a common reader


· 10 February 2015 |  by Maarten
· Published in: FOCUS · miscellanea

JanantoonDear friends, family, readers,

This is my message, but my children and my dearest guide the pen. I can no longer find the words myself. I feel what I still want to say, what I want to leave you, but I am unable to say it myself.

A malignant cancer has damaged my brain. It has eaten my words, laid waste to my language, violated my intellect. It has also left me with limited time.

But still it has left me enough to understand a great deal: in particular, I retain all of my old power and capacity for instinctive, wordless understanding. What I feel and understand, this last message, I want to share with you.

All is good as it is.

Of course, I would still like to experience and discover so much, to seek out new stimuli. But this is how it is, and I am not the person to lament how it could have been.

I am content with the life I have lived, with the people I have had the fortune to meet and love, with the moments I have been able to share with them. To say it in the words of one of my favourite authors: Confieso que he vivido. My life is completed. I am content, and walk serenely to meet death.

To depart gracefully, I choose to determine the hour of my own death. It will be good this way.

My wish is that the many dear people who know me understand this, and can themselves feel — as I feel — that it is good this way.1

Finally, a poem that I wrote a few years ago (in Spanish, here also with English translation.)

Cuando siente la plenitud de las horas
un elefante se va a morir solo.
Y cuando mis manos ya no sirvan
para nada, ni para acariciar,

ni para escribir o labrar madera,
ni para jugar con mis nietos,
también mi hora habrá llegado.
Será una hora sencilla y justa.

Subiré lentamente las sendas antiguas
del altiplano hacia los cerros andinos.
Y al fin, desde la cumbre del Illimani,

veré las blancas nieves de antaño,
las nubes de siempre, la luna clara.
Solo esperaré la última madrugada.

When he feels his hours are told,
an elephant departs to die alone.
And when my hands no longer serve
no more at all, neither to caress

nor to write, nor to work wood,
nor to play with my grandchildren,
shall my hour too have come.
An hour simple and true.

Then shall I slowly climb the old paths
from the high plains to the Andean foothills.
And finally, from the peak of Illimani

shall I see the white snows of yesteryear,
the eternal clouds, the glowing moon.
Then shall I only await the final dawn.


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  1. The wonderful film Mar Adentro describes my sentiments very well.
    Mar adentro
    (My death shall be painless, serene and dignified, and I will be surrounded by my loved ones.)