Wednesday, January 09, 2013

In Remembrance

"As a young man he was able to stand up to just about the best that life can offer , which is not easy, and later he stood up with equal grace to just about the worst." -Herbert Warren Wind on Bobby Jones

Occasionally, we meet people that leave a mark.  It can happen in a few short moments or over a long period of time, but that mark becomes pronounced when it is real and meaningful.  That mark is often imperceptible until life events reveal its depth and breadth.  At which time, clarity emerges as to the impact that people can have in our lives.

I met Rok in the first days of our MBA program at IMD in 2005.  Our initial connection was his Slovenian background and the fact that I had visited his home country in 1998 when I studied abroad in Milan; we became fast friends.  This relationship deepened when we were lucky enough to work together in "G7", our first group in the program.  Deep relationships means something more than pleasantries and parties at IMD due to the intensive nature of the program.  After braving the (in)famous group dynamics work together in G7, I learned that Rok was truly special; his genuine enthusiasm for life and the people that surrounded him was extraordinary.  He was as gentle and thoughtful as the rolling yet bellowing cadence of his voice, and his smile was as infectious as it was a permanent fixture whenever we crossed paths.  Some of my best memories from IMD revolve around experiences we shared closely together - the integrative exercise, the MBA Olympics, and the summer trip he organized to Bovec after our class expedition to Bosnia.  Those memories continued after IMD, even though we lived continents apart, he in Geneva and me in the DC area.  He was an honored guest at my wedding in 2007, and I will never forget the daring road trip he made in the 2010 "snowmageddon" from Delaware to Maryland for an afternoon visit.

Perilous journey...

...Lasting friendship

Unfortunately, cancer cut short his journey in this life, took hold of him and put up an unfair fight.  He leaves behind a precious baby girl less than two years old and an amazing wife who has made us all feel part of their family, even when the difficult times would make most of us withdraw and face such struggles alone.  It took a long time for him to even share these struggles with me, such was his selflessness and focus on others.  I take comfort in the fact that all my memories with Rok are great ones, the type that define friendship and fellowship.  He would have no regrets anyways, it was always the moments we shared together, in the moment, that mattered.

Our last quality time spent together was in Geneva after our 5-year MBA reunion in September 2010.  He invited me to stay at his flat before I departed the next day.  We walked along the lake on an impending Sunday afternoon, his voice soothing and meditative against the backdrop of a brooding weather pattern moving across the sky.  The cancer was already present, but I would never know it; as usual, it was about the moment and the time we had together, his smile ever-present and glowing.  No doubt, the treasure of this memory and so many others will measure far beyond the too-brief period of time we were able to share together, and his mark is well-pronounced and palpable.  In remembrance of Rok.

>>> You can help fulfill Rok's wishes of providing educational opportunities for impoverished students from the former Yugoslavia by giving forward here, in lieu of flowers.
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