Thursday, 7 June 2012

7 juneathon

I aspired to run today, as planned. But I could not do it this morning. Instead I rode my bike and raced the dog to tire him out before my son and I left for the day to go to Albert's memorial service. My heart started to break again when I suggested my son bring some tissues, and concurred in his decision to wear his suit.  I packed sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs (a symbol of life to me), and tissues of my own.

The procession of young people - Albert's students - started at Central Station in The Hague. When we arrived, I saw scores of young people holding one or two flowers and talking quietly in small groups.  My son quickly joined his friends and I mine.  We are middle-aged parents, red-eyed, weathered and weary.  There is eye contact, but only fleeting glances and tender nods so as not to break the dam.

The train ride to Gouda took no time. No map or directions were needed. One only needed to step into the stream of young people walking down the main road to St John's Church.


The Church was filled to capacity.  A special section is reserved for Albert's students. The simplicity of his coffin surprises me.  It is unadorned, made of raw blonde wood, with simple knobs holding the top closed. I imagine his broken and battered body inside, and shift my gaze to the flowers and the stained glass windows. 

I kept thinking this is awful.  But really what it is is painful. There are so many young people here.  Albert taught the equivalent of Junior High - budding, awkward adolescents.  Gangly arms and legs, mature faces they won't grow into for several years.

The service is at once beautiful and painful. The students sang together. Many gave tributes.  I listened carefully, understanding most of the Dutch.  I was surprised at the pain in my body. I had pain travel throughout my body during the service. Cramps in my neck and back, stomach, and jaw.  At one point I had a blinding head ache. I kept breathing and thought of Albert and the train.  Perhaps I am porous. 

The children formed a procession with family and close friends and walked Albert's body on a little wagon to the cemetery.  I went to the garden of the church museum and visited with friends for a while, waiting for my son to return. We had coffee and tea and small snacks.  

After a while, my son sent me a message that encouraged me to go home, saying he'd return with his friends.  At the state house I see a beautiful bride and her new groom, and a horse drawn carriage approaching.  I wonder about Albert's wife and the loss of her companion. And his daughters, their father.

I am exhausted. 

Making dinner tonight, I decide on vegetable soup. I have no appetite. I drop a chunk of sweet unsalted butter into the steam pot, turn on the fire, and slice into the base of a cauliflower, releasing the flowerets into the pot. I quarter an onion and remove the skin. I rummage through the fridge and select a courgette and carrots to add to the mix.  I am pleased by the act of preparing the vegetables and cooking them. I wonder how Albert could give this up.  The simplicity of preparing a meal. 

Water and bullion cube, time. I blend the cooked vegetables and add salt and more butter. It's too hot to eat, but I ladle a mug anyway, blowing on each spoonful.  Satisfied, I curl up with my boy on the couch and fall to sleep for a little while. Then I make him food and more food. 

It has stopped raining finally. I receive another message from the school, this one warning again of more bad news. A teacher's child has been killed in a car accident.   I think death comes from birth. The only pain is the disruption of our expectations, about how we think life should unfold. I cannot say this though to my friend who sends me a text message that she is crying again. There is more but it is too fresh to write. I feel hollow.

I take Odie to the beach. He is eager to go, straining to hurry me up. I let him off the lead and he romps and prances, making sand-dog-angels, nestling his whole body into the wet sand. Then he scampers down into the sea. It's flat calm. The sun is low and red and bright. The colors are reflected in the short line on the receding waves.  I wish I brought my camera. Instead, I go sit next to our boat on the beach and look at the sun dropping behind clouds towards the horizon. 

When I get back home, I've made tea and finally write this.


  1. I don't know what to say, but wanted to say something so you knew I'd stopped by. Praying for some peace within the mess. Bless you, Chris.

  2. Not much to say really. As you were in Gouda, I was thinking it would have been my father's birthday. Well, life goes on. One day at a time.

    1. thankfully, only one day at a time. I'd hate to skip a few and miss out.

  3. I'm sorry and my thoughts are with you.

    1. thanks. it was a little better today.


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