Nepal4“Come with me to Nepal.” Outlandish thing to say to my grieving first cousin Mary Anne whose husband of 40 plus years had died the week before.

Sure, I murmured all the “I’m so sad for you” kind of comments, but extraordinary travel seems life-changing to me, as is the death of a spouse.

If nothing will ever be the same again, why not try a whole new world in one? She gasped, then laughed, blew it off and we talked about other things before hanging up the phone.

Wasn’t been a week before she called back to say, “I’m going with you. How do I get a passport?”

This is a savvy woman, grew up in New Jersey, college in Virginia, raised her sons several years in Hawaii and most recently in Georgia, 150 miles from my Georgia home.

Leaving the country would be new, and who knew anybody who’d been to Nepal?

I intended to go on to South India after Kathmandu but Mary Anne decided Nepal would be adventure enough and she’d find her way back to a new way of shaping each day.

We stood under prayer flags learning that the wind horse would carry our prayers into the universe.

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Mary Ann in the midst of prayer flags, abundantly flying throughout Nepal.

We accepted the blessing of a Kumari goddess, embracing a local 17th century tradition.

We hugged each other a lot, wondering if this could be real: little-girl cousins who grew up together in Plainfield and Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, now in sight of Mt. Everest?

That’s why we booked two hours on Buddha Air, to fly within sight of the famous mountain and its neighboring snowy peaks.

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The Swayambhunath Temple overlooks the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal.

Adventuresome eating we did too, quite different from the casseroles and cakes shared after a death in the family. Yak cheese for starters.

We respectfully watched cremations on the Bagmati River and we rang worship bells and spun big prayer wheels with mantras engraved on them.

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Sharing worship with monks opens new faith understandings.

Nothing was familiar, and our place in the world changed because of all these interactions in Kathmandu.

“Where next?” became Mary Anne’s question — a new concept for managing affairs solo, sharing time with children and grandchildren and seeing more of this unknown world.

Peru and the guesthouse named Willka T’ika in the Sacred Valley of the Incas jumped onto her bucket list since I had been there, as had two people sharing this Nepal journey with us.