This post is somewhat a diversion from what I usually post, but recent events have had such profound impact on how I feel that I feel obliged (to myself) to write about this. (Unfortunately, my English is not proficient enough to convey all my thoughts and feelings, but I'm giving it a shot anyway).
I want to say goodbye to a friend. A dear friend. A best friend.
Tuesday evening we got the news that Bert had deceased. Bert was a long time friend (I've known him for about 15 years), and the godfather of my youngest daughter. He was traveling in India as a host to a party of about 6 people. This was the first time he did this (through an organisation called Joker. He had looked forward to this tour, preparing for it all summer, looking up information, booking hotels, trips and events for his group. This was a key property of Bert. When he did something, he always went full out (which also had its annoying side effects, to be honest). He could really put himself behind the things he was doing, and he always did them well. The tour in India is a good example, but this was also the case when we were both active in Chiro (a local youth movement in Belgium). We spent several years together there, and the click between us was quite immediate. We shared the same kind of humour, and our greatest passing in that time was Chiro. We organised training & courses for Chiro together (education for people in leadership positions), we created new games and activities, and made sure they were executed well. A lot of nights were spent together having fun over beers, we played boardgames, we sang, but we also had deep conversations about anything possible. It was a lot of fun and Bert was an integral part of this. Together with Jeroen we were known as "De Sjarels" amongst our friends. Mostly because the three of us were famous for dicking around whenever possible. (I'm not sure how to convey the word "Sjarel" - which actually is Flemish slang - but "Banter Boy" covers it, I think). This name stuck, and to this date we were still "De 3 Sjarels". We might be a bit older, but the fun was still there when the three of us were together.
But then our time at Chiro ended and our contact became less frequent. I can't say that I really missed Bert, but lives change and our ways parted. At least, for a little while. I am fortunate to have 4 children, and Bert was high on the list of potential godfathers. And we were most delighted he accepted the godfathership for our youngest daughter Mitte 4 years ago. Becoming godfather/godmother of a child created a sort of family bond, and our contact flared up again. The good times of yonder were back, albeit at a different pace. I loved having Bert present at parties and birthdays. We met up more, and it felt good.
And then he moved to our street, which we thought was a surprising move (for him, moving from the city to a local village), but in hindsight it proved a good idea. It was great having Bert as a neighbour. Our lives both were busy enough that we did not spent every night at one or another place, but having a best friend as a neighbour certainly is a blessing.
So it pains me a lot to lose you, Bert. I have a load of awesome memories of you and the things we did together. I'm sure we made a difference for a lot of young people, something I hold dearly in my heart. My daughter is still little but I'm sure she loved you in her own way, and it was obvious you did love her a lot, too. She's never going to expierence your passion and fire, and I pity her for that. We will never again be able to drink a glass of whisky (of which you were an avid lover) or a fine beer (like Quadruple La Trappe, your favorite) together. Our next gathering of god-mothers and -fathers will be awkward without you present. You'll be missed by everyone of us.
I have to face it: you'll never be back. But you'll also never be forgotten. So long, my best friend. Until we meet again.