This morning, around 1:30 AM my father passed away. Three of his four children were next to his bedside as well as two of my sons.

Life was no fun for him the last few months and I cannot view this other than a relief for his poor strained body. If anything, he is a better place.

I will do his eulogy coming Wednesday.

How sweet of you all to be here this morning. We, the children, love you all equally of course, but please allow me to say a word of special gratitude to Trudy and her colleagues, who have have taken care of Harm, an extraordinary man after all, with so much patience, love and compassion. We are intensely and sincerely grateful to you all.

An extraordinary man.

It’s asking for trouble when a father tries to impersonate the use of language of his children. When I came home a few years ago and instigated by a client and against my somewhat better judgement I told my kids I thought something or somebody was “lauw” [means lukewarm] instead of “cool” or “hot” or “fat”, I was met with surprised but sorry looks, while one of them added “Well sorry dad, but really, you can’t do that? ‘Lauw’, I mean, nobody says that anymore, not for the last couple of years anyway”. Okaaaaay.

So, when I started probing the new generation what they thought about their granddad, their qualification was simply “grandpa was boss”. And for the older youngsters here, I have been told that is supposed to be pronounced as “baassch”. From what I understand, and by now you should be a bit sceptical about that, it is the modern term for what you all found written on the funeral card: Strong, Unique, Willfull. And stubborn as a mule. We would probably say “An extraordinary man”.

An extraordinary man, as most of you probably have experienced. When mom and dad threw a party for the neighborhood, he would get up around midnight and announce he’d go to bed, leaving the others in a state of bewilderment. The neighbors because they were wondering if this was a not-so-very-subtle hint, and my mom for a short moment, wondering if it would be possible or not to be put in a more embarrassing situation. The parties continued of course.

An extraordinary man, who could seemingly fall asleep in the middle of a conversation. For his colleagues it was a cue that their meeting had deteriorated to senseless babbling, for my brother Harm an exquisite opportunity to place the butter dish under his slowly falling chin. Something that earned my sister True an unwarranted smack.

An extraordinary man, who could do anything. When during a fall storm rainwater was literally pouring down the chimney wall, he earned himself the eternal admiration of my mom by gluing a sheet of plastic through the water against the wall diverting it into a bucket. And that admiration was very needed indeed: he had bought that cold cold, petroleum heated ruin, including a half functioning sewer without her consent after a job switch. Hey, he was the man after all!

An extraordinary man, who did not interfere with the kids that much, after all, that was in my mom’s “job description”, but who on the other hand always did everything to ensure we would do better. Teaching, always knowing better, often grumbling how things should improve, nagging about the small things, but then, surprisingly easy, forgiving and generous on the big things, the things that mattered.

An extraordinary man, who always ensured our not too small family went on vacation abroad every single year, and I am not talking Northern Belgium either. We tend to forget that this is a must nowadays, twice a year that is, but in the 60’s, that was most certainly not the norm. And we, the kids, learned a lot from that. Not that the car ever stopped by the way. “When it rains, we drive”, “You can pee in that bottle” and “Oh, we JUST passed that parking lot?” have become serious words in our family.

An extraordinary man, with whom, and over whom we have laughed tremendously. And in line with those vacations, let me give you a cliffhanger. Ask my sis True about “The Camping Bed”. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

An extraordinary man, with a strong sense of justice, who not only quit a new job after he discovered this would not be his thing, but also returned his salary: his opinion was simply that the company had not benefited in any way.

An extraordinary man, who, together with my mom, bravely and with all his weight (literally and figuratively) scared away two armed bank robbers from the local bank office. When they were already in their 70’s that is.

My dad….. was an extraordinary man. My dad…… was “Baassch”.

Johannes Brahms, 3rd symphony, 3rd part Poco Allegretto

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Shirley Bassey, The Performance Of My Life (uh huh, he liked Shirley)

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Gustav Mahler, 2nd symphony, part 4, Urlicht (primeval light)

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O Röschen rot!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Not!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Pein!
Je lieber möcht’ ich im Himmel sein.
Da kam ich auf einen breiten Weg:
Da kam ein Engelein und wollt’ mich abweisen.
Ach nein! Ich ließ mich nicht abweisen!
Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott!
Der liebe Gott wird mir ein Lichtchen geben,
Wird leuchten mir bis in das ewig selig Leben!

O red rose!
Man lies in greatest need!
Man lies in greatest pain!
How I would rather be in heaven.
There came I upon a broad path
when came a little angel and wanted to turn me away.
Ah no! I would not let myself be turned away!
I am from God and shall return to God!
The loving God will grant me a little light,
Which will light me into that eternal blissful life!

John Rutter – Distant land

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A picture of him at the funeral of my mother, 3 years ago.