Until old age, Harrie Hermkens made a drawing every day and put it on his Facebook page. “I’m afraid of death, so I have to keep myself busy,” he said. But death came anyway. Harry passed away on Monday, he was 99 years old. Just before his death, he had overcome his fear of death.
Exactly one year ago, Harrie showed his work in front of the camera of Omroep Brabant. He spoke cheerfully and honestly about his feelings. Showed a pen drawing of himself sitting on the toilet, yelling for help: “He’s a scared bitch. I sign that because I am afraid of death.”
Harrie has lived with his wife Greetje in a nursing home in Loon op Zand since he was 95. He had a colorful life. Wanted to become a priest, but resigned just before ordination to the priesthood. He wrote a book about it. As a linguist, he trained Dutch teachers for generations. His most famous pupil was Wim Daniëls.
When he was 84, he lost his wife. Harrie found new happiness and at the age of 89 he married Greetje. He expressed his love for her in a drawing of Greetje with an angel on her shoulder: “As an expression of being in love. An old man in love, that’s the most beautiful thing there is, isn’t it?”
“You often see that in close couples, that they decide to continue for each other.”
Greetje passed away in early July. And that changed Harrie’s life, says his son-in-law Cor van Gerven: “Until that moment he always said: ‘I can’t leave because I can’t leave Greetje behind’. You often see that in close couples, that they decide to continue for each other. But when she died, he wondered what he had left to do in this world. He started to think and thought it was okay to die.”
Harry stopped eating and drinking. “I thought: he won’t last,” confesses his son-in-law. “Because you have to be brave and strong for that. But he persevered. I really liked that he did that. He was also no longer mobile and therefore so dependent that he could no longer do fun things.”
“He wants to be strewn together with Greetje.”
Harrie reconciled with death and passed away peacefully on Monday. His family is busy arranging his funeral. “He was very explicit in his choices. A cremation and not laying out. He said, “Don’t watch monkeys.” And he wants to be scattered with Greetje.”
The ashes of Harrie and Greetje are scattered in a natural cemetery. And in that place an oak is placed. “And it will be a thousand years old”, daughter Silvia concludes.
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