Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Death of a photographer



Every now and then it really stinks to live abroad. Today I got word that a dear friend of mine has passed away. Of course I am flying home to attend his funeral, but I should have been there three weeks, a month or a year ago, when I could have still looked him in the eye.

He would have liked that, allthough he would not have told me so. He was not the man to show his feelings, other than in a really subtle way. You had to know him really well, to be able to read the signs.
Allthough we did not see much of each other in recent years, me living abroad and all, it did not matter. We had so much history together, enough to last us for a lifetime of friendship, or so I thought.
We met, sixteen years ago, when working for the same newspaper. It was my first real expat experience, albeit within the borders of my own country. It was a small newspaper, in a rural part of the Netherlands, that I only vaguely knew from childhood holidays. My friend, the newspaper photographer, observed me - this strange city girl - for a couple of weeks, decided I was good folk and turned himself into a very loyal friend. He and his lovely girlfriend invited me to dinner on a regular basis. They later welcomed my then boyfriend W. with open arms, made the best pictures ever at our wedding and showered our children with lovely exotic gifts, brought back from the faraway places where they liked to spend their summer holidays.
Friend  M. dilligently kept me up to date with my friend's life and him with what was happening in mine, as neither of us were very good at picking up the phone. It did not matter. At some point, I knew, I would move back to the Netherlands and he would live to be eighty. At least. That was the deal. I kept my side of the bargain. I am moving back to the Netherlands this summer, but my dear friend went twenty or so years too early.
I finally picked up the phone, three weeks ago, as I knew he wanted to say his farewells. It was weird, but at the same time strangely comforting. He talked about how he was arranging his own funeral and how his GP was going to look after him till the end. I told him I would miss him. And I will.