On the day that I booked my flight from Marseille to Amsterdam to visit my sister Marijke, I learned that evening that she had died. She was seventy years old. My three sisters and brothers-in-law and I had hoped that she would come out of the physical challenges she had suffered during the last weeks. However, Marijke had indicated earlier that she could not continue. Her death triggered unexpected emotions in me.
We are all above the sixty and seventy, we know life, we are prepared, but death takes you by surprise anyway. I realised how connected you are as a family by the true love that suddenly comes to the surface from deeper within. From Marij’s perspective her life made now all sense to me. At this age, it is more about how you die, peacefully or in pain. Fortunately, Marijke was ready. Her life journey had come to an obvious end. The family reunion we had planned continued now for a different reason.
My journey began by visiting my sister Nathalie and brother-in-law Paul in Dordrecht where they live and where the cremation ceremony would take place one week later. Nathalie had been a kind of guardian angel for Marij especially during the later years although not always appreciated. Together with them I could explore a little of this beautiful green and water surrounded historical city. A city where you also can find rest. My sister Petra joined us for the preparations of the cremation and I travelled with her to Heerlen to meet my brother-in-law Hans. The three of us spent some days hiking in the lush green landscape of South Limburg, the province where all of us were born.
Hans is specialised in the history of Limburg and its landscape and knows the most attractive areas to visit. He and Petra take sometimes friends around on foot or by bike during weekends. In my childhood, I visited many places with my parents, two brothers and four sisters and the scenery today still looks the same as sixty years ago. The enticing farmland bordered by small forests and ochre limestone hills form the character of the South Limburg landscape.
Before returning to France, I went to my friends Priya and Rob in Amsterdam Noord. I know Priya from India where I lived for eight years. When West goes East and East goes West there is much to share. Rob, a retired photographer and Priya, a hatha yoga teacher formerly lived on the Herengracht until tourism became too intense. They now prefer the green and quiet of Amsterdam Noord. With their boat they enjoy the canals of Amsterdam, the outer waters of the city .. and farther.
That’s my kind of activity, boating. Amsterdam looks only like Amsterdam when you see it from a boat although on foot the city is as fascinating and I am surprised with every visit how authentic Amsterdam remains in spite of the tourists in the streets and canals. Thanks to my sister Marij, I had two extraordinary weeks of hearing telling stories and having deeper conversations with family and friends. On the cremation day I met with nieces and nephews, some not seen for forty years. Death brings people together and new promises are made.
My sister Marijke stood in life with all the intensity she had. She was beautiful and blessed with a beautiful voice, she could sing all the pop songs from the sixties and seventies by heart, she also joined church choirs. She had a start with silversmith studies, was sensitive to the beauty of art and nature, and was a passionate lover in her relations and two marriages. She had a religious and spiritual touch, lived her life in her own way, suffered harsh realities, knew how to continue, until she could no more. That’s how I like to remember her, she loved life in spite of it all.
In Memoriam Marijke Timmermans 28 December 1950 – 2 August 2021
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