Monday 3 February 2020

Dick van Galen Last - A Decade On

In the circle of life
A week ago, I sank into sudden indisposition that resulted in hospitalisation, I am now back home in recovery and regaining my strength back.
In that short week, a lot has happened and much of it forgettable, but that is one subject I want to cover. It was exactly a decade ago that my phone rang with the Caller-ID of my friend, who I was unable to chat for a couple of weeks and too incapacitated to attend his PhD viva voce due to the effects of chemotherapy.
However, he was not the one on the line, but his lodger Ousmane Ndoye, who for the past decade then made a fortnightly visit to my apartment to clean it up and set things right. I was left reeling at the news he had to share. Dick and I had spoken just after Christmas of his non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis, we shared the same consultant and oncologist. I remember saying to him, we might meet up at a chemotherapy session at the hospital.
In the presence of death
Alas, it never happened. The next time I saw Dick after that conversation was in his bed, dressed up and lying there mostly at the insistence of Ousmane that Dick had spent enough time in hospitals. Dick’s many friends had the unique opportunity to visit him in his room to pay respects before he was interred 5 days later.
Dick van Galen Last died on the 2nd of February 2010 just 8 days short of his 58th birthday. I had known him for 14 years, we met in Paris in 1996 and when I moved to the Netherlands in 2010, he was the one who welcomed me and gave me board for the first month before I settled in and found my own place.
In hope and remembrance
Dick was many things to many people; on the 8th of February 2010 when he was interred at the St Barbara Cemetery, there were over 300 attendees who came to celebrate his life and send him off. I could not wait until he was committed to earth because it had to attend what became my last session of chemotherapy.
We last met for a few hours at my place on the 16th of October 2009, just a week after my 18-day stay in hospital when I was diagnosed with cancer. To many, he was a friend, a helper, a raconteur, a polyglot, and an academic, the legacy of some of his research was republished with editing in Black Shame (2016).
Even after a decade, for this great and true friend, confidante, ever full of life and encouragement, outgoing, benevolent and always generous with his time and means, are the fondest memories.
Dick, rest in peace, always – you’re never forgotten.

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