Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
The City of Light has lost a shining star. My letter from Felixstowe is early this week because I wanted to pay respects to Lisa Taylor Huff. I learned last night that Lisa died from cancer on 6 July 2015.
I never met Lisa, but for the past seven years I’ve been a devoted reader of her blog, The Bold Soul.
The blogosphere can be a wonderful community of shared passions, interests and worldviews. I daresay anyone who loves Paris and reads on the Internet would have come across Lisa’s blog at one time or another.
For me, this happened in 2008, when I was living in Sydney. I discovered one of Lisa’s posts just before she and her beloved Georges were married. Immediately hooked by Lisa’s writing voice, her intelligent, insightful and humorous style and our shared lifelong passion for Paris, I spent a few evenings reading through her archives. Later, from time to time, we exchanged comments on the blog.
If I may share some of Lisa’s story as I understand and remember reading about it, she began blogging in 2005. As a 40-something professional, she moved back home in New Jersey, where I’m also from, in order to save for her dream of living and writing in Paris. She wrote about her work, her plans and her family – how close she was to her sister and how she adored her niece and nephew. With great focus and determination, she made it to Paris in late 2006.
There, Lisa wrote about daily life, her ups and downs familiarising herself with the city, and eventually her forays into dating. A year or so after she arrived in Paris, she met Georges, a Frenchman who from the moment they met was the love of her life, and she of his. They married at her sister’s home in New Jersey. I recall beautiful photos of Lisa in a pale green dress and Georges wearing a tie in the matching colour.
Lisa became a stepmother to three children, including a six year-old boy whom she referred to as ‘le garçon’ in her posts, to protect the family’s privacy which she did with great care. Among other topics, she wrote about life with Georges, her writing and other projects in Paris, trips to and from her family in New Jersey, turning 50, moving house several times, occasional health challenges, successfully completing a tough French course at the Sorbonne, finishing the first draft of her memoir (I know I join her fans in hoping this is published one day), becoming a French citizen, voting in her first French election, founding with a friend the brilliant ‘No Love Locks’ initiative to clean up Paris’s historic bridges, and celebrating with Georges the anniversary dates of their meeting, his marriage proposal on the Mediterranean beach they nicknamed ‘Melon Beach’, and their wedding.
Then, one day last December, Lisa wrote that she had kidney cancer. She kept writing and posting, though not as often — about Paris, and Georges, and sometimes about cancer. I remember one post about a surprise gift she’d given Georges that gave her so much pleasure, and that he had given her special writing journals and pens, including one pen chosen because it was the same beautiful green colour as her wedding dress. Lisa’s final post, on 08 June 2015, was titled, ‘There’s how you think it’s going to be. And then there’s the curve-ball reality.’
I read this post with continuing admiration for Lisa and the openness, honesty and courage she demonstrated in facing great adversity. I checked her blog every few days, as I do, but there were no further updates.
Last night, Clive and I stayed overnight in a hotel in Cambridge UK. We had an early appointment there today and wanted to avoid peak hour traffic from Felixstowe. After dinner, I caught up on emails and checked Lisa’s blog: no new posts. I read a few other favourite blog updates, then switched to Facebook.
There it was – a comment from Karin, which showed me a post by Katia, an eloquent remembrance of ‘Lisa’ and ‘her passing is a shock, a life taken far too soon.’ With a wave of sorrow I clicked on Katia’s link to Aimée’s post (and later her blog post which includes a heartbreakingly beautiful photo of Lisa), a moving memorial by a close friend of Lisa’s. Both women talked of Lisa’s example of living boldly, of her kindness and caring, the support and encouragement she gave friends far and wide, what a genuinely nice, wonderful person she was and how many lives she touched.
This morning I read a wonderful post about Lisa by her good friend Linda, on Linda’s blog, Frenchless in France. Later today I exchanged emails and messages with more of Lisa’s friends and admirers, every one saddened beyond measure over the death of this beautiful bold soul.
Through the years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a number of Paris bloggers in person. I always thought that one day Lisa’s and my paths might naturally cross.
Perhaps Lisa’s death hits especially hard because so many of us have experienced the loss of friends and loved ones to cancer. My first husband, Gary, died from cancer and several people very close to me are currently fighting for life in their own cancer battles. Lisa’s untimely death and her shining example of living life boldly remind us how precious life is.
I will miss Lisa’s writing about Paris, miss checking her blog to see what she and Georges are doing and the joy they always found in each other, miss her unique voice and the depth of character and feeling that always shone through on her blog.
And I know these things I will miss about Lisa are nothing but a microscopic speck compared to what Georges and her family and loved ones will miss.
Still, I wanted to add my voice to those paying tribute to this remarkable woman. Lisa stands as inspiration to all of us with her words, her character and her life-affirming boldness in living, loving and seeking her dreams.
Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris
Thank you, Lisa, for being you and for sharing yourself with the world. I will always remember you. Rest in peace.