In 1996, just 14 years old and employed at the local music club and school, Aunt Wil died. Not my real aunt, but the’mother of the music society’. Grown up in a small village, everyone knew each other and Aunt Wil took you under her wing when you came to music. We talked about it at home, especially how bad it was for her husband and son, but never about what it meant to me. I never asked, thought it wasn’t mine to find everything myself, but it always gnawed at me that I was left with so many unanswered questions.
In 2002 I was alerted to a newspaper advertisement in which students were asked to work in funeral homes. I enjoyed working there for two years until my former employer died. That was the time for me to make the transition to training, because I had my PABO diploma fresh in my pocket. I found a job as a teacher in a special school. I remember yesterday; in a “free hour” I went – with the hearse – to apply. This opened a special conversation and a door to a new career. The school tour could only take place if I took off my jacket and tie, otherwise the colleagues would surely think about it.
In that first year I had four deaths at school: two parents of two children (one from my classroom), a child from the classroom next to my and my 17-year-old intern. I remember entering the school library after my first death full of young innocence. I imagined a library with cupboards full of books on all kinds of subjects. That was a deception. I got a stencil booklet about death and grief pressed into my hands. That was all. What did the brochure say? However, there was some information about the difference between Roman Catholics and Protestants in mourning and about the need to inform in particular the Directorate and the Staff Student Council.
I read this brochure with my mouth open, and then I soon put it in my place. For two days I locked myself in the library and the Internet (luckily this was already there) and devoured everything I could find on this subject. Fortunately I was able to support the students in this way, among other things through my common sense and knowledge from my time in the funeral industry.
Over the years I have collected everything I could find about death and grief. I did not want to find myself again in a situation where I was not prepared for a situation of grief with children.
When I decided in 2011 to follow the Master in Education, death and grief also became the central theme of my research, right up to my final thesis to this day: a critical philosophical debate on the monitoring of parental mortality.
In this research I was looking for the support I missed during Aunt Wil’s death and the loss I felt for the class that first year. One of the results was the funeral toy you may know about.
There are a number of things that characterize me:
I am a huge bookworm; this can be seen, for example, in my work area in Castricum, where thirteen book shelves are full.
I regularly go to the Westhoek in Belgium for a day (no less than two) to visit the battlefields and cemeteries of the First World War. This is also one reason why the poppy is included in the Rouw's logo.
I have been living under the smoke of Rotterdam for 35 years, have worked in or near Rotterdam and have therefore been blessed with a good dose of Rotterdam directness. I say what I think. I think before I say anything, but my opinion is usually clear.
For some time now I have been planning to go to Schorem, the hairdresser in Rotterdam, every six weeks for a day. Just relax, have a drink, chat and take care of your home.