Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

Death and disability

My first day off work since I finished at the old job has been a tiring one.

[info]artw needed the car first thing to get B to her day-care centre, and it being the day of U's school's Christmas service and also U's birthday, the only way to ensure timely arrival of at least one parent at the service (less important) and guaranteed Cake for U and her classmates (essential) was for me to climb on my bike, for the first time in months, and drop by the shop on the way to U's school. It's only 7 km, but boy was I wrecked by the time I got there.

The service itself was quite different from last year's. Then, the school had got all the kids to dress up and play a part, but it was actually a bit distressing to see U marched about uncomprehendingly if beautifully dressed up as an angel. (B, who was still at the school then, vehemently opted out of participating, as is her wont.)

This year, they had got the kids who were able enough from each class to participate to the level of their understanding, doing readings and prayers and a smaller-scale Nativity enactment. It was more chaotic, but, I felt, more compassionate. The sound system was pretty poor and we parents sitting way up at the back of the assembly hall (which used to be the church of a leper colony on the outskirts of Leuven) couldn't hear much; and those of us whose Dutch is not at that level got even less. But I felt that our barrier to comprehension, in a way, echoed that of many of the children.

I had to cycle home again (and, I admit, there was some walking involved) and then take the car for a mid-day engagement (which I will write about below) in Antwerp, and then zoom off to B's daycare place in Tienen to collect her, without getting lunch until I finally made it back home at 3.15. Then, [info]artw's sister H arrived, and  we have spent the evening helping U to celebrate her birthday; presents include jigsaws which she has done with great determination, and a bouncing and singing Tigger which has provoked both trepidation and fascination.


My mid-day engagement in Antwerp was for the funeral of the wife of a friend (also a B). She was only 34; she suffered a stroke while giving birth to their daughter in February, and never recovered consciousness. I had only met her once, at our work Christmas do a year ago, when she filled me in on her work as marketing manager for one of the big computer game companies. The church (a big one in Edegem near Antwerp, dedicated to the Holy Family) was packed out - she was a local girl; my friend is from New Zealand, but some of his family had flown in for the occasion (of course, we've all known for some time that this was likely to happen).

It's grim to attend such events. The somewhat bemused if inarticulate comments from the ten-month-old little girl were especially poignant. When B, normally a pretty jovial and light-hearted colleague, paid his tribute to the woman he had hoped would be his partner for most of the rest of his life, I wept; and I was not the only one.

For a lot of people, Christmas is not a particularly happy time. My godmother, my mother's stepmother, died on Christmas Day a few years back. The following Christmas was the time when we realised that our little B had undergone that retreat into her own mostly happy, but somewhat confused world from which she has not emerged, and into which U has followed her to a certain extent. We've learned to roll with it, and I'm sure my friend B and his little girl will; but I'll be thinking of them this Christmas, and next, and after that as well.
Tags: deaths, life: family
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