything else go.

As it turns out, I need a refocus. I’m at a pivotal moment in my life and I need to rethink my direction. It’s almost as if Richie passing was a warning sign: don’t get too comfortable. You haven’t figured it all out. Keep searching.

I don’t feel settled and I haven’t stumbled upon the answers. There’s been no “aha” moment. But here’s where I’m at so far: I travel too much. I have too many meaningless things. I don’t spend enough time with my family. I’m not reaching out enough to the people I love. And I need to figure out my part in making this world a better place.

There’s change coming my way. I feel it. And I need to figure it out. Because I don’t want to waste time. On the wrong things. On the wrong people. On the wrong work.

For me, it’s time for some life work – in Richie’s honor.

We spent 3 days on the island before flying to Chicago to be at Richie’s funeral. We shared stories of him with our new friends and made a toast to him each night. Richie will never be forgotten and his funeral was the most beautiful tribute to his life. You could see the impact he had. You could feel the mourning. There’s no question that his legacy will live on through Linda, his family, and all the lives he touched. Brandon and I are still in a fog and it doesn’t quite feel real. But he will always be with us – inspiring us to listen better, live in the present and never take time for granted.

Xoxo Natalie

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