A good friend once told me, “There are two kinds of soul mates in this world; the first—those people that you are meant to share every experience of your life with, the people that are the only ones in the universe who understand the way you see and understand the things around you, who grasp and fully comprehend your hopes, dreams, fears, and who will hold your hand as you discover the true soul within yourself. The purpose of these soul mates is to be your rock, to be the person when times get tough and reality hurts, to be there for it all.
The second kind of soul mate is someone who comes into your life at the most perfect, appropriate, impeccable time, exactly when their help is most needed. We hardly realize it, having no inkling or pre-notion of how these people will truly affect us, but knowing that they are in our lives for a reason, however unknown to us. These are the people that have come and gone in our lives, who have left as quickly as they entered, leaving us with just a memory of how they helped us through. The purpose of these soul mates is to help us deal with life’s struggles at that precise moment, and then when their help is no longer needed, they slowly slip away, knowing that their work is done.”
When she was done explaining these two definitions of “soul mates” to me, everything seemed to get more clear, things started to make sense. I recounted in my own life when people came into my life right when I needed them most, and people who taught me things about life beyond my wildest dreams. But then, of course, her words had me thinking:
Can the same person be both kinds of soul mates? Can one person be the life-long rock that we all hope and search for, while still coming into our lives at just the right moment? Timing is everything in life, so can both definitions of a “soul mate” actually define one singular person?
The answer? Undoubtedly, Yes.
In my next installment of Through New Eyes, the story is a moving and breathtaking testament of how two people came into each other’s lives at a time when simply fate can be the only thing to lay fault on. These people were unknowing of where their relationship would lead or what would come about from it, and now years later, it has become a grand and spectacular love story that will have you saying, Cinderalla Who? And it is my great pleasure to say that this is one of my very best friends!
Sarah grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, went to school in St. Augustine, Florida, and in her junior year of college, met an Italian solider, Luca, who was fighting in Afghanistan at the time. They began a light-hearted correspondence which quickly turned into something much more, but after only a few months of communicating, Luca was shot by a terrorist on his base camp. With that, the story of Luca and Sarah began a new chapter…
Now, without further delay, here is Sarah’s story, through her eyes.
How did you first meet Luca?
I first met Luca November 1, 2010 but when I say “met” I mean I started to talk to him. It was the day I opened my Facebook to see a message from someone I never heard of. At this point Luca was in Afghanistan because he is an Italian soldier. I thought to myself what is an Italian soldier doing writing a letter to me. Further reading his inbox message to me I understood we had a mutual friend. He was stationed where there were also American soldiers stationed and he became close friends to one of my friend’s brother. Luca was looking at pictures the American soldier had and he came across a picture of me and his sister (my friend). Luca says he looked at me in the picture and just knew right there he had to get to know me. Thus he wrote the inbox message to me. I am one of those people very weary and skeptical about “meeting people via internet” but there was something telling me, let’s say intuition, that I just had to get to know him too. Having a mutual friend made it seem ok. From that point on we started writing to each other. Started off maybe once a week and before long it was EVERYDAY! Then we started using all technology to talk to each other. Imagine, him being in Afghanistan and me studying in the USA was not easy to communicate, but we did and we did it everyday using the cell phone, text messages, Facebook, and Skype. We were drawn to each other and would do everything in our power to talk to each other. If I had to get up at 3 in the morning I did. Plus i had to hear from him too because he was in the middle of a war and hearing from him kept my mind at rest that he was safe and okay.
After you first started talking to Luca, did you think anything would come out of the relationship, or were you thinking that it was more just fun to talk to someone new?
In the beginning, I am not going to lie, I was a little weary of it all but because we had a mutual friend and because I found it so easy to talk to him, I had to get to know him. I really am not one to just open up to the first person I meet, but talking to him made me happy. Talking to him made me understand myself better. Clearly in the beginning I did some Facebook creeping and looked through his pictures and thought this guy is really handsome, he is really funny and smart. It was also interesting to talk to someone who doesn’t even live in the same country and whose first language is not English. We were learning about each other. The more I learned about him the more I hoped something would come out of the relationship. As time went on, and when I say time I mean a relatively short amount of time, I realized I was developing feelings for him. I realized I cared for him. I just knew he was becoming a really special and important person in my life. I can’t really say the specific moment I knew this but the thought of not being able to talk to him or having him in my life scared me, and I couldn’t even let myself think it. The idea was frightening enough.
Since he spoke Italian knowing hardly any English, and vice versa with you, how did you guys communicate? Were you able to understand each other?
Communication at the beginning was not always easy but I must say it wasn’t hard. He spoke more English than I spoke Italian so our main communication was through English. He would teach me some Italian words here and there but for the most part it was English. When he had something important to say he would say it in Italian or write it and I became best friends with google translate. We talked a lot, and you would think but they speak two different languages how is that possible. But when you have the will to do something anything is possible, and we made it work. As I said talking to him was just the best part of my day. Even if it took a little more time to understand, but this is how I believe we really got to know and understand each other because we had to talk. We were in two different countries the only thing to do was to talk. This is how we became so close so fast.
What exactly happened to Luca?
Luca was shot two times by a terrorist pretending to be an Afghanistan soldier. ( Italian soldiers where helping the Afghanistan army become independent and efficient) He was shot in the neck and lungs. Leaving him paralyzed from the chest down with little movement in the arms.
How long did you Skype with Luca for before he was injured?
We started skyping and talking November 2010 and he was injured January 2011. Gosh, when I put the dates down it seems like no time at all. People might think, how is this possible to get so close in such a short time? People might say I am crazy. But until you experience it you just will never know. Talking is the best way to understand and to really get to know a person. When you Skype a person for hours and you write them and message them everyday, you get to know the person better than you know yourself and you make the choice. You are able to decide, is this a person I can see myself with? Is this a person who wants the same in life as I do? Can this person be the other half of me and experience life together with me? When you know a person inside and out it is easy to answer those questions.
How did you find out about Luca and what had happened to him? When you found out, did you ever think you would be able to meet him?
Luca was out “far far away” we called it. He would leave the main base every so often and be gone for weeks at a time, you never knew for how long. When he went “far away” the only way to communicate was through the phone. He was able to communicate only specific times during the day, for about two hours or so. These were the periods of time when I was most worried. He always texted me in the middle of the night and I slept by my phone so I wouldn’t miss the messages. There was one day where he didn’t write me anything. I stayed up the whole night waiting for a message. I messaged him many times. There was no response. I was worried. I was scared. I started to tell myself not to worry and that everything was ok. Then a few hours later he messaged me. The weight of the world lifted off my chest. He apologized and explained he was busy and there were something that happened that he wasn’t able to get to his phone. I was just so relieved to hear from him. I went to sleep feeling happy. Like always. Later, I came home from the grocery store and went on Facebook. and saw all these people writing on Luca’s Facebook. How strange, I thought. I didn’t understand what they were writing but as I started to google translate I realized something wasn’t right. There were words like, “Stay strong Luca”, “Keep fighting”, “Don’t give up”, “We are praying for you”. From that moment I had this pit in my stomach. I can’t even describe it to you, there are no worlds to explain the terror and fear that struck through my body. I reached out to his brother and wrote him a message and then finally his older brother called me and explained what happened and the status of Luca’s health. From that moment on I wrote a letter everyday to Luca, and his dad would print them out and read them to him. It helped me. I think it also helped Luca. It made it seem like I still was able to talk to him. I wanted to meet him and to go find him in person. After Luca was taken off the breathing machine he was able to call me, and he told me he had to meet me. From there we decided that on my Spring break I would go to Italy to meet him in person for the very first time.
When his family said they wanted you to come out and meet him, what were your first thoughts? When Luca told me he wanted me to come to Italy to meet him I was so happy. I was scared/worried that after everything that had happened he wouldn’t want me in his life anymore. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He had to see me, he wanted to see me just as much as I wanted to see him. Of course I had butterflies in my stomach but these butterflies were the good butterflies that give you hope and excitement. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous but nonetheless spring break couldn’t come fast enough.
When and where did you meet Luca for the first time in person?
I met Luca in the spinal cord recovery unit in Milan. I met him in his room. I arrived early in the morning and he was still getting ready when I got there so I waited a little outside his room with other soldiers, his dad, and his mom. Time seemed so slow. It was now or never. I had to see if what I thought I knew and felt was real. I am happy to say it was. I walked into his room and there he was. He had a very long stem red rose waiting for me and a big smile on his face. I felt at home. I felt like time never stood between us. We stared for a moment at each other with a big smile on our faces and then we started talking like we did for those months prior to his injury. This was all I wanted. This was all I needed.
How long were you initially in Italy for?
I went to Italy in March of 2011 for about a week.
How many times did you travel to Italy before you moved out there?
After my first visit to Italy in March I went for two months that summer. Then in January 2012 I left for a week to go to Switzerland because he was there for 6 months recovering.
When did you officially move, and where are you living?
I officially moved to Italy in April 2012 about a week after I graduated from college. We lived with his mom for three months until our house was finished. Now I live with Luca in our own home in a small town outside of Milan. It is very quiet and peaceful here.
How is Luca doing now?
Luca is doing really well now. He has adapted to his new life very well. We are taking each day as it comes and living our life the way we want to. He does physical therapy three times a week and continues fight everyday. He is a strong man, both physically and mentally.
Do you have any help with taking care of Luca?
We have a nurse who helps Luca if he needs anything while I’m at work. Thankfully Luca is pretty independent he can use the computer on his own and he has taken up many interests. We have turtles outside in our garden and he has a guide dog that helps him and that he trains. As a couple we are pretty independent we are able to do almost anything we want by ourselves. The only negative thing is that in Italy not everything is wheelchair accessible so we have to always check places out because it is not uncommon to find stairs or bathrooms that are not wheelchair accessible. We try to be as independent as we can.
Do you like life in Italy? What has been the biggest adjustment for you?
I like living in Italy. It helps having Luca as I do not know if I could just move to another country by myself because it is a big adjustment. The language, culture, ways of doing things really take a toll on you. I learned if you have the will to do something you can do it. I am really proud of the things I have accomplished. I speak Italian pretty well. I have a job teaching English in a preschool. I am happy. That is the most important thing. The most difficult thing for me was putting myself out there. I will admit the first few months I lived in a little bubble. I didn’t want to do anything alone. I was scared of going to the grocery store, to put gas in the car because I thought if I do something wrong how will I explain and communicate it to someone. I was afraid of not saying the right thing or speaking poor Italian. I had to learn to drive a stick shift car. I had to go to driving school which entailed taking the written exam and the actual driving exam. There are so many things you do not think about when you decide to move to another country. There are big adjustments and small adjustments. Hulu doesn’t work here in Italy (BUMMER). Reeses cups are non existent. But there are fortunately many wonderful things here in Italy too that you can’t find in America. There are always pros and cons to everything. The important thing is you do what makes you happy. Every choice I have made were choices that made me happy. I can honestly say I am happy. Of course I am not living in la la land or a perfect life, but I am making the most of everything.
What has been your favorite part about living in Italy?
My favorite part about living in Italy is learning the language and visiting different cities and seeing things in my life I never thought I would ever see. The world has so much to offer if you let it. The first few months I wasn’t open to seeing everything there was, but after I got over the fear and jumped right in to the culture and the lifestyle here I have absolutely loved every moment. Let’s not forget about Italian food and fashion. Most of all having my best friend to share it with makes it even better.
And now you have a magical wedding in the works (with a rockstar bridal party, or so I’ve heard)! How is the planning going?
We will be tying the knot this summer. The planning is going, time flies when you are planning a wedding. So many details and things to think about. It can be a little stressful at time but thank goodness I have awesome family and friends and of course bridal party that help me in every way they can. I am so excited. The other day I went to try on the dress and I fell in love with it more than the first time. I just can’t wait!!!!
Looking back on everything, did you ever think that you would be where you are now?
Looking back on everything, I never thought I would be here. I never thought I would be doing the things I am doing. I remember growing up never wanting to go to school because I wanted to stay home with my mom. I had so many fears growing up as a child, but when you decide to get over those fears and do what you want to do and do what makes you happy then the world and life itself is an amazing thing. There are times when I am driving or taking the train to Milan ALONE and I think “wow! look at you Sarah, you are doing it!” I don’t want to sound cheesy but life really is what you make of it. So make it count. I have learned many things and a big one is life is too short. LIVE IT.
Between Luca writing a book, you and Luca meeting the Pope, all of the award ceremonies and special events, what has been the most memorable moment for you?
I would say the most memorable moment was meeting the Pope. It was a humbling experience and when I met him I just felt a serenity. It was something I will never forget. Having that moment with Luca is something that no one can ever take away from us.
**Special Thanks to my friend Alex for providing the terrific insights on “soul mates”. You are absolutely wonderful:)