A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Goodbye Sofia

When I arrived at the outskirts of Cairo, in the early afternoon, I was exhausted. I'd walked from Ismailia down the desert highway, dealing not only with the heat and dust, but also with the heavy traffic. I was sunburned and filthy, and I was looking forward to reaching Heliopolis later in the day to stay with a host; to have some company, a shower, and a bed with a roof and four walls. Upon entering the city I found an internet cafe, and on checking my e mail I received the worst news imaginable from Inge in Iran. Her best friend, and my friend Sofia, whom we had spent a month with in Istanbul, had been killed in a bus crash in Thailand. I was in shock, and I was unable to hold back the tears. Sofia, so full of life, living out her dream in Southeast Asia, was gone.

Back in Banja Luka, in Bosnia, Inge had said we had to be in Istanbul by mid-January. Sofia was going to fly in to Istanbul at that time to see Inge before going to Thailand. For the next three months Inge did the navigating, making sure we covered the appropriate distance every day to be Istanbul on time. This created some tension between us as the walk seemed like a forced march for me at times, but Inge was determined not to miss her friend. As it turned out, we arrived in Istanbul just two days before Sofia flew in. I had assumed that Inge and I would part at that point, but the three of us remained together for a month in Istanbul. For that month I got to know Sofia quite well, and I finally understood Inge's resolve to be in Istanbul to meet her. 

What struck me most about Sofia was her passion for life. Inge was busy during that month working through the bureaucratic mess involved in getting visas for her journey, I was pining for renewed vigor to continue my journey, but Sofia was ready to see everything, go everywhere. Istanbul was much more exciting for her than for travel weary Inge and I. Sofia also wanted to visit the surrounding area; islands in the Sea of Marmora, various organic farms to work on. She never got to the islands but she did get to an organic farm near the Black Sea. I met up with her there and found her to be in her element. She was as happy as I had ever seen her when she was living the communal life at the organic farm; slogging through the mud and getting her hands dirty planting and weeding in the greenhouse, she was always brimming with joy. Everybody there loved her, and she loved everybody, caring for them as though they were little brothers or sisters. And she was happy also because her flight to Thailand was coming up soon.

When Sofia left the farm, she was so busy with saying goodbye to everybody that our own goodbye was brief, as though we would see each other again the next day.

We communicated a bit once Sofia was in SE Asia, through Facebook, and she was truly living her dream. The last time we communicated she had just finished an intensive Vipassana meditation course, and she was ready to get out and about once again after sitting still for ten days.

At 22, I believe Sofia had already lived an abundant life. Her excitement at seeing a small strawberry growing on an organic farm, at feeling the breeze on the ferry across the Bosporus, at sharing her discoveries with others, testified  to her high appreciation of life. She had also traveled a great deal, having been to Spain and South America. While so many of us mope around, living long arduous lives, Sofia flew like a bird in springtime.

I was shocked, and I was angry when I read Inge's e-mail on the outskirts of Cairo. There was a great cosmic injustice at work. I was also numb. When I left the internet cafe I knew I'd better focus on getting to a host or I'd be wandering the streets all day and night. I decided on a host at the south side of Cairo, in Maadi, whom I could meet with sooner than the one in Heliopolis. I caught a bus to get to the metro, and as the bus charged through clogged, narrow streets, or took shortcuts by going the wrong way on a four lane road, all I could think about were two people; Sofia, gone now, most likely because of this same kind of driving, and Inge, Sofia's best friend and my adopted little sister, in the middle of nowhere in Iran having to deal with the terrible news.

I'm safe and sound now in Maadi with my very kind host from New Zealand. The Masterpeace office is also in Maadi, and they want to have a little celebration for my arrival in Cairo, but that will have to wait a bit. Inge, meanwhile, will probably be flying home. She wants to be there for Sofia, and she needs to be with her family and friends. Getting through Iran has been hard enough for her without the loss of her best friend; with Sofia's loss it's more than she can bear. But if I know Inge, her journey is far from being over.

Sofia's journey may be over, or it may be just beginning; while traveling we meet so many people who become family to us, then we part, convincing ourselves we will meet again. This parting seems final, but all of us who know Sofia will meet her again and we'll continue our journey together.  

Meanwhile, in Turkey, where I last saw Sofia, the ney plays for her and for us.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for seeing her beauty.
    Sofia's friend.