In these times of disinformation, pandemic challenges and climate crisis, it is easy to think that our time is the worst ever. Yet if you go back in history, there is a clear line of progress leading to today. Great progress. Some writers have been looking at this the present is bad the past was great-thinking. A recent article I have read was Social Change is Coming by Rebecca Solnit who points out that the rightwingers can never win the war against progress – all the progress made in the past can never be overturned and will be victorious. (see link below)
Another writer who looks at facts is Steven Pinker. He goes far back into the history of man and concludes in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence – that there has been a decline of violence over many stretches of time. We live currently in the most peaceful time in human history and in an increasingly enlightened world. How humanity will tackle the climate crisis is an answer in progress, to which everyone can contribute, I may add.
Another type of progress has been the rise of individualism. Individuals taking charge of their own lives regardless the traditional belief systems and cultural expectations. Which brings me to the second death that happened this year in my family. Paul, the husband of my sister Nathalie, had been suffering from cancer. After having gone through chemo therapy followed by immune therapy the cancer kept spreading in his body and he decided for euthanasia – from Greek meaning good death. He died this month at the age of seventy-four.
As far as I have known Paul, he stood in life with a clear rational mind while having a big heart for his fellow human beings. Before he died Paul wrote a farewell email to me saying that resilience is the keyword for me to find your way in this world. I was convinced that I knew how to do that and how to teach people to be resilient. That’s how he stood in life, in his work and how he raised with Nathalie his three sons Bart, Twan and Lars.
When Paul discovered a few years ago that he had cancer he mentioned that he looked with fulfilment to his past, had no regrets, was not afraid of death and when the cancer would make his life unbearable he would apply euthanasia. He discussed this sensitively with Nathalie and his sons. Once Paul had made his decision for the euthanasia he took the time to write everyone close to him a personal farewell, or made a phone call, or invited people to pass by for a talk and a last embrace.
On 21 December 2021, Paul was surrounded by his sons and their partners – while holding his wife Nathalie he died peacefully. Nathalie said afterwards however difficult it was for everyone, it was a beautiful and dignified farewell. With this, Paul made of his own death an experience of fulfilment, also for those close to him.
Paul Marie Johan Meijs-Timmermans 6 May 1947 – 21 December 2021
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