Carla’s last 6 weeks is a detailed account of the last 6 weeks of Carla’s life. The Prologue covers the period from November 1992 when breast cancer was first diagnosed till early April 1996. The 6 weeks are detailed day by day, from the day that liver cancer is suspected till her death. Then follows an account of the week and a half leading to the funeral. The Epilogue describes the first few years after her death.
This account is based on a diary that I kept at the time. Only after seven years I could summon the courage to put it in this form and to publish it on our web site, as a memorial to a courageous woman.
End of November 1992, Carla notices something strange in her right breast. It looks like part of the skin is pulled inwards. She goes to our GP, doctor Wiarda, he thinks it is serious and urges her to see a specialist. She goes to the Queen Beatrix hospital in Winterswijk where she undergoes a biopsy. I accompany her to hear the diagnosis, it is malignant, it is breast cancer. She has just turned 45, she had had annual scans for more than 10 years.
The day before Christmas 1992 Carla has surgery, part of her right breast is removed (partial mastectomy). It is only partial as the tumour is very small, it is not thought to have spread. Carla spends Christmas in hospital, she is back home before New Year’s Eve.
She does not get any drugs, no chemotherapy, but for 7 weeks she gets radio-therapy, twice a week, in Enschede. Slowly she recovers from the ordeal, although in the beginning she cannot use one arm properly which leads to an accident with the oven in the kitchen, she suffers second degree burns. Later in 1993 we celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. In September 1993 we go for a second honeymoon to the US and Canada, for 2 weeks, visiting Boston, Montreal, Toronto, New York and Washington, amongst others we go up the World Trade Center. On 28 October 1993 (Yuri’s birthday) she barely survives a serious accident with her car, caused by somebody else, she has bruises all over her body, luckily nothing more serious, her car is a write-off.
My mother dies in March 1994, 74 years old, my father in August of the same year, 80 years old. My job situation gets worse, hundreds of my colleagues at the Digital plant in Apeldoorn are laid off.
In January 1995 a plastic surgeon tries to reconstruct her right breast, it is a complete failure. As my job situation worsens even more (the plant in Apeldoorn is going to be closed), an English friend of ours, Anthony Harvey, suggests I try my luck with Oracle in the UK, and to my surprise, I get a job offer. We decide to move to England. I start on 1 September 1995 at Oracle in Bracknell. Carla and Dennis stay behind as the house has not yet been sold, I’ve rented a room at Sue and Roger Weaver’s in Ascot. Yuri has moved out of the house already. Every 2 weeks I spend the weekend at home.
I rent a house in Bracknell, at Cross Gates Close in Martins Heron which becomes available on 1 December. We celebrate Carla’s birthday (24 November) in the Netherlands, we give a farewell party at the same time. Carla and Dennis then join me on 15 December 1995. We have nice neighbours, to the right Don and Eva, to the left Dave and Sandra and their 2 daughters, across Soli and Maureen and their son David.
On 3 April 1996 Carla goes to the Parapet in Windsor for her check-up, she is given the all-clear. During March she develops a persistent cold with a bad cough, she loses weight as she does not have an appetite and she is constantly tired. We go to see a doctor about it, he does not find anything, but she has a problem with the scar tissue that is the result of the failed breast reconstruction, so we make an appointment with a surgeon in Windsor to have something done about it. Before that she flies to the Netherlands for a long weekend to celebrate the birthday of her mother on 14 April.
Tuesday, 16 April 1996
In the afternoon, Carla returns from the Netherlands, arriving at Heathrow airport, terminal 4. I go to meet her but when I greet her, I see something strange in her eyes, the white of her eyes is yellowish. I do not realize what that means. We then go to Windsor, to HRH Princess Christian’s Hospital where she is to undergo minor surgery by doctor Stephen Knight the following day, to repair a bit of the damage done by the botched reconstruction of her right breast. She is booked in at 4.30 pm.
Wednesday, 17 April 1996
At 10 o’clock in the morning she calls me in the office, saying that the operation is postponed because she has a bit of a fever. At 12 she calls again, in tears. The doctor had found her a bit jaundiced, her liver was swollen. She has an ultrasound picture taken, spots are found on the liver. The doctor thinks it might be liver cancer. I rush to the hospital, where we are told that she is going to be referred to the Bishop’s Wood hospital in Northwood (nr Rickmansworth). She stays in hospital overnight for observation, I go back to pick up Dennis from school. Back home I tell him what the situation is. He is very upset at first, but he takes it bravely, he says that we shouldn’t tell Yuri anything about it, not yet anyway, as he is about to take a series of important exams. In the evening we go to see her. Carla agrees completely to not telling Yuri. She calls her sister Mia in the Netherlands, imploring her not to tell anyone else, except her husband Gerard of course. As every one knows that she was supposed to undergo surgery, the story will be that that is postponed because she has the flu. When we leave and are outside of the hospital I look up and there she is at the window, waving at us.
Thursday, 18 April 1996
In the morning I have to attend a Windows 95 introduction and installation training at Oracle’s. In the early afternoon I leave for Windsor to take Carla home. She is so tired, she sleeps almost the rest of the day. Maureen comes over in the evening but she is asleep.
Friday, 19 April 1996
In the morning I take Carla to Rickmansworth, which is a 40 minute drive, via the M4 and the M25. We have some difficulty finding the hospital at first, so we are a bit late, but it does not really matter. Bishop’s Wood is a private hospital, linked with the Mount Vernon Centre for Cancer Treatment, Mount Vernon hospital. Dr. Richard Ashford is her specialist. Carla gets her own room there. We are actually surprised that she is admitted to hospital, we assumed she is only to undergo some tests after which she is going home. She undergoes a CT-scan and has some other tests. I go back to Bracknell to pick up Dennis after school. At about 6 o’clock in the evening doctor Ashford, tells us, ie me and Dennis, that unfortunately the diagnosis is definitely cancer of the liver, and the prognosis is hopeless. Asking him how long she would live, he says six months. I understand later that he is not speaking the truth, it is much shorter than that, I learn later that he did not want to upset us even more than we were. I ask him if anything can be done, anything at all, like a liver transplant, but he says that that is impossible, as she is jaundiced already. What he actually means to say (I think) is that the cancer has already spread throughout her body so a transplant would be useless. We are very upset, nurse Wells tries to comfort us. When we have calmed down a bit we go to see Carla, who is surprised that it took us so long to come back from dinner in the restaurant, that is where she thinks we were. She immediately guesses why we are looking the way we are, I have to tell her the diagnosis. She cries and says, “I will never see my grandchildren”, she then becomes optimistic and says that she hopes she will have at least a couple of years. We do not tell her what the doctor said about that…
Saturday, 20 April 1996
Dennis and me go to see Carla in the hospital. Back at home I find that Yuri has left a message on the answering machine. I cannot bring myself to call him.
Sunday, 21 April 1996
Dennis and me go to see Carla again. It being a week-end, nothing is done of course. I read the ward log, it says that she has been crying.
Monday, 22 April 1996
Carla undergoes a bone scan. I stay at the hospital, in the afternoon, Dennis comes with Don (our nearly 80 year old neighbour) with his wife Eva, and Soli, Maureen’s husband, who live across from us. Again Yuri leaves a message on the answering machine, again I do not call him.
Tuesday, 23 April 1996
In the morning Carla undergoes a biopsy. About 500cc of fluid is drained from her belly, it had leaked there from the liver as the ducts are blocked by the tumours in the liver. While I am underway to the hospital Yuri calls me on my mobile, he is worried as he had seen Carla the week before, I only now realizes how bad she must have looked to him. But I cannot tell him anything, which is very dificult. In the afternoon the doctor has bad news, the cancer has spread to her hips and ribs. Carla sees it in an optimistic way as they are only “shadows”… Yuri calls again in the evening on the mobile in the hospital, he talks to her, giving him the same story as before, ie the operation was postponed because of a bad cold.
Wednesday, 24 April 1996
Dennis comes to the hospital again with Don. Carla has her first chemotherapy, 500cc of epirubinin. To prevent hairloss she gets a kind of helmet on her head, filled with ice. It is supposed to stop the blood flow to the hair follicles, but it is not going to help very much, unfortunately.
Thursday, 25 April 1996
Carla is released from hospital late in the afternoon. Yuri calls in the evening. We receive a call from a lady of the WexhamPark hospital in Slough where Carla had applied for a job as a maternity nurse a couple of weeks earlier. She is told that she indeed might have a job although she originally was refused. It makes her very happy, saying that as soon as she has recovered, she wants to start.
Friday, 26 April 1996
I go for a full day computer software training at Ascot Racecourse. Carla insists that I go ahead with it, as “life goes on”, she says.
Saturday, 27 April 1996
In the morning we go the three of us to the Notcutt garden centre in Bagshot, only a 15 minutes drive from Bracknell. Carla enjoys it very much. The weather is very nice, in the afternoon she installs herself in the garden to take a sunbath, it helps to break down the yellow stuff in the blood that causes the jaundice, she claims, it works for babies, doesn’t it?!
Sunday, 28 April 1996
Carla is still reasonably active, she is having a pleasant day.
Monday, 29 April 1996
Carla now becomes terribly jaundiced.
Tuesday, 30 April 1996
It’s “Koninginnedag” (the queen’s birthday) in the Netherlands, we are watching the festivities on Dutch television, thanks to the Astra satellite. A month or two ago I had ordered tickets for Cilla Black’s ‘Surprise, Surprise’ show in London that evening, but Carla is way too tired to go. Dennis and a couple of his friends from school go instead.
Wednesday, 1 May 1996
At noon a colleague of mine, Caroline Wardle, comes to see us. She tells me later that she could clearly see how ill Carla looked. Her visit is short as the GP arrived, doctor Mandy Robertson. She says that it was so unfortunate that when Carla was examined in March nothing was found, but then again, only the breasts were checked, not her liver. Cancer cells must have spread years before, and landed in the liver, unknowingly.
Thursday, 2 May 1996
My manager at Oracle’s, Vicky Ellis, and all my colleagues are great. We agree that I come into the office in the morning, after having prepared breakfast for Carla, and go home late in the morning, supposedly to work from home, but in reality I am not working much. My manager’s boss, Keith Saunders, tells me I need to spend “quality time” with her. I have never told him and Vicky how much I appreciated that. When I come home, I help her to take a shower and help her downstairs and I install her on the couch, with blankets and a cover. At 3 in the afternoon I pick up Dennis from school. I tell him I think she is becoming worse, he says it’s just ups and downs. In the early evening I cook dinner, Carla mostly only has soup with slices of bread. I try to make the soup as nourishing as possible, by adding milk to the tomato soup for instance, I liberally put soya spread on her bread, she has fruit salads and an ice cream every now and then. She is eating much better than she did in March and April.
Friday, 3 May 1996
We have been talking about taking a short holiday, going to Greece, but that is not realistic, we realize that. I ask Oracle for a lease car with air-conditioning for taking her on a trip somewhere, as that would be much better for Carla. In the afternoon I exchange the Citroen Xantia for a Ford Mondeo.
Saturday, 4 May 1996
Dennis washes the Ford Mondeo, he is clearly proud of it… We go for a ride in the direction of Reading, the weather is fair, the spring blossoms are beautiful. It is so unfair, Jacques Brell’s lyrics “It’s hard to die in the spring, you know,” comes to mind…
Sunday, 5 May 1996
Anthony and Jill come to see us with their kids, Emily and Matthew. Carla enjoys the visit. It’s her father’s birthday, we call him to congratulate, but we don’t say anything about the situation. He sounds worried though, he still remembers how poorly she was during her visit a couple of weeks before. Mia and Gerard have talked Yuri into traveling with them to England, to see us, as a kind of a present for passing his exams. They will come on Saturday 25 May.
Monday, 6 May 1996
May Day, ie bank holiday, a public holiday. Sue Weaver comes to see us. Later we go for a drive in the car, but Carla is completely exhausted, she can hardly breath. Her belly swells up enormously.
Tuesday, 7 May 1996
To the Thames Valley Nuffield hospital in Wexham near Slough this time where Carla undergoes the second chemotherapy treatment, no ice protection this time, I don’t know why, I don’t ask. No less than 4 litres fluid is drained from her belly. She is sick, vomits 300 ml. Doctor Ashford has a surprise, no cancer cells were found in the fluid. How can this be? What can this mean? It is decided that Carla stays overnight in the hospital.
Wednesday, 8 May 1996
In the morning I pick up Carla from the hospital. She can hardly walk any more, she is so exhausted. In the afternoon I collect a wheelchair for her in Ascot, we go to Tesco (5 minutes walk) with her in the wheelchair. She watches television when she is not sleeping, dutch televsion, soap series. I ask her, why do you watch that stuff? Then I do not have to think, she answers.
Thursday, 9 May 1996
Julie Maxwell, the district nurse, comes to see Carla. “Poor old sausage” she calls her. In the afternoon I book a hotel in Keswick, the Lake District, for the period 12 to 17 May. We had discussed this with dr Ashford, he agreed as it was between two chemotherapy treatments. Carla’s hair begins to fall out. Sometimes we talk about the future, she claims I will find somebody else, which I deny. Of course she is right… She talks about dying as going on a journey without luggage. She says that she wants the coffin closed when lying in state, she does not want anybody to see her afterwards, I promise, but I will not keep my promise, I will need to see her even then. She does not want lilies, she hates them. Sometimes she becomes angry, why is this happening to her, why her, it is so unfair, she has always been so careful! I cannot give her an answer…
Friday, 10 May 1996
Julie Maxwell visits us in the morning, then Catherine Flemings, the dietician, comes to give advice: Fortijuce, Maxijoul, as many carbohydrates as possible with the idea to boost her energy levels. In the morning I call doctor Noach in Enschede, the Netherlands, she was Carla’s radiologist 3 years ago. She tells me that nothing could have been done even if it had been discovered earlier, before she became jaundiced. If she had had chemotherapy back then, 3 years ago, that would have made a difference, but there was no reason for it. Soli and Maureen come to see us in the evening.
Saturday, 11 May 1996
She starts to have pain in her belly, I can see she is suffering. In the afternoon it becomes more or less tolerable, we go to Bracknell town centre by car, I walk around a bit with Carla in the wheelchair.
Sunday, 12 May 1996
We leave at 10.30 am for Keswick, via the M40, the M5 and the M6. We arrive at 5.30pm. Carla is comfortable in the back of the car, she has plenty of room and the air-conditioning works great. After arrival in the hotel we have to take a lift upstairs, it is too small to push the wheelchair into it so she has to get up with the wheelchair folded. The room is rather small. We have a 5 course dinner in the hotel restaurant, but Carla has only soup.
Monday, 13 May 1996
We enjoy a beautiful day with lots of sun. We drive in the direction of Borrowdale, around the lake. We spend some time in Keswick, with Carla in the wheelchair, after that we go to Ambleside. In the evening we notice that she is losing lots of hair.
Tuesday, 14 May 1996
Today we go to Windermere, the town and the lake. We go around the lake, then to the north and visit lake Coniston. In the afternoon we spend some time in the hotel garden, sitting on a bench, enjoying the sun. She is losing more and more hair. She is suffering from constipation for which she finds a rather radical solution.
Wednesday, 15 May 1996
Today is Joke’s birthday, we send a card from Keswick, without writing anything about Carla’s condition. Carla writes herself a card to her parents, it will be the last ever. She wants to keep a diary, we buy a notepad for her, but she never starts on it, she is always too tired.
We go to Carlisle which is to the north of the Lake District, the most northerly town in England. We spend a couple of hours there, we buy among other things a scarf to cover her head, to mask the loss of her hair. We then drive further to the north, passing the Scottish border, then a while to the east, following the border. When we moved to England I had promised her that we would go to Scotland some day, I am so happy that we are doing that now. We drive south again, stopping a while at Hadrian’s Wall.
Thursday, 16 May 1996
We go to Hawkshead and take the ferry to Windermere. Later that day we go to see a stone circle, like Stonehenge, but the stones are much smaller. Carla stays in the car. Every day we go to the restaurant with Carla in the wheelchair, the distance from the lift is only 10 metres, it would exhaust her completely if she had to walk. I tell her I saw Yuri in a dream, she says she too saw him.
Friday, 17 May 1996
We drive back home through streaming rain. The previous days had been sunny, mostly.
Saturday, 18 May 1996
Carla is very tired, even so she decides to make a soup. I buy a bone with meat somewhere in Ascot, she uses it to cook a delicious soup like she used to do for so long. She explains to me what is she doing so that I can do it myself, later. So far I have not done that yet…
Sunday, 19 May 1996
Carla has a very bad day, she is completely exhausted.
Monday, 20 May 1996
Eileen Edwards from the MacMillan Centre who from day one repeatedly had offered to come to give advice and assistance, would come today, but again she calls off. In the evening we go together to the next door neighbours, Sandra and Dave, Carla in the wheelchair. We are having a pleasant evening, under the circumstances.
Tuesday, 21 May 1996
Again to the hospital in Wexham, for the third chemotherapy treatment. I am now told that this time cancer cells have been found in the fluid that had been drained from her belly two weeks before. Doctor Ashford asks whether he can see the ‘pathology’ of Carla 3 years ago. I will call the hospital in the Netherlands where she was treated and fax it to him. We make an appointment for another visit to the hospital, for another drain, on Tuesday 28 May. When we get home (Carla does not have to stay in the hospital this time), I fax the telephone number of doctor Noach to doctor Ashford. We have a difficult evening together.
Wednesday, 22 May 1996
Finally there is enough supply of Fortijuce (ordered from Boots in Bracknell town centre), Carla takes 3 of them. Doctor Robertson pays a visit, I tell her that Yuri will be coming this Saturday, she says it is high time. I do not pay attention to what she is implying, I only realize later. Anthony comes in the afternoon, has some homeopathy stuff with him. Susie of MacMillan nurses pays a visit, talks about Carla going to a hospice during the day so that I do not have to look after her. It contributes to the illusion that Carla has much more time than she has in reality. She asks whether Carla would like to see her parents. In tears, Carla says yes. What a question… Doctor Ashford sends a fax: he does not think that homeopathy will be of any use; he will call doctor Noach.
Thursday, 23 May 1996
Julie Maxwell comes and finds Carla much less jaundiced, and indeed Carla feels quite well. We are feeling much more optimistic. Later that day doctor Robertson pays a visit, she fills in a form for admission to a hospice in a month. I have a long call with Anthony. In the evening, Carla’s father calls. He is still very worried, doesn’t understand what is going on, I hear Carla talk to him.
Friday, 24 May 1996
In the morning, while in the office, I call my sister and tells her what is going on, I could no longer keep it to myself. She is very upset. I often had been talking to Mia the last couple of weeks, but somehow I had not been able to get across how dreadful it was to see Carla deteriorate like this. I think it is because Carla also talks to her and she always sounds cheerful and optimistic. Dennis tells me he finds it hard not being able to tell his friends in the Netherlands.
I had arranged an other car with air-conditioning, the idea being that in another week or so we would drive to the Netherlands to see her parents, after Yuri’s visit this weekend, but the car is way too big, I return it.
Saturday, 25 May 1996
Yuri arrives in the morning, with his then girlfriend Cindy, with Carla’s sister Mia and her husband Gerard. They had set off the previous evening. Some time during the journey Mia and Gerard had told Yuri what really was going on, so it would not be too much of a shock to him. I show the video I had made the previous weeks, we talk a lot. The four go to a B&B I arranged for them as the house is too small for them to stay there. In the evening it takes me half an hour to help Carla upstairs.
Sunday, 26 May 1996
Carla stays upstairs all day, she cries a lot. I take Yuri, Cindy and Gerard to Windsor for an hour or so. On our way back I see an ambulance, I’m having all kinds of thoughts. When they leave in the evening for the B&B, they say farewell to Carla, knowing it is for the last time. The next morning they leave by car, without coming to see us again.
Monday, 27 May 1996
At 3.30 am, Carla wakes me up, she says, “Harry, can you help me please”. I help her to the bathroom, she is sick. This goes on for the rest of the night. I call doctor Ashford’s hospital in Wexham but nobody answers, later it is claimed that there was somebody at all times. At 7.30 am I call the answering service of the surgery, as it is a bank holiday, the surgery in Ascot is closed. At 9.30am a doctor (whom I don’t know) comes to see her, he tells me that in cases like this it would be better to do nothing, dehydration would take care of it. I do not want to hear this. At 10am the ambulance arrives to take her to Heatherwood hospital in Ascot. When the ambulance nurse sees her she asks Dennis, is that your grandmother… At the hospital (an NHS hospital, not private), where they do not know her, they do all kinds of tests, an X-ray of her belly, a drip, pain killers. Her blood pressure fluctuates wildly, it gets as low as 60/40. We agree that Dennis and me should go and get some groceries. At 3.30 pm we are back at the hospital, but we cannot see her yet. The doctor talks to us, says that her blood is full of cancer cells, and that it is looking very bad. It could be though that she pulls through and might emerge as a new woman. But he also asks me whether I would agree not to resuscitate her, just in case. At 4.15pm we are finally admitted to her. She is restless, looks wildly around her, gasps for breath, she looks scared. When she speaks, we can hardly understand her. I think she asks whether we cleaned the house after the visit. We help her on her right side, Dennis puts a pillow in her back, she then clearly says, I am going to sleep now, and dies. The time is 4.40pm. She is only 48 years old.
Except, I do not realize she is dead, she is staring with eyes wide open. I shake her at the shoulder, call her name, no reaction. Dennis jumps up and calls a nurse. We are sent from her bed. About 10 minutes later a nurse pops her head around the door, says “I’m afraid she has just died”. Another 10 minutes later or so we are allowed to see her. I think they have tried to resuscitate her. After 10 minutes we say goodbye. We leave the hospital and once outside, I call Gerard, and speak to Yuri, they have just arrived in the Netherlands.
Back home we inform Soli and Maureen. They help us to select a funeral company. In the evening I send faxes and emails to inform as many people as I can.
Tuesday, 28 May 1996
In the morning I drive to the Heatherwood hospital in Ascot to collect Carla’s belongings and also to receive a statement, which I am asked to take to the registrar in Ascot, where I receive an official death certificate. On our way to the hospital, dr Ashford calls to my mobile, Dennis takes the call. He was surprised that we did not show up in Wexham this morning, for Carla’s appointment. Dennis tells him what has happened, dr Ashford tells him he expected as much already. I do not speak to him. I had asked the doctor in the Heatherwood hospital the day before to contact dr Ashford, that has not happened apparently.
In the afternoon I go to A.B. Walker’s in Bracknell for the funeral arrangements. Carla wanted a cremation. I think that Friday 31 May is too early, but the crematorium in Easthampstead is closed for maintenance on Monday 3 and Tuesday 4 June, alternative would be Reading, but I do not want that. Wednesday 5 June is agreed upon. This is a pretty long period for Dutch standards, but not unusual in England.
Carla’s body is not immediately released from hospital as she died there, it will be a couple of days later.
I hear that Mia has gone to Carla’s parents in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, to tell them the terrible news. This is the third time for them to learn that a child of theirs has died, unexpectedly. This time could have been different though, if things had been different, they could have said goodbye to her. Carla’s father calls me, it will be the last time we will ever speak.
My manager, Vicky Ellis, comes to see us. She says I do not have to come to work till after the funeral.
Wednesday, 29 May 1996
Carla’s body has been transferred to the funeral parlour, I go there to see her. In the evening my sister Joke and her friend Jannie arrive from the Netherlands, they have been driving all day, they’ve come via Eurotunnel. Their presence gives me and Dennis great support, I do not think I would have coped without them.
Thursday, 30 May till Monday, 3 June 1996
I design a card that is sent to relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbours. It is not the custom in England, but I do it anyway. I select music to be played during the funeral and I write a booklet to be handed out to the attendees, with the text that is to be spoken by Joke and Anthony during the funeral, I am not able to do that myself.
Nadja Bendjeddou (my first manager at Oracle) and her then husband Trevor come to see us.
Jim Whitfield who lives in nearby Windlesham calls and offers help on the day of the funeral, which I gratefully accept. Jim is a former colleague of the Philips Data System times, I’ve known him for 7 years.
I visit the funeral parlour every day, sometimes accompanied by Joke. On Monday 3 June I am there at 16:40, exactly a week after Carla died. The funeral parlour isn’t open at that time actually, but they make an exception for me.
I buy a floral tribute, quite a few are sent, some with lilies.
Tuesday, 4 June 1996
The day before the funeral, relatives from Carla start arriving from the Netherlands, her brother Peter Zimmerman and sister Yvonne with husband Karel. We go to the funeral parlour in the evening where Carla is lying in state.
Wednesday, 5 June 1996
In the morning Yuri and his then girlfrien Cindy arrive will all other relatives, except for Carla’s eldest brother, and her parents of course, they are too old to make the journey. Jim Whitfield is there, to taking my sister Joke and her friend Jannie in his car. The weather is sunny and warm, such a contrast.
We all go to the funeral parlour, those who wish can say farewell to Carla before the coffin is closed. We then set off for the crematorium, following the hearse. Arriving at the crematorium, I see quite a few of my colleagues. The ceremony goes well, but is so brief, it is over in 15 minutes. Outside, the floral tributes are laid down on the lawn. I invite everybody who so wishes to come to our place for coffee and sandwiches.
I had wanted to go to the Netherlands immediately after the funeral, to meet with Carla’s parents face to face, to explain what had happened, however Carla’s relatives talk me out of this. I agree to go in 3 weeks time, but I decide to write an extensive letter to them.
On Monday 17 June 1996, Gerard calls me telling me that Carla’s father has suddenly died. They found him, sitting in his chair. The funeral was held on 21 June 1996, 3 weeks after his daughter’s funeral; that day would have been our 28th wedding anniversary. Dennis and me drive to the Netherlands on Thursday 20 to attend the funeral the following day.
Things are then becoming strained between me and Carla’s relatives, over the letter that I wrote. I decide then that it is better to break off contact with them, too many things have happened in the past, Carla has not been treated fairly by them, in my opinion. We do go and see Carla’s mother several times whenever we are in the Netherlands, until she dies in October 1997. I do not attend her funeral, I am not invited, it is all right, I will never attend another funeral again, ever.
Dennis talks me into staying in England. His presence keeps me going.
End of 1996 we are told we have to leave the house we are renting, by 1 March 1997. There is the possibility to buy the house in Cross Gates Close, but friends are telling me that that is not a good idea, too many memories, I better move somewhere else. I find and buy the house I have been living in until July 2006, it is pretty close to the old place. Sue and Roger Weaver are very helpful with the move, however Roger dies in April 1997, he was treated in the same hospital as Carla was a year earlier.
I try to work as much as possible, I travel frequently abroad for business which means that Dennis is home alone a lot. During 1997 I am involved in a long project in Hanover, Germany, altogether I spend a couple of months there. It is during that time, in September 1997 that I meet Svetlana, in the Netherlands. We meet again in Budapest in October and Frankfurt in November. We decide to get married, which we did on 29 December 1997.
Svetlana has been and still is an invaluable support, without her it would have become very difficult, if not impossible to carry on. She accompanies me to the crematorium in Usselo in the Netherlands in July 1999 to disperse Carla’s ashes on the same spot where the ashes of my father and mother had been dispersed in 1994. I express my wish that the same will be done with mine, eventually.
In 1999 Dennis decides to go back to the Netherlands, he has done his GCSEs and A-levels in England, he continues his studies in the Netherlands where he graduates.
In Carla’s memory I have had an entry made in the Book of Remembrance, which is displayed in the Hall of Remembrance on the grounds of the crematorium in Easthampstead. I go there every year on 27 May, the page with Carla’s inscription is opened for that day. At my request a plaque is mounted on a column on the grounds of the crematorium in Usselo, the Netherlands, with an inscription. Whenever we are in the Netherlands, if possible at all, we visit the crematorium.