in the bleak mid-winter

fair warning: this is not exactly a “feel good” holiday post, but one full of “living life vibes”.

this year has been one i will remember. mostly for good reasons, but it’s been a sad past week. this was the year that i went to my first czech wedding (reception), first celebration of new babies that were born, and sadly, also my first czech funeral. (hopefully my last, but you never can be sure).

what i think it means is that i am living life. life is happening right now. i celebrated new life, i celebrated the joining of two lives, and mourned the loss of a friend and student of mine.

but to be quite clear, m wasn’t just any student. it was the lesson that you quickly forget is actually a lesson. he’s a person i’ve mentioned on this blog before, who has been a constant in my life for the majority of my time living here in budejovice. one that i always got on famously with, could talk with for hours about all things in life, and who would always light up any room. he was the planner and organizer, just like me. it’s funny that even through the (small) language barrier, these things could be true. his death came on all too suddenly before i even knew what was going on and knocked the wind out of me a little bit. language barrier can do that sometimes… some of the details can be lost, leading you to piece together somethings yourself or assume. it was far worse than i imagined.

a blanket of snow fell in the week between this announcement and the funeral, the week where i tried to grapple with this loss while also having a nice christmas dinner party with friends that helped bring some cheer to an otherwise bleak week. (thank you, friends)

yesterday morning, alex and i went to a cemetery on the outskirts of town where there was a little chapel. the sky was a stark white, the ground covered with snow, and flakes were lightly falling. a large crowd of us stood in front of the chapel, trying to pack in, but the chapel couldn’t possibly contain all of the friends and family that wanted to pay respects. after the service when the people poured back out, they played an american rock song i vaguely knew. i don’t know why, but that made me sadder than anything.

up until this point, i had only attended two funerals before. the first was essentially a gig, performing on behalf of a family member of my bandmate. the second for my grandmother, who was cremated. but this was the first coffin i’ve ever seen with my own eyes, first procession, and the first time you feel that unsettling, sad feeling of seeing a friend of yours being lowered into the ground. oh man, it just does not get stranger than that. it was the traditional sort of service, i suppose. grief is an odd thing, especially during a time that is supposed to be among the happiest of the year.

although this was a horrible situation and has brought much sadness and suffering for many, i am happy i was able to get to know such a wonderful person in my life and that it wasn’t too late for us to cross paths. i am so thankful that his family thought to invite me to this farewell and to celebrate alongside their family. and i am beyond grateful to be reminded that i am part of a wonderful community here in budejovice. the people i have met in the (almost) five years here are unlike any i have ever met and i think i’ll never forget any of them.

i feel very close with this, my city, today.

i almost didn’t want to publish this post because not only is it intensely personal, it’s not the most uplifting. however, this blog is a collection of life and cultural experiences living in the czech republic, and to not share in this space wouldn’t feel exactly genuine. so, there you go. thank you for reading.

in other (lighter) news, we are looking forward to celebrating a german christmas nestled in the beautiful mountains and among the glacial lakes of bavaria this weekend. i know it will be a cozy time of pure relaxation and good holiday vibes, and i am ready. my german teacher has already reprimanded me because i told her i want to speak english with the hotel reception, explaining to her that it will be a “little holiday” from living in another language… at least while in the hotel. (is it so wrong?) looking forward to walks with our travel pup, german christmas markets, and whatever holiday magic comes our way.

so today, on the day of the winter solstice, it’s time to look forward with what may come in the next season, and to the yuletide season. i wish you a happy, and healthy christmas and see you before the new year for some re-cap posts. don’t forget to enjoy the moment and hold your dear ones close.