Since we've last talked I can't begin to tell you about the amazing outpouring of support I've received from all my friends and family - near and far, old and new. When I first thought of doing this journey together I wasn't sure what to say to people or if I should even tell anyone. When I wrote my last letter I wasn't even going to make it known that it was up - I felt awkward kind of thrusting it all on people. However, one Remote saw a new post had been up on my blog, read it and messaged me with her own story of loss, offering her support and in feeling a connection to her I realized that there may be many more who could take some solace that they weren't alone, that your story could trigger some happy, or sad but powerful, memories of their own.
I am indebted to that Remote as I'm so unbelieveably happy I did post it for more to see. Your story has begun to touch many on this trip, in talking with others its helped me to process things a little bit more and to move on where I can. I've been able to hear from other Remotes and friends around the globe, about their experiences with loss - whether that be a parent, a grandparent or a sibling as unfortunately so many can relate. I plan to continue that conversation with this inspiring group who have persevered through so much to get here.
All this brings me to Belgrade, after a seemingly too short but awe-inspiring month here I found a place that I feel you would have liked.
When I thought of the first month and what might seem appropriate I kept thinking of the notion of community as I wanted you to be tied to the connections I was beginning to build with this group and that's one of the many reasons I felt that Sunset Hill was the most appropriate place for us to share. However, this month I wasn't quite sure where to start given Belgrade is so different from Prague. It doesn't offer the same picturesque views and architecture of Prague, but what it can't offer you in obvious riches and beauty it more than makes up for with the amazing character, openness and friendship of its people and their culture.
During the first week I took a walk up to this overwhelming building I saw in the distance called St. Sava Cathedral. I wandered around its intimate side chapel and the imposing interior of the Cathedral next door where thousands can gather for service. It was a Tuesday late morning so few people were in there with me but there were some older Serbian women and another family lighting candles of remembrance and offering prayers for there loved ones that have passed. I explored around for a bit, taking in some time for personal reflection and thought "this could possibly be it" - it is a absolutely beautiful place, your religion was an important part of your life but for now it just seemed nice...I wasn't quite convinced yet.
A couple of days later I took a walking tour of the city and our guide talked about the faith of Belgrade. He mentioned that while older generations still have strong ties to the church, many of the younger generations aren't quite religious anymore but no matter what, regardless of age, they have a strong cultural tie to their faith and would consider it part of their character...the character of the city I was starting to love. I kept thinking about that over the month and how your faith was such a strong part of your character.
You never had much to offer from a material sense, much like Belgrade, but what you lacked from an obvious, overt perspective you more than made up for with an abundance of character, moral fortitude and empathy that I can only hope to emulate at 1/10th the level. As I brought up at your service, one of the aspects of your personality I'll miss the most was your ability to "listen" at such a deep level, where you really wanted to get to know everyone you met - strangers and life-long friends and family alike - their interests, their pains, their dreams. I miss how as a by-product I (as well as countless others) would receive random notes or clippings of articles in the mail from you about things we talked about days or weeks ago that I may have even since forgotten about but you knew I'd love to still read about ( PS - I'm sorry I never got you fully comfortable with email :) ).
I was absolutely in awe of your ability to so honestly and completely focus on the passions and interests of others over your own - something so rarely done today and I admittedly struggle mightily to practice. Characteristics such as these were so informed by your strong faith and your desire to give back in anyway you could to those around you, to lend an ear, to offer support, to be a friend. As such it felt perfect for you to be tied to one of the foundational elements of the character of this city, its historical faith, because I felt that more than Prague this city was in its own way more "you".
Your new view from Belgrade amongst the roses - didn't receive one prick from these thorns so thanks for looking out :)
As the month wound down I wasn't as nervous as I was in Prague, I had your spot picked. Two days before leaving I walked up to take in St. Sava one more time and make sure this was the spot. I contemplated it for awhile on a bench along its main pathway where exactly you'd like to be and spotted a collection of rose bushes. There amongst a rose bed to the left of the entrance is where you lay, looking towards this cathedral's stream of worshippers - those looking for strength of character, confidence in faith, direction in life and solace in loss - I know you'll intensely listen to them over the years just the way you did all you came across in life.
PS - Belgrade is INSANELY hot, that's one thing you'd definitely love about it :)