Farewells in 2020

It’s been a strange year. There’s been the pandemic to cope with, I’ve had some mental health struggles, we have bought a new house in Nijmegen and plan to leave Amsterdam in the new year. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, another emotional challenge awaited us in October.

An Amazing Woman

Sadly, on 25 October, my mother-in-law, Dee de Smalen, died after a short illness. She celebrated her 95th birthday on 11th August, and was then in good health and very with it. To celebrate her birthday we gave her a book, Billy de Kat, (When Fraser met Billy) about an autistic boy who forms a special friendship with a cat. For her 90th I had given her, ‘A Streetcat named Bob’ which she really loved. When we were house-sitting in Worcestershire later in August she phoned me on my birthday, (we are both Leos which explains our love of cats) and told me how much she had enjoyed Billy de Kat.

I read a few passages to her from the book when she was in the final stages of her life. Frank held her hand. Whether she registered any of this or not, we don’t know. But Frank and I were there when she passed. She was born in Cheribon on Java on 11 August 1925. I imagine her early years must have been quite idyllic. She told tales of monkeys raiding family picnics, playing high jinks with the local children, convivial gatherings on the veranda, learning to cook Indonesian food with the house-keeper, and the sound of cicadas as she drifted off to sleep. But things changed dramatically for her and her family when the Japanese invaded the island in March 1942. Some of you have read the article about her years in the internment camps in Java during WWII which I published on my blog on her 90th birthday. Her life was truly a story of survival against the odds. Returning to the Netherlands after the war, she and her husband had to build up their lives from nothing.

She was always a faithful follower of my blog and it moved me to see the Prisma English/Dutch dictionary on her desk next to her computer so that she could read and understand my blog posts or stories. It’s difficult to believe that she won’t be reading these words. I am sad that she didn’t get to hear some of my stories which I have now translated into Dutch and even had one recorded for Youtube TV. I’m sure she would have enjoyed this one on Thuisbuis (lockdown TV) about Koko, the heroic dachshund who chases a thief into the woods.

Farewell, dear Dee. You live on in our hearts.


About susancarey

Angela writes using pseudonym, Susan Carey. She has dual nationality, GB/NL and lives in Nijmegen. Susan has had short fiction published on multiple platforms and was a runner-up in the 2018 and 2017 Casket of Fictional Delights Flash Competitions. Her writing has also been published and performed by amongst others: Mslexia, Liars’ League, Reflex Fiction, the Casket and of course the wonderful Writers Abroad. In 2020 she published her short story collection, Healer. Tweets at @su_carey
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10 Responses to Farewells in 2020

  1. nessafrance says:

    An amazing lady, and so lovely that you had such a warm relationship with her. I hope 2021 is less emotionally challenging for you.


  2. gailaldwin says:

    Such a lovely tribute to your mother-in-law. So sorry for your loss.


  3. janimacdc says:

    Hi Angela

    What a lovely tribute to someone who looked like a lovely old lady. So sad. I would love to read about her time in the Japanese camp if you could send it to me.

    Very sad we won’t be seeing you at Christmas but look forward to vaccines etc and a better 2021

    All the best with the house move

    Jan and Harvey xx



  4. gillianbrown12015 says:

    I remember the piece you wrote on your mother-in-law, Angela. Such an extraordinary woman. Loss at any age is hard to take, especially on top of other emotional traumas, as in your case. Let’s hope 2021 is a more positive year for all of us!


  5. chrisnedahl says:

    Dearest Angela, what a lovely tribute to your mother-in-law and a super photo of you both. Dee looks a delightful lady and you obviously hold her in high esteem.
    Rod and I wish you and Frank a truly great 2021, soon to be Covid-free hopefully, and general good health and happiness.
    May your new home be everything you wish.
    My love always.


  6. susancarey says:

    Dearest Chris,
    Thank you so much for reading my blog and commenting. Indeed Dee was a delightful lady.
    I do hope Rod and you will come and visit us in Nijmegen. We have room for guests now. It would be lovely to see you ‘in the flesh’ again! All the best to you both for 2021 🙂


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