maandag 30 april 2018



As amazing as the tulips were, I fear my memories of Keukenhof will always be colored by the cup of coffee. Not the getting of the coffee, but the not getting.

Two lines. I pick the short one. While standing there, Max and I become aware of a commotion behind us.  A man with a Keukenhof badge walks over and around us. It sounds like someone throwing a tantrum, so at first we ignore it, but it seemed to be getting out of control.  I glanced behind and to the left. A young woman is screaming while holding an elderly man's face, and now we hear the scream resolve into "Doktor!, doktor!" Someone tries to take her hands away, and the man's head flops to his shoulder, and I see in his staring eyes and white skin no life at all.  Someone must have said something to the young lady, or she gave up and understood, for she uttered a gut-wrenching wail and threw herself backwards onto the pavement. The sound of her head cracking against the ground and the anguish of her grief are not easily put aside. It wasn't a movie, or a staging, but raw, unfettered life and death. Thirty seconds of my life, an eternity of his.

I looked at Max, and said, "They don't need us in the way. Let's get out of here," grabbed his hand and nearly ran off.   Though Max's camera is one of the main reasons we are here, we both know no one needs to have that kind of private/public moment videoed or recorded or stared at.

I was shaken, and so was Max. I can't imagine anyone not being pretty shook up.   It was several minutes of walking to distance ourselves before either of us could speak. Max finally said "That was a PTSD moment for me." Me, too.  This woman's reaction reminded me so much of Missie's  falling apart when Crystal died. There's a difference between the scream of fear and the scream of grief.  If you've never heard the two, you might not know.  I've heard it, and can't forget.

Then we sat as soon as we found an empty bench.  Thousands of people are doing just as we were mere minutes ago, oohing and aahing over the beautiful display of thousands and thousands of tulips. So incongruous in conjunction with recent death. So oblivious to s scene only around the corner, down the path, out of sight. 

The human brain wants to put order into experiences, label them and sort them, and store them in the right place for retrieval as memories. This one is difficult.  Was it a grief reaction for a beloved grandfather?  Had he wanted to come to this place, today? Was he overwhelmed by beauty.\? Did he know his time was short and wanted to be with family rather than have a life prolonged artificially? Had the granddaughter convinced him it would do him good to get out, and felt guilty for not realizing he was dying any sooner? Was it a stroke, a heart attack, a peaceful slipping away whilst waiting for a coffee order? I am now morbidly curious.  I have thought on occasion that I was morbidly curious about something, but this is the first time that is the only appropriate term to use.

If I had to choose a place to die, that would be a great place. Except for the family, the park employees, the coffee pourers, the tourists around me, it would be a wonderful place to slip out of life. They might not think it so perfect.  Am I really so much of an exhibitionist that I would want to die in a crowd so they could see how quickly one becomes cold and lifeless?  Definitely morbid thoughts.

Someone found Michael's dead body. Marianne's whole family watched Sarah Jane slip away. Ben found Kevin unresponsive. Mom had Dad die in her arms. All Crystal's sisters were there to say good-bye to her. Delta was with both her mom and her daughter at their passings.  So I know what it's like on the inside of family grief.  This was my first, and hopefully only, watching the death of a stranger.  My wonderful daughter, Beth, has made a profession of being there to help the living, and sometimes, the dead.  Missie is also making nursing her profession soon.  I can handle sick people, and at one time had the belief that I knew what after death would look like, and that I could work in hospice care.  I don't hold that belief any longer.  I can't do that voluntarily.  Accidentally, maybe. On purpose?  No.

One can't blame a place for a traumatic memory, not really. Keukenhof is truly magical and I got a lifetime of tulip sightings while there. If you have the chance, you really should go.  It is an astronomically small chance that someone will die in the coffee line next to you.  Really infinitesimally small chance. 

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