Monday, 10 February 2014

Remembering Dick van Galen Last

A fine Dutch gentleman, and remembering him is a testament to the kind of man he was, as I have written before and will never tire of writing again, he is sorely missed.
Dick van Galen Last would have been 62 today, 4 years and 8 days after he passed on and 4 years and 2 days after we buried him.
I still remember that last day I saw him alive, he came to visit me just a week after I was discharged from hospital. I was too weak to go out for a meal, so we just talked over a pot of Earl Grey tea and some biscuits.
This was a little over two months before we had another chat on the phone where he informed me he had a health crisis, and we were sharing the same consultant. We even joked that we might meet up in the chemotherapy room one of these days.
Just three weeks on, he defended his PhD thesis; I could not attend as it was days after a chemotherapy session, I had no strength to do much, but vegetate at home. I heard that as he spoke, you could hear the strength drain out of him, but it was a spirited and commendable effort.
13 days after that amazing effort, Dick was gone and I learnt of his passing the day after. Tears in my eyes, literally sobbing all the way from my home to his, we, his friends had the opportunity to see him for the very last time, in his bed, formally dressed, with a cravat and as serene as if he was going to open his eyes at any moment.
I stood by him and whispered, “Goodbye, dear friend.”
I sometimes wonder if he was awarded his PhD posthumously, he did devote a good few years to that project travelling around the world doing research or looking for moments of tranquillity to complete the work. It was indeed determination in failing health that drove him to do what many might have put aside for another time.
When we gathered to see him off, there were hundreds filling that little chapel on that brisk and cold February morning, many paid tribute but I could not tarry for either the internment or the reception, I left after the service for what became my last session of chemotherapy.
My almost 13 year sojourn in the Netherlands began with Dick picking me up at the airport, lodging me for the first month and many other encounters of supper with his numerous multinational friends.
As interpreter, he would switch between English, Dutch, French, Spanish or German with the ease of a Babel Fish, he was such a person, thespian, cultured, refined, open-minded, loving, caring and much more.
To all of us who knew Dick, we all knew that when he died, a man indeed, of high integrity, a bon vivant whose joie de vivre remains as an example to all of us in the pursuit of happiness was gone.
Dear Dick, you may be gone, 4 years now, but you are never forgotten.