We had a bit of a shock last week. On Thursday evening, we saw that there were two ambulances with flashing lights at Bennie the baker on the corner. The following morning we learned that his wife, Ineke, had collapsed. She had been rushed to hospital in one of the ambulances, but they failed to resuscitate her, and she died. She was only two years older than me, and she had seemed in perfect health to everyone.
Last Saturday evening, Martin joined other neighbours at Bennie’s to plan for the funeral. It’s tradition here that at the funeral, the coffin is carried in by representatives of the buurt (neighbourhood). As a result, I was to be one of the six coffin-bearers at her funeral. I was honoured to be able to do so.
Last night people were able to offer their condolences to the family and make their farewells to Ineke at Bennie’s, and two hundred and fifty people turned up. The bakery is something of an institution around these parts. It was begun in the 1930s by Bennie’s father, and Bennie and Ineke carried on the tradition. Bennie baked and Ineke served in the shop. She was always ready with a smile and a laugh, and she loved to gossip. In fact, she was the epicentre of all the gossip that went on around here. The best way to spread news without any effort was to mention it to Ineke.
Today was the funeral. Bennie and the family did her proud. Her coffin was borne to the church in a traditional hearse drawn by two jet-black Friesian horses; beautiful animals with black plumes on their heads. Three representatives of the neighbourhood, and we six coffin-bearers, in dark suits with black capes, walked in front of the hearse for part of the 3 kilometre route to the church, where we transferred the coffin into the church. The church was packed, once again reflecting how much she was known and liked, and how much of a shock her sudden death has been. After the service, we carried the coffin back out to the hearse and set off to the graveyard, where we transferred it to its final resting place.
As I say, it was an honour to be chosen as one of the six bearers. But I wish that it hadn’t taken the death of Ineke to bring it about. She will be missed.