Thursday 2 February 2023

Dick van Galen Last - Remembered!

A friendship cherished

It is the nature of friendship and the things that you remember of people who have contributed to recognising the beauty of knowing and sharing their lives. It seems like an age, for it is 13 years to the day that my dear friend Dick van Galen Last passed on.

A tall and skinny Dutchman, wise in experience, affable in temperament, a polyglot and gatherer of people from all the corners of the earth. An erudite archivist that specialised in world war history, especially where the imperialists and colonisers enlisted the colonies in the wars.

It was a chance meeting in Paris in 1997 that began our friendship and from then we maintained contact, he in Amsterdam whilst I was resident in London. When I moved to the Netherlands in 2000, he was my host and he helped me settle down as I found my feet.

He was a wonderful cook and we regularly had soirees at his home in the North of Amsterdam. In so many ways, he was such a great help, someone I could call on for advice and other things. For his 50th birthday, we met up at Café Beaubourg in Paris for brunch. There are so many memories to recall.

A meeting vivid

We last saw each other when he came to visit me, a week after I was discharged from the hospital on Friday, the 16th of October 2009. We were to go for a meal, but I was too frail to go out, we just sat and chatted in my living room over tea and biscuits.

There was the occasional phone call, even as he was rushing to finish his PhD thesis. Just after Christmas, he first informed me that he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, we shared the same oncologist, and we even thought our chemotherapy schedules would land us in the same treatment room.

A few weeks later in the New Year, he defended his PhD, witnessed by friends who said they could see strength and spirit ebb out of him during his viva voce. I could not attend as it was just two days after my penultimate chemotherapy session, I just did not have the strength.

A death announced

Then, it was the Wednesday morning on the 3rd of February 2010 that I received a phone call, the caller ID for Dick gave me the thought to congratulate him on his PhD defence, but it was Ousmane, his lodger on the phone, Ousmane came to clean my apartment every fortnight. He was bearing news, rather shocking news, Dick had passed on the day before.

I am glad Ousmane took one decision in consideration of Dick, he refused that Dick be taken to the morgue, and so, Dick was dressed up and laid on his bed for all of us his friends to visit and pay our respects, even as funeral arrangements were made and friends were coming in from other countries to attend the obsequies.

He was interred on the 8th of February, just 2 days short of his 58th birthday after a well-attended service. I could not attend the interment itself because I needed to attend what eventually became my last session of chemotherapy. Even with the apparent passage of time, the thoughts still feel fresh and raw. In all, I remember quite fondly, my one true Dutch friend, Dick van Galen Last. Rest in peace.

Some memories

Blog - Dick

Blog - Dick: As he lay

Blog - Seeing Dick Off

Blog - Remembering Dick van Galen Last

Blog - There was only one Dick

Blog - Dick van Galen Last - A Decade On

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