HENK HART DIED in Toronto Monday. He was 85. He was my father's oldest brother, the eldest of seven siblings, a Dutch immigrant and philosopher. Certainly he was the quirky Uncle Henk Hart. I have found out much about him in recent months, and he was a larger than life figure in many ways.
|Henk and Sophie|
Uncle Henk lived life. He threw rocks at German soldiers in the Netherlands during World War II. He immigrated to Canada as a teen. He became a well-known writer, educator and philosopher in Toronto. He liked to travel and he was an avid birder. He was also a champion of the LGBTQ community being a part of his church, a controversial belief that strained friendships. This is putting it way too simply, but Henk thought the church should be accepting. He was way ahead of his time.
In December, with the end in sight, a Zoom session was organized for family and friends. Henk looked well and delighted in seeing old friends, even if it was on video. In these soul-draining Covid times, Henk used the Zoom session as his funeral and farewell, and it fit his quirky nature. But if you think about it, if you know you are dying, why not have a virtual funeral and farewell while you are alive? You can't enjoy it and find peace when you are dead.
A few weeks ago Henk's sister, my Aunt Willa, lost her longtime companion, Ron. He was a few weeks shy of 80. He'd also battled health issues for a long time, and his death was expected, but no less painful. We didn't get to zoom with him before he died and are grieving alone because of COVID.
|Klaas, Rodney, and Ron|
Both of these deaths have hit us hard. It has been a difficult year of isolation. Covid takes away from life, and end of life, yet again.
Henk and Ron are undoubtedly in a better place. It doesn't make it easier. The fact we can't gather to remember makes it worse.
Farewell, Uncle Henk. You were one of a kind. You will be missed. It was a life well-lived.
Farewell, Ron Marshak. You were a great guy, fun and talented. You will be remembered and missed.