Homage to a special man: Marc Groot
WILCO VAN HERPENThis should and could have been a nice and positive story, but sometimes Father Death gives an unwanted and unexpected turn to the day. It was the first of January 2015 that we, as the Dutch community, gathered at Uzunya near Kilyos in Istanbul to celebrate the New Year. As a tradition we always come together that day and start the New Year with refreshed energy (and also to burn away the alcohol of December) by diving into the freezing cold Black Sea.
At 12 p.m. sharp, together with about 15 other Dutch, Turkish and English people, we started running toward the sometimes two-meter-high waves that were rolling into the small bay of Uzunya. About 40 seconds later all the people were already back at the beach; you can imagine that it was not really a relaxed, soothing dive but more of a shock therapy. The thing is that by just doing it you feel great, strong and healthy. As a kind of reward, the Dutch Club offered all their members a nice breakfast. While we were having our breakfast, a friend of mine phoned with a message that had an impact on me like the earthquake of 1999. “Marc is dead,” was the message my friend gave me instead of the expected: “Wilco, best wishes for 2015.”
Marc is, correction, was a man I knew from the Dutch language school in Istanbul. His son is in the same class as my daughter and slowly we got to know each other well. His wife, Gözde, and my wife, Gonca, became friends, Marc and I were friends, and my daughter, 6 years “old,” has a crush on Marc’s son Derin, so whenever Şira sees Derin, she chases him and tries to kiss him. The last time we met each other was at the celebration of Sinterklaas and we made some plans to get together soon. We unpacked the presents and afterwards played Joelen, a traditional board game.
While our children are at school we the parents gather at a coffeehouse in Etiler. Generally the level of our conversations are border-line arguments, although they sometimes verge on the philosophical as well. Marc always had a spikey opinion but was generally right. He would never offend or hurt anybody.
A couple of weeks ago, I can’t remember who opened the subject, suddenly we were talking about a very serious subject: death… What if, how and where? The interesting thing was that all the people who joined the discussion had one unanimous decision; none of them wanted to go back to the Netherlands after they passed away and be buried there. No, their new land was Turkey and for the people left behind who might want to visit the grave, their logical decision was to be buried or cremated in Turkey. I have to admit it that I have given it a thought once or twice but always tried to push the thought away as soon as possible. It was the typical attitude of an ostrich because I (we) would definitely not die soon. But Marc pushed me with my nose on the facts ("Met de neus op de feiten geduwd worden" in Dutch).
For the family in the Netherlands, it was a big shock as well. That evening his sister and brother arrived in Istanbul to start with the necessary preparations. But, as you might know, the Turkish system is a bit different. Whenever Jose, Marc’s sister, wanted to help with something, someone else would be there to take the job out of her hands. As relatives of the deceased and on top of that all a foreigner, you are not allowed to help. This might sound a bit weird, but it is the tradition in Turkey that you take care of your guests in the best way possible. For Jose it was all a bit strange; helping a bit by doing the dishwashing or making coffee would have been a bit of an activity to put one’s mind on something else. At the same time, she was surprised by the way all the people were helping Gözde and her family.
Neighbors prepared food, while nieces were constantly making coffee or tea or cleaning up – and then there were all the visitors… She couldn’t believe what was happening and she felt grateful for all the care and help of all those people.
The biggest question was; would Marc be buried in Turkey or the Netherlands. The decision was Turkey but then, of course, the next question emerged. Where could he be buried?
In Istanbul there are a couple of cemeteries where foreigners can be buried; one is in Şişli Osmanbey. That cemetery offers places for people from a number of countries and also the Dutch have a small parcel over there where they can bury their loved ones. Gözde, together with the Dutch relatives, decided that they wanted a “Dutch” ceremony. First of all they had to find a company who could make a coffin. As you might know, here in Turkey they use the same coffin over and over again. So there are not so many companies who make coffins here.
Then the funeral ceremony... In the Netherlands we generally have some people who want to read a poem or short story about the deceased. We want to share our emotions with the people who attend the funeral ceremony and at the same time it is, although it is very hard to do at that moment, a way to vent your emotions. The speeches are interspersed by music; music that had a special meaning for the deceased or the wife/husband.
The funeral ceremony was held in two languages, Turkish and Dutch. Thanks to modern technology, relatives, who were not able to make it to Turkey for a last farewell to Marc, joined together in the Netherlands and listened to the ceremony over there.
It was a beautiful farewell ceremony to our friend Marc who passed away much too early.
Generally newspapers do not write about the “ordinary” man who passes away. Therefore I wanted to write Marc’s story. And by the way, for foreigners living in Turkey, it makes sense to think about it in time, arrange the place where you want to be buried and the ceremony that takes place during the funeral. Here in Turkey the Islamic tradition prescribes that people have to be buried the next day. To avoid any extra unpleasant surprises, it would be good if there is a kind of scenario about what to do and how to go about doing things.
""De boom die zoveel stormen heeft doorstaan is helaas geveld…
We missen je boom van een gozer!"
"The tree that survived so many storms finally fell…
We’ll miss you big guy…"