September 26 2000

In the early afternoon of that Tuesday my dear mother Margaretha Felicitas Neukermans, born in Okegem on June 8 1914, died on her sickbed in our home, where - apart from her relatively frequent admissions to hospital - she spent the last decennium of her life. She was practically immobilised and dependent on others for almost everything, but she remained optimistic and joyful to the very end. She never once complained about her situation : she said that complaining would not have helped her a bit, but would have disturbed us.

Whenever I have to stay inside for a couple of days for some reason, I almost go mad. My mother had to stay indoors and was bedridden for over ten years ...

I was with her, and the afternoon caretaker had just arrived, when she passed away unexpectedly, almost unnoticed, just having said she did not feel too well. She had been discharged from hospital the previous Thursday and had been quite agitated since then. That was unusual for her, but I was not specially worried, because that had happened at least once before after she came home from hospital.

Since the day she died, I have suspected that the doctors let her come home to die peacefully in her own bed. But, in that case, they should have warned us, which they did not. Of course, they claimed that she was in the "best possible health" given the circumstances of her age and her general condition, and that the "lightest wisp of wind" could have blown her away. That is doctors' talk.

Our dear mother is gone for ever, but she left us the best possible message of love, dedication and endurance. However the nagging suspicion remains that we should have been better prepared ...

That terrible event happened nine years ago today ; my mother died 51 years and one day after her own mother. I still can relive both events. How time flies.

I do not have to write : may they rest in peace. I know they do.

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