I've been in Turkey for such a short time but there are things I've observed that have helped me to connect to this place and this culture. One of those things is the family relationships. Turks are such loving and kind people. They are so affectionate with their family and their close friends. It makes me feel like I can easily connect to them too. One such friend is my teaching partner, Nilay. She was gracious enough to welcome me into her family home and introduce me to her closest friends in her hometown for one weekend. I felt warmly welcomed and like I was not just a visiting stranger, but some long lost, foreign language speaking cousin or family member. I loved seeing the affection and love in their family. The were all genuinely happy to see us arrive and genuinely saddened to see us walk out the door on our last day. It helped me to feel like I wasn't so far away from my own family.
Today, I am deeply saddened to report that my good friend's father passed away from a heart attack. It was such a shock. I can't and won't erase the last image I have of him. This man who pretended to be annoyed with his middle daughter's most exuberant of hugs when all the while his eyes twinkled with mirth, love and a beautiful pride for the beautiful daughter in his arms. I love that image, I love the way that this man with all his daughters so embraced and cared for them. I love the way Nilay spoke of him as the gentlest of men with the kindest of hearts and the openest of minds. My heart breaks for my friend, for her mother, her two sisters and her young niece. My heart breaks that this tragedy has happened to one of the sweetest families I've known here. My prayers go out to them for today and the days, months and years to come. This blog post is dedicated to Nilay, her father and her family. May they find strength and comfort in each other and in knowing that their special family impacted and touched the lives of many.