Saturday, August 25, 2012

‘en het leven is zo móóóói!’ – A homage to Shirley Hooy

 Amazing People #2 - Shirley Hooy

I’ve had an extreme case of writers block recently with my blog down to lack of mental stimuli coupled with some extreme working hours at the Big D. Each time something happens that I feel is worth blogging about I’m constrained and never produce anything. For those repeat viewers who don’t me and found this by chance may think my life is nothing but temple visiting in Asia and hopeless love stories; there is more to Jack Smith than that I promise you.

I’m writing this blog in an almost baron MRT carriage bound for home after having worked until 11pm; I thought this time would be pretty perfect to get cracking with something I’ve been meaning to blog about for a few weeks; my dear Friend; Shirley Hooy.

Shirley Hooy 1972 - 2012

Three weeks ago; on the 31st July 2012 I received a phone call from a colleague of mine based in the Big D in India. She rarely calls me regarding anything but on this day when I answered there was life missing from her usually bubbly Indian accent. She skipped all pleasantries and asked me straight up if I’d heard about Shirley. I retorted with “Which Shirley?” since I moved to Singapore I now sit opposite a Singaporean lady named Shirley also so at first had no idea what she was asking me. When she mentioned Shirley Hooy’s name my brain added 2+2 together and the answer to the sum caused my heart to sink. It’s a horrible feeling when your heart sinks like that, when you know something awful has happened; it’s sheer dread. My colleague then delivered the blow which would result in a trip to Europe I never wanted to make. My dear friend and colleague from the Big D in Amsterdam had passed away. My orange light had gone out. 

Information flowed through from her and from various colleagues in Amsterdam. My brain is fantastic at denial; it simply will not register something terrible has happened until the people closest to me, those I trust the most confirm it. My heart knew but my brain refused to accept. I made a call to two other friends of mine in the Netherlands; Marijn and Fred who both confirmed the news. I was a useless 195cm tall structure of flesh & bone for the remainder of that day unable to comprehend Shirley; who was such a good friend to me in Amsterdam, who came to Singapore to help with the decentralization of Customer Operations, the lady who taught me most of my filthy Dutch vocabulary, my smoking buddy, a woman I hadn’t met until three years ago who loved me as a friend and whom I loved back in the same light was gone forever. 

From left to Right; Claudio, Shirley, Sandrine, Me, Mauro and Grace

The following week I’d planned a trip to Sydney; paid for my flights & accommodation and was actually for the first time packing my bags before the day of my flight really looking forward to the first break I’d had for 3 months from work. For those who know me and know me well; I’m a very emotional boy and I like to think although I’ve done some things I regret deeply in my past I have I’m a good soul. On the news; I delayed my flight to Sydney, cancelled my hotel booking, cancelled my annual leave at work and booked the first flight available at the weekend back to Europe. After rushing-in, in total Jack style I realized I thought to myself - What they hell have you done boy? You’ve just spent 1,500 GBP on a hotel and flights to Europe for what? What could I do? As I moved away from the shock of Shirley’s death I started to be more self amicable, comprehensive and in reviewing my thoughts about money I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed that the friendship I had from this person; the life experiences, good and bad times I’d shared with her I was questioning whether or not they were worth 1,500 GBP. What is money actually for? Is it to survive? If so; I have more than enough to survive. I could move myself out of this Gadget crazed Digital iPod era we are in and live for a fraction of what I do now. I was going back to Europe, back to the Netherlands, back to Amsterdam and to Shirley’s small village about an hour outside of Amsterdam called Nieuwekoop to pay my respects to her; one of the most genuine people I’ve had the good fortune of meeting, a true authority of authenticity and to her family. She may have not been perfect but no matter how good you think you are no one is perfect. 

I flew out the same weekend to attend the funeral on the Monday; Fred was kind enough to take me from Sloterdijk station where I had bumped into Marijn; all the way to the funeral and back. We arrived about an hour early and found a very traditional brown Dutch café with broodjes (sandwiches), toasties, cakes, coffee, tea and of course beer. During the food; I looked at Fred & Marijn and realized how much I actually missed them, how close I’d become to both of them in my short time in the Netherlands. I smiled briefly; enjoying being back amongst friends temporarily lost, amongst the cows, the clogs, the seemingly endless fields, the windmills, the canals and then felt guilty almost immediately with no idea why. Shirley would want us to be talking about boobs or about girls with good asses; she was almost one of the guys.

Me & Shirley @ Clarke Quay, Singapore

The funeral started and about 10 other colleagues from the Big D in Amsterdam turned up at the funeral; some of them like Shirley, Fred and Marijn casualties of the reorganization which thrust me into the arms of Asia. It was nice to see them too even if for the wrong reason. My Dutch is pretty poor; in fact it’s terrible – I know about 30 – 50 words and about 10 pre-set common phrases and sentences. I can formulate the most basic of sentences on my own but have not acquired the ‘Dutch Ear’ the ability to understand the Dutchies when they begin to rattle their words out like the lead from a fully automatic machine gun. For once; I was thankful for this – speaking in Dutch; a barrage of Shirley’s sobbing closest friends and family starting with her husband stood up in front of a bursting Church to pay their respects to the woman lying in the wooden box. I only understood the bare minimum – except the odd English word that crops up.

Since I’d heard the news I was frustrated that I hadn’t cried; it’s normal right? To cry over a loss – even though she wasn’t family or a long term friend she’s gone, gone forever. About half way through the funeral Shirley’s oldest daughter Emma which is 8 grabbed hold of her dad to comfort him and that was it; the taps were open I sobbed like a child.

At the end of the funeral; we proceeded outside to take Shirley to her final resting place. The mechanism that carries the coffin to the grave was there waiting for its payload. The taps were open again after the coffin was delivered to its carriage; for the first time I’d noticed it was plain; unvarnished and unpainted with the exception of messages left for her in multi-coloured ink by her children. A child’s drawing of itself with tears in purple ink. Her coffin was lowered into the ground and people left leaving a few of us Big D folk left; I walked passed her coffin hanging in the balance waiting for the closure the layers of soil bring and said my Goodbyes. On the way out; I met Casper, Shirleys husband and gave him a card and a gift that the team in Singapore had prepared and passed him my condolences. I’d met Casper before and he seemed to be a great guy, he thanked me from the bottom of his heart from coming from Singapore and in that moment I felt the sinking heart, the despair and sorrow again that Shirley was gone.

For the rest of my time in Amsterdam I felt empty; normally elated to back amongst the canals and the coffee shops I had moments staring into space where it kept hitting me she’s gone. Never to text me or Whatsapp me again, never to post something on my Face book; she was my biggest fan.

My final words are for her and her family; Casper, Robin, Emma and Thijs I will miss your wife and your Mother for the rest of my days; I will never forget her. She was my colleague and a dear friend.

Shirley, It’s crazy I’m writing to you when you’re gone but thank you for the laughs at work, thank you for the smoke breaks we took together, for the bitching about the Big D, for the pictures of the boobies and kontjes you posted on Face book for me and Marijn, thank for showing me how to tie a tie, thank you for the time in Singapore we had. Thank you for being my friend, sleep well.

Robin, Emma, Casper, Thijs and Shirley xxx
‘en het leven is zo móóóói!' - And this life is so beautiful