“That’s life…” as my mother aptly put it a few days before her death… My independent, caring, adventurous, autonomous, courageous mother, who always was ahead of her time in many ways.
In her twenties she had already worked different jobs in Europe and a few years on board of the Nieuw Amsterdam in the Caribbean. She just loved seeing the world, earning her own money and having a party at the same time.
Being a creative lady in the way she lived her life, she also drew, painted, made her own dresses, designed her very own dream house in 1972, took ceramics lessons at the age of 77 and as Iong as I remember she was collecting things. Beautiful things like jewelry, antique furniture and art. Besides that she also loved doing business. Still trading stocks in her late 70’s. It was my mother Betty Heddendorp who showed me how to take the beauty of life into your own hands. Until the very end.
her life, her death & her choice
Because my mother didn’t just die. My mother chose death herself. On January 22 in 2019, at the age of 81, she faced death with her eyes open and her head held high. So great was her fear of staying alive.
It was by the time she relived her trauma’s every day and got lost in her own apartment, that she decided to no longer wait for her decline. The bravest decision she could ever make. And she still could make herself at that time.
It suited her so well. My mother always made her own decisions. Despite the many setbacks in life, after losing her father, getting the responsibility of the family business while divorcing my father and taking care of 3 children, she always managed to turn life to her will.
“It’s a liberation to know that I won’t end up in hell that awaits me here because of Alzheimer’s…” is how my mother expressed her gratitude when her euthanasia request was granted. Fully aware of how privileged we are here in The Netherlands, that this is so well regulated by law.
Just before we said goodbye, my mother made me promise to keep sharing her story. “Then it’s not in vain”, she said. “Because you can only break taboos if you talk about them.” So of course I promised her to do so, not on earth knowing how to keep it.
Only 1.5 years later it hit me. It was my work with clay instead of me writing a book… My sculptural pieces became my language to pass on my mother’s courage to take control in life. To stay true to yourself, relying on your intuition. Just like she used to do her entire life.
It was thanks to her and her preperations, that she was able to let go of life the same way as the lived it: brave, beautiful and dignified. In addition, her courage gave us the chance to say goodbye in the most loving and healing way. I’m deeply grateful for her being my mother, my role model in life. I still miss our precious talks every day.
courage for selfcare
The thing my mother really wanted, was to encourage people to talk about the things in life that make their life worth living. Or, more specifically: to write down under which circumstances you would rather exchange life for death in case a disease like Alzheimer’s takes over… In The Netherlands for instance, you don’t need to end up in a nursing home, living like a vegetable. Because really, who wants that?
Yet so many people do. Without ever realizing that as many as 1 in 5 people and 1 in 3 women gets dementia. Life is simply too short to not talk about death. To not face it. In The Netherlands we have a choice if we dare to face it in time.
Talking about things that truly matter to you in life, including the end of life, is an essential form of self-care as I began to see it. It enables us to enjoy life even better. That’s why I like to see my pieces literally as conversation pieces.
I hope my pieces encourage you to have the most beautiful and the most difficult conversations you can have. With yourself and your loved ones. Because that’s where true courage starts.