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It’s not copasetic for Christians to believe in reincarnation. But don’t you ever wonder about it all when you find yourself inexplicably drawn somewhere? I’ve always felt that way about the South. Something about it just beckons me like home. I credit that to Southern hospitality and charm found in places like New Orleans. Southern women? It’s almost like they’re a whole different species.

Consider Sarah, a Southern Belle who sang Pennies from Heaven as we finished dinner at the Bombay Club in the French Quarter on Thursday night. She struck three heavenly chords with me. 1) She’s a yoga teacher like me. 2) She plays the guitar like my Dad. 3) She was wearing a pink vintage dress with red shoes—a combination that symbolizes All Things Bright and Beautiful to me. Her voice was a silky blend of Doris Day steeped in Billie Holiday and she transported me to a magical place that still seems like heaven. Doesn’t she look like a perfect angel, strumming her guitar?

Then there’s Zara, the hotel clerk who was strutting her stuff in a Derby Day Hat on Saturday morning when I came stumbling down to the lobby of the Gretna Holiday Inn in search of coffee. Have I mentioned that going to the Kentucky Derby in a ridiculously spectacular hat is on my bucket list? You have to have spunk to wear a hat like Zara’s. Otherwise, people just look at you like you’re touched. Like a little angel, Zara salvaged a day’s worth of faxes that were sent from our home office to the hotel. Sounds simple, but her colleagues failed on that mission the day before, causing a considerable amount of grief for my husband. How grateful we were to her!

Last (but not least) is Belva Howell, a southern belle of the very highest order, even though she hails from Buffalo, New York. After marrying our good friend Bob Howell and settling in Gretna, Louisiana where he was born and raised, Bel’s name was surely placed on God’s roll call of southern hostesses. For the past 45 years, she and Bob shuttled friends like us around New Orleans, showing us the sites from a very personal point of view. When Bel died a few weeks ago, Bob lost the love of his life, a fact that no one who knew them could miss. Loving them as we do, we couldn’t imagine the depth of his grief or what we could say to help him. And so we planned a trip.

Even in grief, God grants some people such grace. Bob shuttled us around as he always has, introducing us to sites still unseen and sharing pictures of the two of them in younger days. When he met us on Saturday morning for our parting breakfast, he was carrying this little angel as a gift, part of Bel’s considerable collection of angels and one of the first to leave their home as Bob begins to part with her possessions. I carried it home in my purse and hung it in my office on a little antique lamp that once belonged to my husband’s grandmother.

It must have been impossibly hard for him to part with this angel, but every time I see it, I will think of their marriage.  Describing their secret, Bob put it this way: “There is no longer an “I” when you marry. There’s only “we” with plenty of room for individuality.” We’ll always be grateful for Bob and Bel for sharing their great love with us and prodding us on to higher ground in marriage. Who is your favorite married couple?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.