Just before his death, perhaps only minutes before, he was on the phone with me giving me instructions about several things and especially what to do since I would be in charge of cleaning out his place in Seattle after he died, which he announced he was about to do.
I was at a meeting in Paris when he called, said I couldn't talk and hung up on him saying I'd call him back during the first break. He called right back with a strange insistence in his voice: "I am saying goodbye, I may not be here when you call back." So I stepped into the hall and we talked. He said that when he sleeps he can't breath, has been up for two nights, feels as if he could fall asleep at any moment, and knows when he does that he will not wake up again.
I reminded him of his doctor appointment coming up, he said he would not make it. We said good bye, me not believing all he said, and so in the meeting I sent him an email encouraging him to keep that doctor appointment just a few days away. When I got to his apartment my email was unopened in his inbox. He must have died very soon after hanging up with me.
He was found by his best friend's husband and a friend, and they set in motion my coming to Seattle to clean out his place as soon as I returned from Paris. I was pleasantly surprised that he had seen this event coming and cleaning out his place was not as difficult as it would have been had he made no preparations. He was a good housekeeper and thought ahead to what he did not want the person cleaning up after him (me) to face. I appreciated that thoughtfulness.
In 3 days the place was empty, the dumpster was about half full, and the charity that provided me a massive pod had it filled to the brim with Alex's goods, many of which would fetch a decent resale price. His favorite charity was Deseret Industries, and they really helped me out by providing that pod.
Out of the four siblings that came to the USA in 1957, I am the only one still standing. This was taken as we walked out to get on our plane to the US. Alex is between our mother and me.
At our mother's insistence Alex had long curly hair until we left for the US, This is Alex and our dad by our house in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
Knowing I am the last makes me feel sad and lonely when I let it, I don't cry easily but even now my tear ducts are swelling and my eyes are wet. (OK, as I completed this page I was sobbing. But so what? Real men do cry, and it is good for them. I have that on the highest authority: all the women in my life say so.)
Fortunately life is still busy and demanding enough that I don't have much time for such maudlin moments. Busy-ness helps avoid spending time looking into the existential abyss for very long after someone you care about has fallen over that edge into the unknowable. Busy-ness is a good thing, sometimes.
Alex is convinced he is somewhere watching over the people that mattered to him in his life, even me. He is going to tell my mother on me when he sees her, that was one of his more humorous threats when I insisted on disagreeing with him about something or other. He was a believer without specific religious affiliation although he liked Mormonism best out of the Christian religions he had become familiar with.
His belief in an afterlife was another continuing bone of contention between us. I intellectually feel he no longer exists, although my intuitive side reminds me I can't be sure of that. He was not very tolerant of that no-afterlife view, kept sending me stuff from the Internet saying I was dead wrong (pun intended).
But he did not cut off communications with me over my resisting his after-life evidences. Good boy, one lesson in tolerating an obvious defect in another person was apparently learned: he didn't throw me out of his moving car (out of what was left of his family, like he had other family members with whom he couldn't get along) to try and force me to accept his point of view.
I will end with a few more pictures out of his special collection, one of me in my curly hair in the early 90s in Nevada, and of what I was standing in front of, which was one of my favorite desert scenes.
Thanks for the continual, but always caring, challenges. Alex. You were a good brother, most of the time. Same probably ought to said for me. Bye.
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