I remember the centerpiece of glass vases in the dining room of the Mondrian Hotel, feeling good about my new skirt that was actually a little too short, and being excited about the table for two on date night.
Then a Dutch number shows up on my phone. It’s 3am in The Netherlands. I laugh, assuming it’s my niece, who has the habit of calling when her alcohol level exceeds her limit, to tell me how much she loves us. It’s my sister. And a few minutes later it’s my mom, calling from France. The rest of the night goes by in a blur, all I can remember is not being able to stop shaking, and arriving to an empty house in Leiden, the next day.
In exchange for granting his wish of going peacefully in his sleep, next to the love of his life of over fifty years, Death found my father in St. Tropez a few years too early.
It made me wonder why life goes this way. Why do we grow up slowly to prepare for life, why does a pregnancy prepare us for the arrival of a child, while death comes so sudden? How could I have prepared for this? And how was I going to say a final farewell to my father, a week later?
Never in my life had I felt so proud as I did on that last Saturday in September. It wasn’t until that day that I understood the true meaning of celebrating life.
The sun was shining, a fleet of boats ready to have friends and family guide my father to his final resting place on his self built wooden boat. We drank and ate in his spirit until it was time to light the fire place, dad’s nightly tradition.
I’m grateful my mom got to experience one of the most beautiful days in her life, a day we can always look back on with smiles on our faces.
The passing of my dad, the big rock in my life, marks the end of a beautiful, mostly carefree period. But the rest of my life will be beautiful and filled with love because of him. In his spirit, it will be filled with lots of photographs to capture the beauty of life, lots of Sunday night dinners with extremely slow cooked braised beef, good wine, and a (soon to come) burning fire place. He will never leave me but always live on in me.
Here’s to a happy and healthy new year, to new beginnings and to new life. With lots of love from a beach chair on the island of St. Barths!
(Thank you Anna and Andrea for great photography)