I met Michael and Yvonne in Hanoi in 1991.  It was he who brought the baseball bat that got our baseball games going!
[See https://orionblair.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/bac-hien-and-phu/  ]

After they left in early 1992, Linda and I stayed in touch.  Sarah was born, then René.  We went to Louisiana to be his godparents.  Since 1992, our families have been together (in some configuration) a total of 38 times in nine countries on three continents!  Yes, I have kept a list!


Sarah, René, Yvonne and Michael in the kitchen


The exuberant chef!





This friendship between two families has deep roots.  It includes our children and now Lina.  We have shared the happiest of times and also some of our most difficult passages.   We have worked together in Asia and former Yugoslavia, and we have visited each other simply to enjoy time together.   In the past several years, Michael’s health declined as he developed progressive pulmonary disease, so most of our travel was to their home in Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne in Switzerland.


Michael shows off a gift from my son-in-law Phil – fall of 2014.

Michael and two of his sons came to Linda’s memorial service in 2007.  When Lina and I heard that he was very sick, we rerouted our Cambodia trip to visit him and his family in Switzerland.  Michael died on Holy Thursday, and a week later my daughter Anna and granddaughter Lif accompanied me to his funeral in Cheseaux.  It was very important to be there, for him, for his family and for ourselves.


Zora waits patiently at the window.


The Alps from Cheseaux, across the lake

The preacher spoke of Michael’s suffering and he referenced a book that I gave to Michael some years ago, When Bad Things Happen To Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner.   Kushner wrote this book after his son Aaron died, at 14, of premature aging.  His book asks, “Why do good people suffer?”  He also asks, “What kind of God can I believe in when bad things happen to good people?”  Kushner spends a lot of time with the story of Job.  It is a wonderful book.  If you can read it, please do.  And if you’d like to see a summary of the book, I recommend Doug Muder’s notes that you can find on numerous websites, including this one:


Anna, Lif and I flew home from Zurich.  Just before we left Lausanne, Anna made contact with her friend and former roommate at the Dublin School, Karen Ariane.  They have known each other since 1993, almost as long as I’ve known Michael and Yvonne.  They are very close, and they too have seen each other at different times in different places.  We were able to visit with Karen Ariane and her husband Marek in Zurich for a couple of hours before our flight home.


It was springtime in Zurich.



Karen Ariane had a baby boy 4 ½ months ago, and in telling Anna of this, she hinted that this child was special in some way.  When we met them, she explained that Jakub was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder.  He will not grow up into a young man.

With Jakub

Karen Ariane with Jakub and Anna


We met these puppies as we left our picnic with Karen Ariane and her family.

It was both sad and beautiful for me to see Marek and Karen Ariane with Jakub.  They love him tenderly and with the knowledge that they have him for a short time.


Two friends

I saw these two vibrant young women together and knew my daughter felt Karen Ariane’s grief deeply, and that she also recognizes how fortunate she has been to raise three healthy children.   I was deeply moved that our trip to Switzerland to attend Michael’s funeral, and with it my winter journey, ended here.