Southend

[geschreven op 2 januari, nadat Colin me de vorige dag rond het middaguur gebeld had en me in tranen gemeld dat onze Lúcia een uur daarvoor in het Southend Hospital was overleden, nadat hij achttien jaar eerder zijn vorige vrouw ook aan kanker had verloren. Of ik het doodsbericht aan Lúcia’s moeder wilde overbrengen, aangezien Colin en Maria elkaars taal niet spreken.]

Dear Colin,
I know it’s only words. But words are all I have, so I’ll give it a try …
I can fully understand why you said it the way you did, yesterday – that your wives have not been very lucky with you. You obviously felt that saying it the other way around would come across as insensitive, or even egotistic. However, it is no less true … you’ve been very unlucky as well. Nevertheless, I feel you should hang on to the moments that you were … uh, feeling lucky. I mean, there’s no doubt in my mind that you had many moments with your former wife, and with Lucy, when you felt on top of the world … and they were feeling the same with you. Just think of all the people who never had that experience, or – as one of your famous poets put it – ‘it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’ (or something like that). 
Anyway, we know that Lucy felt on top of the world with you. I’ll never forget she told us how proud she was when you introduced her to your friends as ‘My lady’. Actually, it was quite a revelation – if not out of character – a private person like she was, telling us that. That says it all, doesn’t it?
Yes, Maria took it hard as was to be expected. What I did not expect, is that I would make more noise than her. I’m such a sissy. I thought I had gotten a firm grip on myself, in order to remain calm while telling her. Well, I failed miserably. We curled up and cried our hearts out. 
Later on, I called off the festivities we had planned for the day. The people were lovely. They showed up on our doorstep to pay their respect. I asked (neighbour and Welshman) Gwilym if he knew anything about the procedures in Britain when people donated their body to science. I remember (our catholic friend) Ria was feeling at a loss that she would not even have a tombstone to turn to after Gerry had done the same. She claimed that the body parts that they could not … uh, use so to speak … were to be incinerated. Anyway, Gwil told me that in Britain they don’t do tombstones at all anymore. ‘Nowadays, people are cremated,’ he said, ‘preferably after they died, and the partner then receives the ashes, in order to dispose of them wherever they see fit or agreed upon.’ Well, that takes care of that. We know that Lucy never wanted us over there, so I feel it would be daft to only show up at her funeral. I believe Ria finds this quite cold-hearted on my part, but her feelings are the least of my worries at the moment. My main concern is her mother (Lucy’s, not Ria’s). She just refuses to believe what has happened. Or rather, she just can’t believe that Lucy is not there anymore. 
I tried to explain that Lucy will always be there, as long as we live, in our hearts and in our souls, but … then again, it’s only words. And words are all I have. I did not get through to her, anyway. She was walking around all day like a zombie. At least the friends and family stopping by the house and calling on the phone forced her more or less to let reality sink in. 
I gave her a remedy last night – one that would have taken a horse out (or even me, or you) – and she finally fell asleep. As a matter of fact, she is still sound asleep. So, no worries there, mate!
I do hope you’re coping. My heart goes out to you.
Hang in there, and keep us posted, please!
Jaap

[het onderstaande geschreven op 6 januari, gisteren dus, nadat Colin me verteld had dat hij de avond tevoren door de London Anatomy Office gebeld was met de mededeling dat ze Lúcia’s lichaam de volgende dag zouden … uh, oppikken in het mortuarium van Southend Hospital, teneinde het over te brengen naar een van de academische ziekenhuizen die Londen rijk is; hij wist niet welke. Lúcia zou extra interessant zijn voor de academici, zei hij, omdat inmiddels lijkt te zijn vastgesteld dat het uiteindelijk niet de kanker was die haar doodde, maar een voortwoekerende kaakontsteking – een ontsteking die niet behandeld kon worden vanwege de chemotherapie die ze de afgelopen vier jaar en acht maanden om de twee weken ontving, en die haar een halfjaar geleden een hardnekkige sinusinfectie (voorhoofdsholteontsteking) bezorgde, de afgelopen weken belette te praten, eten of drinken en ook haar gehoor buiten gevecht stelde. Hij vertelde dat de stoffelijke resten later gecremeerd en aan hem toegestuurd zouden worden, maar had geen idee hoeveel tijd eroverheen gaat voor het zover is.]

Hey Colin,
I might need you to send me a copy of the death certificate, after all. Not to any legal ends or so, but to prove to her mum that Lucy is really dead. 
I believe I told you a couple of days ago that Maria had a hard time believing what had happened. Understandably! For more than half a century now, her daughter was her reference point in life. Innit?
But when I explained to her what you had just explained to me, she repeated that she does not really believe that Lucy is dead. I cannot fathom what she means with those words – is it prolonged shock, or does she really believe that Lucy is still living the life of Riley, throwing back beers at the Con Club together with you as if the stuff is going out of fashion?
I really don’t know.
The certificate of her death or the urn of ashes may drive it home to her. Well, we’ll see when reality kicks in.
I hope you have people around you whom you do want to confide in, mate, and who are able to support you in your grief. Anyway, all the best!
Jaap

Hey Jaap,
Once I get the death certificate I will send you a copy. When the ashes are returned to me I will deliver them personally.
Colin

My dear man,
We would highly appreciate that.
Jaap 

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3 Responses

  1. S.T. Hiemstra says:

    Jitris, ús tinzen binne by jimme. Alle sterkte fan ‘e wrâld tawinske!