My grandfather Cornelis (Kees) Kloosterman died a few weeks after his beloved wife Anna had died on 6 july 1972. He took his bicycle early in the morning of 1 august 1972 and cycled to the railroad crossing on the Oostkil behind the old “Refaja” hospital. It is a small one track unguarded train crossing, I know it well. It is a quiet and peacefully spot, amidst the fields and cows.
He had put on his Sunday clothes and stopped there and put his bicycle against a fence. He took his jacket off, folded it nicely and laid it down on the fence. Then he lighted a cigar, smoked a while and when he heard the train coming, put the cigar out and walked before the train. My father heard this story from an eyewitness who was walking in the fields. He told my father that grandpa just stood there, quietly smoking his cigar before he ended his life.
I spoke to him the evening before, made coffee for him in his house and we talked about grandma and how he missed her. Of course I can rationalize what happened. His marriage was long and loving right up to the day he was widowed, 4 weeks earlier. His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, had for the most part turned out to be loving, productive people.
A balance-sheet suicide, is what he did, he had weighed the pros and cons of continued life, and then decide in favor of death. But suicide is forever; not just for the victim, but for those around the victim — the friends, and the children. For they are the ones left with the suicide’s legacy of pain. And there is of course one more person, the traindriver, it must have been an awfull experience for him. I do not know who he was, but my heart also goes out for him.
I read somewhere “The heart asks, Why? But the answer is blowing in the wind”. I loved my grandfather and still miss him, but I respect his decision. In his own small way, he had helped to make this world a slightly better place than it was when he arrived here. It has been a life well lived. The death certificate said that Grandpa was a suicide’ but I know that Grandpa died of a broken heart. He was a non-believer, but he died with as much dignity as any Christian will ever know.
It’s more than 40 year ago, now
I love him and I still miss him
I have some wonderful memories of him
I was named after him
I wear his name with pride!
But he is gone.
The Greek philosopher Epicures wrote:
‘A right understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not because it adds to it an infinite span of time, but because it takes away the craving for immortality. For there is nothing terrible in life for the man who has truly comprehended that there is nothing terrible in not living.’
And on ancient tombs throughout countries around the Mediterranean can be found the Epicurean inscription, which translates:
‘I was not, I have been, I am not, I do not mind