After a week of planning and preparing, yesterday, Saturday May 30th, it was time for the funeral. My dad had given some insight into what he would like for us to include, such as his dance video and some music, as well as notifying us of which of his friends would like to speech, but the rest was up to us.
Last Monday (May 25th), after walking through all the details and decisions to be made for things such as the floral arrangement, where the honorary gathering would start before the funeral, what to include and in what order, we felt somewhat overwhelmed. Not so much because it was a lot to organise, but this past week, almost anything felt exhausting.
By Wednesday we had the speech-flow in order and started working on what we would like to say. We gathered photos for the music pieces, as well as for each of the speakers.
The rest of the week was somewhat calm as we just spend time sitting in the sunshine, reading, writing, and figuring out what to wear. Supposedly its easy to pick something to wear for a funeral. Something black that’s somewhat fancy. But my dad’s funeral would be different. He wanted colours, people dressed in reds, yellows, greens, and blues. The more colourful the better.
As we send out invitations to the live stream and for the honorary gathering that would take place at the cemetery, we instructed people to come in colourful clothing. Our whole family was dressed in only color, my dad’s friends dressed in only colour. My dad’s Sunday football team dressed in their blue jerseys.
Friday night, Marjolein, Coen, and their eldest son Dex arrived. We ate sushi and had wine, wondering about what the next day would bring. We went to bed on time, knowing the next day would require lots of energy.
The next morning I woke up before the alarm, as some healthy nerves set in. While trying to fall back asleep, Dex, who is six years old, wandered into mine and Rowie’s room and crawled into bed, asking to play his game with him. We decided to go downstairs so Rowie could sleep.
After making some coffee and chitchatting with Marjolein, we prepared breakfast and woke up the rest of the house. After some oven-baked breads, soft-boiled eggs, and some juices we cleared the table and started getting dressed before the family would arrive.
We had invited our family over before the funeral for some coffee and sweets. They had driven 200 kilometres to get to Hilversum and with the drive and nerves, they were in need of a quiet moment before the event. An hour later, at 11:00, we left the apartment and headed to the location where we would meet the hearse and drive along the honorary gathering. When Sonja, the funeral director, called us to give the green light, she said it was /super/ busy. Eagerly, with five cars following behind, we drove to see about a hundred people gathered outside, with flowers and tears.
The hearse drove slowly, as people laid flowers on the car and waved at us. From the speakers of Coen and Marjolein’s car we played “Don’t You Worry Child” by the Swedish House Mafia (INSERT LINK), a song which holds a special place for us. The last time we all danced together in our dad’s apartment, my dad laughed and watched as his four kids became one with the music, while dancing to this song. But what makes it even more special was that my dad and one of his best friends, Matthias, also had a special connection to this song. A father-child connection for each of them, but also the song that marks one of their most memorable nights together. For all of us the song connects. And as our dad wanted his funeral to be a party, we made it just that by blasting this song as we drove past those who came to celebrate our dad.
Due to COVID, funerals currently cannot have more than thirty people. Everyone who had come to gather outside the thirty minutes before we would start, would then turn to their phones in order to watch the livestream, an alternative to still include the initial hundreds of guests. Afterwards we found out that over 800 people had watched the livestream from all over the world. People in the US, people in the UK, all over The Netherlands, even in the Caribbean, people who shared a love for my dad tuned in to watch his final party.
We parked the car and walked the last 50 metres behind the hearse, into the cemetery and the auditorium where the ceremony would be held. The four men my dad had requested to be the carriers moved the coffin from the hearse into the auditorium, afterwards everyone took their seat.
Marjolein, as eldest child started the ceremony by welcoming everyone. She then shared the story of my dad’s battle with cancer for the past three years and explained how we got to where we are today. She talked about the beautiful and wonderful man my dad is and the life he lived.
Her speech was followed by a video my sister made, filled with memories from our dad and his life.
Next his sister Beppy spoke, an old colleague and friend, Qruun, followed by music, accompanied with photos. Then it was Rowena, his brother Ton, and his Sunday morning soccer friend, Jos. After Jos we did something very unusual for a funeral: we danced. We danced to “Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia, inviting the friends who were watching via the livestream to dance along. Then Matthias, one of dad’s best friends spoke about their friendship and the man my dad is. Which then I followed with my speech and closing remarks.
I spoke about not having to miss my dad. I feel him around me, near me. His energy is in life and in the world. Even though I cannot see him physically, I feel him nearby. When I’m sitting on his bench (as I am now), I feel him sitting next to me. When I’m walking on the /Hei/, I feel him in the breeze that blows and the sun that shines. When I am with my siblings, I see him in them, recognising traits and philosophies.
After the ceremony was over, we carried his coffin to his final resting place. Everyone carries some of the flowers we had received, and never have I seen a grave covered in so much colour. After everyone had gathered around, his other sister, Catja, read a beautiful poem about letting go, followed by a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way”, a song that resonated very much with my dad, as he did everything /his/ way.
After the beautiful cover of the song, we toasted, with a glass of white wine (my dad’s favourite), to the beautiful life he had lived and enjoyed.
We each said our goodbyes, heading towards the /Hei/ where we would take a last short stroll. But the goodbyes weren’t really goodbyes. While the funeral/celebration felt more like a Western ritual, it didn’t feel like my dad was still in there. He’s somewhere else, his soul floating through the universe. It didn’t feel sad, it only felt strange. But the ritual aspect of the funeral also created some peace. A closing ceremony to the events of the past three years. Closing a chapter.
Now it’s the next day, and I feel tired and calm. Everything yesterday was beautiful and felt complete. Now I want to move forward. I want to continue to think and talk to my dad, and spend time with my siblings, our bond having grown even stronger than before. But I also want to travel and create, to live a life filled with excitement, love, and adventure. I know my dad is close by, watching over like a guardian angel, or better yet, a guardian swallow.