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25 Years of Funding Excellence: Amy Parker

I had a touching encounter in Iceland this September that I wanted to share with anyone whose life has been touched, altered or shattered by cancer. I finally made the trip after cancelling twice in 2017. Stephanie Smith, my best friend, was to go with me, but both times we had to cancel the trip due to her illness. Stephanie had pancreatic cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy. A few months later, the cancer spread to her liver, so we never made the Iceland trip together.

So, this year, I traveled without her. And on September 16, I went for the hike we had planned to take. The Fimmvorduhals hike begins at the gorgeous Skogafoss waterfall, one of Iceland’s most famous. You can hike 15 miles one way to another town, or you can do the first half of this hike, which has 26 waterfalls, and turn around at the bridge about halfway and come back. I chose the latter, due to transportation and weather issues this time of year. I did not make it all the way to the bridge because the wind and rain started to pick up once I got within 1.5 miles of the bridge. I did make it a total of about 11 miles, and I spread Steph’s ashes at 17 of the 26 waterfalls.

The rest of the week was an adventure. To kill some free time, I scheduled a manicure at my hotel spa. At noon, I walked downstairs to my manicure appointment and met the lovely and sweet Veronica. She did an awesome job on my travel torn nails, and she asked me why I was in Iceland, so I told her all about Stephanie, the hike and the ashes. I told her how gracefully Stephanie faced her death and all about Steph’s wishes for everyone to give to the V Foundation. I told her about the amazing night at her life celebration party, the money raised and the hugs shared with the 260 attendees.

Veronica then shared a moving and sad tale about her brother, David, with whom she was very close and also her son’s favorite uncle. He had also died of cancer not long ago. She asked if I believed Steph and I would ever “meet” again, and we talked of that realm and spirituality and our disappointment in organized religion. I was in tears, but Veronica had tissues, and she was not afraid of the emotions of a total stranger. As I was gathering my belongings to leave, I handed Veronica my credit card to close out, and she refused it. She asked I give my manicure money to the V Foundation. I almost lost it, and I walked around the counter for a hug.

Lastly, Veronica gave me the contact information for the travel bureau and tourism offices of Iceland, in hopes I could share my story about Stephanie, the hike and ashes. She said perhaps they would place a marker of some sort (like a stone or bench) near one of the many gorgeous waterfalls where I spread her ashes. I am hopeful they will feel inclined to let Stephanie’s memory be a part of their unbelievable landscape.