There is a small village in the Romandie (the French-speaking part of Switzerland) that I must visit. As most of you know, I visit small villages in Switzerland largely to share with others via social media or my books how amazing this country is. But, this visit is different.
Years ago, Audrey Hepburn’s final home chose her, the same way this beautiful country chose me years ago; however, I didn’t know this Hepburn fact until this past week, when I learned it by happenstance. As I told Pierre Beret (clearly, I don’t remember his name, just the lovely Swiss-French accent), I remember her from two things, one of which is her simple, straightforward rendition of “Moon River.” It has enchanted me since I was a child.
“We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend, my Huckleberry friend, Moon River and me.” By the way, that’s one of the greatest lines of all time, in my humble opinion (lyrics by Johnny Mercer and music by Henry Mancini).
Though it is truly one of my favorite songs, my other memory of her is the Audrey Hepburn I saw in a photo in the early 90’s holding children in Somalia. I remember the article said she did this amazing work to pay forward the kindness she was shown as a child during and after the war. So, her gratitude for the innate kindness of others is the reason she carried the title of UNICEF Ambassador from 1989 until her death? Exemplary.
Getting back to Switzerland for a moment, I can say one thing with certainty. When one full-heartedly adopts Switzerland as one’s home, it is painful to have to leave for any reason or any duration of time. This country’s majestic mountains, breathtaking lakes, cultural depth, peaceful anonymity – one feels somewhat lost under the glittering stars, even midday.
(Perhaps, it should be noted, very few people feel the way I do about Switzerland. Not even the Swiss people.)
Pierre Beret told me, during my stalled train ride from Lausanne, that Ms. Hepburn had a similar, deep love, enthusiasm, and appreciation for this country. My “enthusiasm,” which most people say is “obsession,” is what sparked our conversation, I was going on and on about how much I love Switzerland, like I always do.
During the final months of her life, though aware she was losing her battle with cancer, she left her beloved home, in the Alpine paradise, time and time again. She still wanted to help. To bring hope, joy, sunshine, and goodwill, so she packed her bags and continued to travel around the world on behalf of UNICEF.
That self-sacrifice required a great deal of character, sense of purpose, and strength. It’s truly inspirational to me because I would be hard-pressed to say “yes” to the promise of 10 million dollars if I would agree to leave Switzerland for at least one week every year. I’m not kidding.
Naturally, what is interesting to most people about her are the films, I certainly understand that. She was a truly unique and remarkable actress. But, I find her love of this great nation, her devotion to helping the impoverished and imperiled children in this world, and her desire to raise her own children in such a peaceful, promising place…I find that interesting.
Anyway, for the lady that shared my love for this country and helping women and children in need – white rose it is. Exquisite ladies who love Switzerland deserve my most exquisite tribute.
I wish I had the contact information for the sweet, chain-smoking older gentleman that told me these stories. Pierre Beret, if you do read this, please write to me? I promise to treat you to a coffee the next time.