Tuesday, 16 October 2012

And then there were three.

Back in the days when pictures were black and white and a rare occasion, our parents used to pose us children in a row. Here is one taken on vacation in Noordwijk in the fifties.

Later we repeated the ritual whenever we all got together, which was not very often once I moved to Canada. This one was sometime in the nineties.
The one below was taken in 2004. I am the one with the plate on my lap, sister Margreet is on the right, leaning against her twin. I love this picture of her. She was always so happy when we were all together.

The next one was taken during the day we all spent together in 2009, just before our mother's funeral.

There will be no more sibling line-ups. Our baby sister died on October 13 at 11 in the evening.

Margreet never married. She loved her work, steady night shift in an institution for the mentally handicapped. Apart fom her circle of co-workers the family of origin was IT for her. She lived close to our parents and was the loving rock of support in their old age.

 She made a truly brilliant exit.

Margreet had been diagnosed with lung cancer in August 2011. The prognosis was originally for 2-4 months, but was then changed to between one and 2 years. She was ecstatic about the extra time. She faced her fate with great courage and equanimity. She got all her affairs in order in the beginning of the process and made the most of her last year of life. When people expressed their admiration and amazement she shrugged and said: " Of course I could spend my last months crying in a corner, but what good would that do?" For a devoted sports fan like Margreet this was a good year. The Olympics happened in her time zone, and her soccer club won the national championship. Go Ajax!

She had no symptoms beyond getting a bit out of breath when she walked uphil. We all expected her to keep going for a while yet. On September 30 2012 she enjoyed a windy walk on the beach with  brother Jaap. Margreet had a wonderful time. When she told me about it on the phone she mentioned that this was one more thing to cross off the bucket list. 

Three days later she woke up to find her right arm paralyzed. The tumor had metastasized into her brain. The rest went insanely fast. Sunday she was still well enough to enjoy a walk on the hospital grounds with her twin bother Gerrit.
When I arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday morning Jaap and Marielle, my SIL, were there to take me straight to the hospital. Gerrit was with Margreet. The brothers had prepared me but seeing her was still a shock. She had stopped eating and drinking and was not responsive. She cried a lot. The only thing she said was "yes" to everything. Once the neurologist came in she responded a bit more. We arranged for palliative care at home. Margreet had had all the relevant conversations with her family doctor  months earlier. What a wonderful, civilized way to do things!

Once she knew she was going home Marg perked right up. She said a few words. We sat around her bed and told each other stories of her life. She laughed with us. By 6 PM everything was in place: a hospital bed in her living room, 24/7 nursing care and a prescription for morphine to keep her comfortable. Margreet settled in with a huge smile on her face. We shared one more memory/joking moment. She fell asleep, happily. And that was pretty much it. Apart from a bit of response while she was cared for by the nurse the next morning she did not regain consciousness. She died peacefully at home on Saturday evening with her hand in mine, listening to relaxation music with ocean sounds. She loved the sea.

We are now preparing for the memorial on Thursday. Don't worry sis, you'll have a great send-off.


  1. Hi Ien"
    So sorry to hear of your loss. Sounds like your sis died peacefully. Hope when the time comes I can exit in a like manner. Hugs and Woofs.

    1. Thanks. We are all very proud of her for doing it so well, and relieved that she did not have to suffer much.

  2. Ien Bless you I feel your pain and your joy in having shared this kind of love with a sister...have a like experience with my younger sister...They are always with us be assured, all you have to do is listen for their energy.

    1. I am pretty sure she will eavesdrop in on the memorial...

  3. My love to all of you. And what an amazing lady.

  4. Wonderful eulogy for your beloved sister. Her transition sounds peaceful and loving.

  5. I'm so sorry to hear this...but happy to know she was home with family.

  6. Thanks to everyone. The memorial was lovely, I'll blog it tomorow.

  7. I agree with Jacqui... you wrote a beautiful eulogy. Your sister continued her journey with dignity and love. Thank you for sharing it with us, Ien.

  8. That was a wonderful read. Very touching. Thanks for sharing.


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