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It's hot and humid and I can't sleep. Tomorrow This afternoon, The Netherlands will meet Brazil in the quarter finals of the World Cup, and I fully expect them to lose; which is a shame as I've managed to accumulate quite a nice little collection of Oranje icons over the last few weeks that now, sadly, will have to go unused.

Day 30: A song you haven't listened to in a while

Emma Kirkby & Evelyn Tubb sing Chiome d'Oro, by Monteverdi

the rest of the days )

Earlier in the meme, when asked to list a song that reminded me of my best friend, I came up with Monty Python's Sit On My Face, which Peronne would usually begin to sing after she'd had a glass or two. This song, though, and in fact the entire cd from which it's plucked (Emma Kirkby & Evelyn Tubb sing Monteverdi Duets & Solos with The Consort of Musick - Director: Anthony Rooley, Innovative Music Productions Ltd., 1987), will forever remind me of my other dear departed friend Joost, who even though he was a lifelong Bob Dylan-fan, whenever he came round to mine would frequently choose to put on. Which is probably why I haven't listened to it since well before his death.
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We gathered in the RC church of St. John the Baptist in Hoofddorp yesterday morning for Joost's memorial service and funeral. There had been a wake the night before, that I hadn't been able to attend -sometimes I curse myself for not having gotten another car after my VW got stolen, when it means I can't get anywhere in the countryside at night- but it had been well-attended by all accounts, and at the end of the ceremony the casket had been closed, so there was no final viewing of the body in the Mary chapel when I arrived half an hour before the service started. The church was packed, filled to the rafters with people from all over the country and abroad, and it reminded me of something Joost had once said, that if he had one talent, it was for forging friendships. The sheer number of people present in the church confirmed the accuracy of his words.

Other than his illness, I don't think I've ever told you about Joost, who he was and what he did. He was an exceptionally gifted man, with a warm personality, a thoughtful demeanour, a wicked dry sense of humour, inquisitive, capable, confident, knowledgeable about the most diverse things, and a lust for life that was astounding. He collected hobbies like other people stamps, and he did this cumulatively: he kept adding more to them, but rarely let one drop. He loved being on and in the water, so he took up sailing, and deep sea diving. He drove motorcycles, took up hiking (we were planning to do the Coast to Coast walk one summer when he became ill), loved DIY and pottering around in the vegetable patch (he had a keen interest in organic farming). He was also something of an armchair philosopher, who never embarked on any new science, venture or pastime without reading up on it properly first. He played the violin, self-taught. He knew about whiskies, and cigars. In his professional life, he started out as an archaeologist specialising in underwater archaeology, but in the late 90s in order to better support his family, switched to a career in Public Relations, until in 2002 his illness forced him to give that up too. He was a lifelong Bob Dylan-fan, so it wasn't surprising that the service he had for the most part arranged himself was centred on some carefully chosen Dylan songs: I Believe In You when the casket was brought up front, Lord Protect My Child when his children and their nephews lit the candles next to it, Lay Lady Lay after his wife had delivered her eulogy, Saved after the lesson (Luke 10:25-37) and the sermon, Shelter From The Storm during Holy Communion. He had intended for I Believe In You to be played a second time while his casket was taken outside, but the verger made a mistake in pressing the buttons on the remote and it was Shelter From The Storm again...

Nicole, his wife, Jean-Paul, his brother, two of his friends and Rein, his father-in-law, all made moving speeches, as did Father Cees who'd gotten to know Joost quite well over the last few years they've lived in Hoofddorp (they moved there about 3 or 4 years ago, I think) and joined his flock; they'd worked together quite intensively on the christening of the children early last year for instance. Because that's another thing about Joost: he had a deep and abiding faith, that didn't preclude his ability for independent thought. Many's the nights we sat up in our student days and discussed the finer points of theology and dogma, and so it was only the most natural thing for me to ask Joost to stand godfather to me when I arranged for my own baptism. He took it as an honour, but also as a real responsibility, and so now I have not only lost a friend, but a spiritual guide as well. Even on my last visit, we talked about the difficulties of practicing the Catholic faith in the day-to-day, and how much harder the likes of Bishop Wilkinson and the former Joseph Ratzinger make it to keep sight of the central tenets and not give it all up in a fit of rage and desperation -- even though as usual, nothing got resolved. But that's OK, because I've learned from Joost that it's possible to question, be critical, and still be a good Catholic.

Anyway, back to the service: the church was awash in flowers and wreaths (all pink and white roses as per Joost's request) and after Shelter From The Storm had sounded a second time, we were asked to take them to the churchyard and form a flowery corridor for the casket and family to pass through. Then the flowers were stacked all along the gravesite, covering the adjacent graves as well, and under the watchful eye of the congregation, Joost was lowered into his grave, all the children let go of their white balloons, and then we all filed past throwing handfuls of rose petals onto the casket. After that, we repaired to a nearby hotel for the reception and lunch. His poor family stood shaking the hands of hundreds of people, while the rest of us milled around exchanging a few words with people we hadn't seen in years and aren't likely to see again if ever. It's funny how people don't really change even if you haven't seen them for twenty years. Yes, they may wear a suit now when you can still remember them in their scruffy jeans all those years ago, they may have filled out a bit and their hair might have a hint (or more) of grey, but their eyes and their gestures are still the same so you recognise them instantly, and in some instances it's fascinating to learn what they've been up to -- some of them have gone on telly, others have had to deal with private tragedies (Demetrius's wife for instance became brain damaged through some sort of sudden illness very early on in their marriage, and he's been caring for her for the last 15 years when she can't speak, can't walk, can't do anything for herself, yet he's devoted to her and does it without complaining...and this is the same Demetrius who was the poster child for juvenile amourous irresponsibility, a Jack the Lad who when we were at uni together, had several girlfriends on the go and treated them all abominably).

I left the reception after about an hour, when I could hitch a ride back to The Hague with another uni friend. In my bag, the order of service and a booklet with some of Joost's poems (the writing of which was another hobby of his). I'll just quote one here:

De pop met het gebroken hoofd
Roos wil fietsen, fietsen
Verder dan het einde van de straat
Voorbij waar de mensen zijn
Of iets nog maar bestaat
Want haar papa is weer ziek geworden
Ze heeft het al die tijd gevoeld
Wat met mama's snikken en
'Ik neem de telefoon wel boven'
Werd bedoeld

Gisteren is ze apart genomen
Op papa's warme schoot
Aan het eind
Kon ze alleen maar zeggen
Lieve papa ga je dood
Ik weet het is weer teruggekomen
De celletjes in je hoofd
Maar je zou toch altijd
Bij me blijven
Dat had je toch beloofd


(translation: The doll with the broken head

Roos wants to go cycling, cycling
Farther than the end of the street
Far beyond where there are people
or where anything else even exists
Because her daddy has fallen ill again
She's felt it all this time
What was meant with mummy's sobbing and
'I'll take the phone upstairs'

Yesterday she was taken into
Daddy's warm lap
All she could say at the end
Dear daddy are you dying
I know it's come back again
the little cells inside your head
But you would always
stay with me
That's the promise that you made)
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In among the bills for this week, the news I'd been dreading: Joost passed away peacefully in his sleep on March 18th. He was 45 years old.

It was love that had given him the strength to withstand his illness for the last 10 years, and at the last, it was love that gave him the strength also to let go.
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Christmas has been cancelled at Dad's care home, because of an outbreak of norovirus disease. I was going to go round there Christmas Day, but I've only just recovered from the flu' (except for a cough and a runny nose), so I don't know if I still should...

Joost has become completely paralysed and has lost the ability to speak. Remarkably, he still clings on to life, but quite honestly he's not expected to last much longer...His wife told me he could go at any moment, and she's afraid of leaving the house for even the slightest errand. His daughter, who is 7, is throwing tantrums because the situation frightens her so. My heart goes out to them this Christmas, but there's very little I can do, and I think they need to experience these final days as a family without interruptions or intrusions. I'm glad though that not too long ago, I got to spend a day with Joost, and we walked, and talked, and said goodbye.

Which is not to say I won't be heartbroken when he goes -- but at least I can remember him, standing tall in the sunlight, smiling, and accepting of his lot without the slightest hint of anger or self-pity. I will always be grateful for having had his friendship for so long.
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I received the news yesterday that Joost has gone into decline. He suffers from severe epileptic fits almost every day, and the chemo has been stopped. All care now will be strictly palliative.
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At a meeting at my father's care home this afternoon, convened to lay the residents' and their families' fears to rest, I was pleased to hear that the home will do everything in its power to rehome the people in their care, and for that reason are willing not only to work with the families and mediate with other care homes in the area, whether they belong to the same company or not; but also, they have promised to pay for each individual move, and to pay for the cost of refurbishing the rooms in the homes of their choice (wallpaper, carpets and curtains).

It's a shame the other three homes the company runs in the area are all on the outskirts of town, whereas the home they are closing is right in the centre and only two streets away from where Mum lives. Still, one of these isn't too far from me and will be our preferred option. We've arranged for Dad to go and see all three of them next week, and then we'll find out from him if he could see himself living in any particular one, or whether we'll need to look further afield.

The Union has asked me to provide their lawyers with a copy of my contract, but despite ransacking the flat from top to bottom, I couldn't find it. So I had to go back to HR and ask them to send me another copy, which they promised to do, but not until I told them what I needed it for. Of course now they can forget about me having an answer for them the moment I get back from my holiday, which means that next week I'm going to have to stall and make excuses, and I'm not looking forward to it one bit.

Amazingly, 5 months since his last surgery and after 6 double doses of chemo, Joost is back on his feet, WALKING and taking the children to the pool on his bicycle. The latest scans show that the tumours have shrunk significantly, although they haven't yet disappeared. But he's out of the wheelchair and getting on with life...he is just unstoppable.
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Joost came through the surgery okay, and has already left the ICU. They're still monitoring him for possible blood clots/hemorrhages/etc. but are reasonably optimistic that he'll get through the next couple of days without further incident.
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Got a call from my sister this morning; Mick's friends had all left her in the lurch and she desperately needed someone to help her move, but at such short notice and at a time when most people are on holiday, who was she going to get? Well, me and the brother of one of her colleagues, is who. So I've spent the day lugging beds and boxes and bits of furniture around, loading and unloading the van, and boy! am I tired now. And hurty -- it would appear my shoulder, which has given me nary a twinge for the last two days, wasn't quite up to the task. When will I learn, eh?

Though I could hardly have refused to help. Anyway, they're up in their new abode tonight, with nothing to do but to sort out their stuff as neither cable nor Internet have made it to the area yet...nor have landlines. Which is a bit worrisome, as I've noticed mobile reception isn't great there, either. I'll see how they've got on in a few days, as I've been invited to see out 2007 over at theirs. Then I'll see in 2008 with a christening -- Joost's son and daughter (3 and 6 years old, respectively) are going to be baptised on New Year's Day, in the church their father and I visited after Peronne died.

He has decided to put his life on the line one more time. He will go in for his fifth and final surgery on January 3rd.
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...though I did think, for a long moment, that I was a goner.

This morning on my way to work, I had a little accident. Alighting from one bus, I saw my connecting bus pull up at the busstop across the road, and without thinking, or looking, dashed towards it. Then suddenly, there was another bus that had just left from another stop, which meant it thankfully didn't travel at too much speed yet...but its trajectory and my position in the road meant it couldn't avoid me altogether. All I could do was put out a hand in a vain attempt to ward off the worst of the impact. The breaking bus collided with my outstretched arm, and I was pleased to see that I was still in one piece after that. The bus driver called me a few names, but I didn't care and ran for my connecting bus which was already pulling out of the stop. That bus driver also had a few choice words to say to me, but I couldn't find it in me to feel offended -- I had, after all, been behaving quite irresponsibly.

Anyway, I thought I'd gotten away without any noticeable injury, and thanked my lucky stars for it. I continued on my way to the office, got to work, but it soon transpired I hadn't come out of the collision unscathed. My right arm and shoulder became very sore indeed, and although I couldn't see or feel anything amiss, I decided after about an hour of gritting my teeth and getting on with it that I'd really much rather have it checked out properly.

I've now come home from having my GP examine it, and it's as I thought: I've not broken anything, but I do seem to have bruised the joint capsule quite severely. She's given me painkillers and anti-inflammatories, and the advice to try and use my arm as much as possible without paying too much heed to the pain, to lessen the chance of developing a frozen shoulder. However, since I expect the pain to be a whole lot worse by tomorrow (believing that this kind of thing always tends to get worse before it gets better), I've decided not to tell Jobsworth that last bit and just take the rest of the week off. It'll give me a chance to decide what to do this Christmas.

In closing, let me tell you that the latest news concerning Joost is not good: the tumour has started to grow back again, he has now become paralysed, and yesterday afternoon when he asked them straight, his consultants have given him no more than another 12 months at the outside.
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It's been a long and at times distressing few months, but it looks like my friend Joost has finally turned a corner. After having been rushed to hospital with recurring bouts of meningitis twice in the last 8 weeks, he seemed to have made a full enough recovery to be sent home (much to his doctors' surprise, I may add: there was even talk of not being able to provide more than palliative care for him at one point)...only to be taken back in with a severe case of influenza a week and a half ago. But remarkably, again he rallied round, and came home last Saturday. He's very weak still, but the good news is that the lastest scans show no further growth of the tumour, and the doctors feel confident that he can start back on the chemo from Dec 12th.


Sep. 25th, 2007 09:20 pm
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Joost has been rushed to hospital with acute bacterial meningitis. They're treating him with antibiotics and are considering further surgical procedures. I'm told his condition is serious and he's very, very ill indeed.

Well now

Sep. 1st, 2007 12:24 pm
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My ex-stepfather has died, aged 79. He was married to my mother for 12 years, but we haven't kept in touch since they divorced 10 years ago. We were never close; and although I personally had nothing against him, he always resented the fact that my mother's side of the family had remained good friends with my father, and took that resentment out on me more than my sister, as everyone always identified me as more my father's daughter than my mother's. His marriage was doomed from the first moment he raised a hand to me because of that resentment. Still, I'm sorry to hear he died all alone.

In happier news: Joost's chemo seems to have halted his tumour's growth. There has been no noticeable increase in its mass since my last report.
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Three months have passed since Joost's surgeons removed all of the tumour in his brain, and a little bit extra for good measure. The operation has left him partially paralysed and prone to epileptic fits, but he believed it was worth it if it gave him a chance to stay with his young family a few more years. Now the tumour is back, has grown from 0 to 4cms, the fits are an almost daily occurence, and the surgeons have declared the growth inoperable.

From tomorrow, Joost will start on a course of chemotherapy, 6 treatments at 3 week intervals, but he and his wife know it most likely will prolong his life with months, not years.

2007 looks set to become, in my own personal life history, The Year My Friends Died.
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After the funeral, my friend Nicole whisked me away to hers and Joost's as she didn't think I should be on my own, having just lost my best friend. That's Nicole all over: she takes charge, has done ever since we first met on a train going to Italy way back in the cold winter months of 1985. She was my closest friend throughout my years at university, and for a long time after, until we suddenly and inexplicably lost touch some time at the beginning of this century. There was the annual Christmas card but no direct contact until suddenly last summer, when she sent me a card asking if we could meet. In a Japanese restaurant in Amsterdam, an emotional reunion followed.

My friends mean the world to me, and I am absurdly loyal to them -- but never clingy. I'll often go off and do my own thing, and I accept that they go off and do theirs as well. It just means we have that much more to talk about when we do catch up with one another again. However, sometimes life gets in the way and you don't see each other for a long, long time; and that's sort of what happened to Nicole and me. But as I said, we've been in regular contact again since last summer, and it seemed natural to call her as soon as I'd heard the news about Peronne. After all, Nicole and Joost knew her as well, albeit slightly, as someone on the periphery of their own circle of friends. Anyway, as soon as I'd blurted out my news, Nicole decided I was to come and stay with her and her family directly after the funeral.

And so it was that after 7 years (or almost), I caught my first glimpse of Joost as he was pottering about in the kitchen preparing his signature dish and my favourite, peanut soup; and I can't describe how happy I was to see him absorbed in this mundane task. You'll remember that earlier this year, I begged for your prayers and good wishes as he was to undergo brain surgery for the removal of a massive tumour. And there he was, all strong and healthy looking, greying at the temples and with the rest of his black hair growing back across his scalp, almost succeeding in hiding the scar running from his ear to the top of his head and down into his neck, but otherwise unchanged. His smile was the same, too, as he came over and enveloped me in a bear hug.

After the children had been put to bed, we had dinner and sat around the fire and talked for a long time. The next morning, Nicole and I took the children to school, then went back for a communal breakfast. On her way to work, she dropped myself and her husband off in town, where I spent an hour and a half window shopping while Joost had to keep to his physiotherapy appointment (his surgery has left him half-blind and partially paralysed down his left side). I met up with him after he'd finished and as the weather was fantastic, we had lunch al fresco at a little restaurant Joost recommended. Because it was such a nice day, he suggested we go to the town's 'statue garden', which is as the name implies, a garden full of statues. The plants and flowers there all have special meaning too, but unfortunately neither I nor Joost are particularly well-acquainted with the language of plants. Luckily, a friendly gardener helped us out a bit. The garden belongs to the town's RC church, and the statues are all bronzes representing figures from the Old Testament, several saints, a Pieta and a Stations of the Cross. The garden spills over into the cemetery, where we visited Nicole's brother Richard's grave; he died a few years back from a parachute jump gone horribly wrong. Hours later, we returned to the house and made ourselves a big pot of tea, never for a minute stopping to reconnect and enjoy each other's company. Then, in the early evening, I took the train back home, feeling so much better for having spent so much time with people who mean so much to me.

I am bearing up under the loss of my friend, although I am still incredibly sad. Jobsworth sent me home this afternoon, after my tear-stained face persuaded him that perhaps I shouldn't be at work just yet. Well, what do you know? He can be quite decent when he wants to be, too.

ETA: for those not well-versed in Dutch: the name Joost is pronounced Yoast. It's basically the Dutch version of Jocelyn.

Good news

Feb. 2nd, 2007 12:56 pm
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Joost's surgery took well over 6 hours to complete, but in the end the surgeon was able to remove both of the tumours, the parent and the one that had metastasized from it. At Joost's insistence, he's also removed a margin of healthy tissue, in the hope that this will slow down the rate with which the tumour will grow back, as it has done 4 times already. It does mean he now has a permanent problem with the motor function on his left hand side; however, this morning he took his first steps with the aid of a Zimmer frame, and all indications are that if he continues to do well, he'll be going home before his daughter's sixth birthday on Feb 12th.

Thank you, all of you, who have left messages of support, sent across good vibes, and offered your prayers for his recovery.
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Today at 2pm best friend no. 2's husband, also one of my oldest and best friends in his own right, will be going into surgery to remove a brain tumour he's been battling for the last few years. He's undergone several of these operations already, but until yesterday we were unaware that this time, the tumour has metastasized. This afternoon, the surgeons will go in and remove as much of it as possible, but the prognosis is even bleaker than it was before. The next 48 hours will be critical. I've just spoken to his wife, and although we're trying our best to remain positive of a good outcome, and not think ahead beyond the surgery and God willing, his recovery, deep down we are both very scared.


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December 2012

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