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Friday, November 25, 2005

Meaningful Legacy

Monday was a very cold day. Winter started the Friday before with cold and fog. By Monday the weather was set to an icy 4°C with wind from the North. It was the fitting day for Herman’s cousin Maurice's funeral. He was a very handsome man with an easy smile. Sparking blue eyes with a lot of mischief and fun. I had known Maurice now for more than 20 years. I saw him mostly at weddings, first communion and Christmas gatherings. Always smiling.

We arrived in Haaltert by 10:00 in the morning and went straight into the main square’s café. Inspector Maigret would have been very comfortable. Dark, smoky, old fashioned and full of old locals discussing the Sunday football game in very tight dialect. We drank a coffee to warm up and waited until 10:15 to go the St Gorik church. Christelle, Guido and Filiep were already there sitting in the men side of the church. Herman joined them and I went to sit in the women side, left, with the cousins and Maria, the widow.

St Gorik is a neo-gothic church built 1870 after the previous church burned down due to a fire caused by lightning . The brothers de Noyette did actually a good job with this one. They kept the design simple and they really got the acoustic right. This was very important for the music. The front of the church, the altar, and the casket were decorated with lots white flowers. I counted more that 300 people inside. It was packed.

The ceremony lasted around an hour with lots of music. The 1870 organ, made by father and son Vereecken of Gijzegem, sounded magnificent. A chorus with eight singers sang throughout the ceremony. We were all crying in the women side. The music made the ceremony twice as moving.

After Communion, the Mass ended and we followed the casket out into the village square. We walked after the funeral car through the streets of Haaltert for more than a kilometer in the cold and wind. I was arm in arm with Christelle trying to keep each other warm. On and on we walked all the way to the cemetery out of town. A pale sun came out around noon and the cemetery was illuminated. Every tomb was full of flowers. In the first week of November all the relatives wash the tombs and bring big pots of tiny chrysanthemums flowers. The cemetery was all yellow, white and orange flowers. A very pretty sight.

Each of us put a white rose on the casket and after hugging Maria and her sons we walked back to the village. We arrived back on the main square and walked into the “feestzaal”. That is the place where you go to celebrate after church occasions. A very handy place to go after christenings, first communions, weddings and funerals. And here a couple of hundred people sat for lunch – sandwich of preparé and cheese, sweet croissants and Danish pastries with lots of coffee. Also we drank beer, cola, and white wine and after a while with food and drinks the mood was festive and relaxed. The widow Maria and the sons Rik and Hans went from table to table to talk to everyone and we all talked about Maurice, his life and his sudden death.

Nobody could forget that his 95 year old mother Maria, in the old people home nearby, did not come to the funeral of her only child. She does not know her son died.


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