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  • Foto van schrijverSarah Spronk

Goodbye to a Giant

Dear, dear, dear, dear papa,

How can I let go of someone who is part of every cell of my body.

How can I honor the person who supported me through every step in my life.

How can I thank the man who showed me the world and taught me to feel at home in every single corner of it.

How can I safeguard the freedom that you used as a guiding principle in my upbringing and protect the space that you gave me to try, to learn and to make mistakes.

How can I spread the love that you gave to me, my husband and our children every single day.

Papa, you have been a giant

Big-hearted, strong, endlessly generous and optimistic.

Your zest for life and your many inspiring plans could have easily filled 7 more lives, including your wish to play the piano.

Your freedom of mind, your creativity and wisdom have inspired thousands around the world to become the best that they can be.

Young students, who could not always get much chances or support from their own families, could count on your advice.

You often said that it was your ideal to sit below an olive tree like Socrates with your students and talk about humanism, freedom, economics and many other topics - including many many jokes.

Fortunately you did exchange a lot of ideas with your students and not only did you do so below olive trees, but also below palm trees, mimosa flowers and many other types of vegetation.

And not only did you discuss ideas, but you also enjoyed good food, drinks, beautiful viewpoins and you and sang a lot together, enjoying life to the max.

In many places in the world, I saw how you worked with students from all different backgrounds and religions, listened carefully to them and took the time to understand their perspective. Discussing their thesis, I saw each of them walk from the conversation with renewed inspiration and faith. Sometimes this required a serious peptalk.

The conversations with your PhD-students went far beyond the contents of their dissertation. Some of them have become close friends who feel like family members today.

We shared the interest for the world and it’s people. I loved to talk with you for hours about the developments in Indonesia, in Argentina, in Italy, China or any other place around the world. You understood what we went through in daily life and helped me to put things into perspective. I will so so so miss these conversations. Nevertheless, I am eternally grateful that we moved back to Holland in time so that we could spend a few good months together.

Discussing ideas with you was fun and inspiring, but the adventures we created together were even more exciting, from the unintended descend of black ski pistes when I was still a little girl to rafting in rivers with crocodiles in Mexico and walking through the soukh of Egypt.

One of the highlights was when you came to your beloved Indonesia and I convinced you to step at the back of my scooter to navigate through the crazy traffic. You confessed to me that you especially liked Jakarta by night, because it was so lively and buzzing with all it’s little stands, thousands of lights and off course - people.

Only 8 years old, you took me on a business trip to New York where you showed me the skyline by night and the Statue of Liberty. Freedom to us is a value that we cherish deeply.

When I had exams in highschool you waved me goodbye in the morning, saying ‘If I were the Pope, I would bless you.’ And I can tell that your blessings worked out well, because I always felt supported to do my utmost best.

And, as an adolescent, I was insecure about my size, you said you would take me to the Rubens museum in Antwerp and show me a lot of beautiful voluptuous women.

You were always such a strong and caring support and you gave me all the opportunities to learn, to grow, to do many sports, to play the violin, to read and to travel. And for every place I visited, you had suggestions for museums, restaurants and people to meet. It made me feel as if I was walking in your footsteps and as if we were making the trip together.

Over the last few years, we lived far apart, but we were as connected as ever. I got to understand your fascination for Indonesia and I met many old students of yours there.

How lovely was it to dine together at the magical restaurant ‘de Kunstkring’ and to go kite flying in Bali.

You showed your deep understanding of the Indonesian culture when you organized a ceremony of appreciation for our beloved driver in our living room after he protected me and my friend from street violence. It was probably the only way in which he would have accepted that acknowledgment, being elder and therefore higher in hierarchy.


Although we will all miss you dearly and life will never be the same without you;

Your story isn’t over yet: your love, your strength and your optimism will live forth in áll your children, grandchildren ánd students all over the world and it will continue to enlighten the people you met like you did on every single day of your life.

You are my superhero and I will always carry you on in my heart.

Dear papa, I LOVE you.

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