It was the morning of Wednesday 17th April 2013; 609 days since my Asian endeavour began. It was some time just before 9.30am and I was standing in the queue at Starbucks on George Street waiting for my black tall filter coffee. I had my mobile phone in hand having just got out of ‘get to work mode’ with Rammstein blasting through my headphones for the entire journey from home to work. The famous team of Baristas were literally applying the plastic cap to my coffee when my phone started to vibrate and then less than a second later the modern day default Nokia turn began to blare. I looked down at my phone and saw the inbound number began with +31. Having not been back long from France, convinced jet lag had a role to place in my acute knowledge loss of country dialling codes I answered it thinking it was The Chen calling me.
When I swiped my thumb across the screen to release the voice at the other end I was baffled to who it actually was, a rough sounding voice greeted me with a familiar accent. After a few seconds of caffeine induced cognition I realized the accent I was hearing was the unmistakable tones of a Dutchman speaking English and soon remember +31 was the country code for the Netherlands. Armed now with caffeine and this new information I asked in my usual soft manner who the person at the other end of the world was. The voice slowed and mumbled in a drunken gulp of words and then like a novel plot that suddenly unravels itself at the end I realized it was Casper, Shirley’s husband, I lost all of my words.
He immediately apologized to me for being drunk which I waved off immediately telling him not to apologize. I asked him about the kids and how he and them were doing, he replied with "As good as can" stating his main concern being the fact that the kids don't talk about Shirley at all. Still standing in Starbucks with my Americano in hand Casper said he actually called to thank me, to thank me for attending Shirley's funeral and to thank me from the bottom of his heart for writing my blog about Shirley. Speechless for the second time in one morning I really struggled to search my vocabulary for any adequate words I could muster, nothing materialized.
By now I was sitting in Starbucks, cup of caffeine perched on my lap with one hand holding my phone and the other covering my face. I felt sorry for Casper, so sorry for him and his wonderful Children. I have Shirley's photo on my desk just behind my laptop, and sometimes when work gets really shitty I look at her photo and think to myself what would she do in this situation?. Cautious about the hour in the Netherlands with Casper's work and family commitments not relenting I promised him I would visit him and the kids next time I'm in Holland and pay my respects at Shirleys grave. I told him to take care of himself and his children and wished him all the best.
Hanging up the phone, picking up my coffee and walking out of the air conditioned Starbucks into the relentless humidity of Singapore I missed Shirley terribly. It also dawned on me with the help of a cheeky Irish friend of mine via a facebook post, that in my visits to Holland since my departure I have not been catching up with my friends as much as I should, I'm ashamed of myself when I think of this, these people were the most important people in my life when I lived in Holland, wonderful human beings they all were. I promise myself and I'll promise Shirley time will be made for my friends when I'm next back (if they will still have me).
Always in my thoughts Shirley, Casper & Family x