The day before Christmas 2013, when we heard that Karin was suffering from a rare, untreatable kind of cancer, it was for her the beginning of a period of “being almost dead” and for both of us a period of saying goodbye to each other. In retrospect it turned out, that this period would last 16 months, 16 hard months in which any time we thought, that she could die within a couple of weeks. Sixteen months of no plans for the future, no new shoes or spectacles, not buying that nice blouse at H&M’s, because she would probably not have the occasion to wear it. Sixteen months in which people’s interest in her situation ebbed away. Sixteen long months in which life actually stood still.
More than thirty-two years we had been together and we had done everything together. Now we went to a moment when we both would have to go down a different path: for her “all problems would be over” then (her words), while I would have to go on. Thereby it was a consolation for her, that she never would have to go on alone, because she had often been afraid, that I would die before she would and she thought she would not come over that.
After the heavy operation, in which she lost a lot of blood and several specialists were puzzled what kind of tumor they found in her body, she needed a long time to recover as good as possible, realizing that somewhere a time would come when the devastating effect of the cancer would be noticeable. That was also psychologically exhausting. Because the disease was untreatable, except perhaps with a heavy one time chemotherapy, which – like the cancer hospital said – even if it would help, it would only be palliative and be considered an “investment in three months longer life”, Karin decided to abandon further visits to doctors and hospitals and to choose “quality of life” as much as possible. We agreed that when it would come this far, Karin would be cared for by me, at her own home and eventually would die in her own bed. No strangers at home, not a hospital bed. It was a blessing that I had no job and as such was privileged that I could be there for her any time. We settled all formalities for euthanasia, which she wished once she would become bedridden and we talked everything over thoroughly with our family doctor.
Starting from the operation till the moment she died, there was no moment without pain. Sitting and lying down caused the most pain. Taking a rest on an easy chair or going to bed for an hour of rest were therefore out of the question. Always going on, doing the household and her hobbies, which the last few months she had to do standing up behind an old high slide projector table, and finally to bed at half past one, tired of the efforts and with the help of a sleeping pill. Then she usually slept well until early in the morning.
A month or two before she died Karin got a bowel bleeding that lasted for several days. Karin had often told me, that she wished to die in her sleep and now she hoped that the bleeding would help her. The bleeding stopped, however, the color came back on her face and she seemed to recover a bit. Apparently her time had not come yet and opting for euthanasia she was afraid of after all.
Therefore she kept on hoping that soon she would die in her sleep, or the time would come that she would end up in a deep sleep by means of palliative sedation.
The last couple of weeks the pains increased, she became short of breath more and more and the doctor visited her almost daily. Karin’s energy decreased and she apologized to me regularly, that she caused so much inconvenience and grief to me. She felt that the end was approaching and was steadfast against her trusted doctor would go on vacation next Friday the 24th of April and would not be able to “help” her when she needed him. In the end, the family doctor would get her into a deep sleep on that very day and offer her the palliative sedation, which she wished to have so very much. The palliative sedation even turned out not to be necessary: Karin died shortly afterwards, totally exhausted, in her sleep.
In her life Karin liked to be on her own. She was not such a “people person” like me. She did not have lots of friends; she did not need that. Karin had to really love you to call you her friend. She had me, those good friends and she had her hobbies: her collections, the doll’s house miniatures and the genealogical research. Without those her life would be pointless. As long as she had the energy she was busy all day long, in the strangest positions because she suffered so much of the pains. If even she complained, than it was about having far too little time to finish everything she was working on. At the same time, she bit more and more than she could chew. I think that in fact she did not want to finish all those things; she has never been as productive in crafting of miniatures and making style rooms as during the last months of her life. In addition she helped many people, even acquaintances-of acquaintances, both in Holland and abroad, with figuring out their family histories. She was good at that like no other and people praised her for that.
Last Friday afternoon, 24 april 2015, she died, still unexpectedly, a few hours after she had been put to sleep by her family doctor, with me by her side, exactly like she had wished.
My sincere thanks go to the people who were there for her in those last months of her life and who did everything to make Karin’s life as bearable and comfortable as possible in that period. Also many thanks to doctor Duran and his team, who have done their utmost for Karin’s comfort, often under difficult circumstances, as till short before her death Karin simply did not want to know how the condition of her body was and therefore did not want to be examined.
Sweetheart, thank you so very much for all those wonderful years we had together.
(Eulogy by John at Karin’s Cremation Service, 1 May 2015)