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2021/02/23 Herny MERLIN de Caluwé, RIP
π 2021-02-23 01:01 in Family, Public
My mom died on Feb 23rd, 2021. She was in a retirement home after having lost a lot of her physical capacities (taking care of herself), and after a hip surgery about 3 years ago, she started losing her mental capacities. We'll never know exactly what happened, but my guess was that either the anesthesia for her surgery somehow caused brain damage (she started being confused and not always making sense the day she woke up and never recovered, or whether something else cause micro damage to multiple places in her brain). She didn't have the typical mental illness that people know (as in she always recognized me in person, although not always on the phone, where over time she became less and less able to speak french and would answer me in Dutch for the whole conversation, which made talking harder since my Dutch is pretty basic).

I wish I would have been able to better communicate with her in her last years, but that was not in the cards, so don't waste the time you do have with your own family. I know I could have done better with the time we did have, but at the same time, I also know that she did know I loved her in my own ways and I'm happy that she was able to come visit me in the US a few times before it became not possible for her to travel anymore (I also saw her every Xmas in France). I know she enjoyed the bike ride around Stevens Creek Trail the first time she came and last time she was able to bike, or the flights I gave her, including flying to Harris' Ranch for steak, and she probably still liked that ride I gave her in my F430 around skyline and that kind of caused her to throw up after a few turns too many (oops). But at the end of the day, she was also very happy reading in our yard, and looking at our birds.

my mom was a good cook, including bread
my mom was a good cook, including bread

2000 was the first year she was able to come to my first house in sunnyvale, she help pick things and decorate a bit
2000 was the first year she was able to come to my first house in sunnyvale, she help pick things and decorate a bit

I took her on the 49 mile drive around SF, including a few extra stops I added
I took her on the 49 mile drive around SF, including a few extra stops I added

dutch family embordery
dutch family embordery

each time I came for Xmas, she made sure I was well fed :)
each time I came for Xmas, she made sure I was well fed :)

yummy souflé
yummy souflé

another year she came, we went to the Chinese and Japanese Gardens in Golden Gate Park
another year she came, we went to the Chinese and Japanese Gardens in Golden Gate Park

a picture she got with flowers I got sent to her for her BD
a picture she got with flowers I got sent to her for her BD

2013 birthday
2013 birthday

nice french restaurant, I took her at for Xmas
nice french restaurant, I took her at for Xmas

tour of Google in 2007
tour of Google in 2007

I took her for a couple of flights, one to Harry's Ranch for steak and a bay tour to Monterey
I took her for a couple of flights, one to Harry's Ranch for steak and a bay tour to Monterey

Had lunch on Monterey
Had lunch on Monterey

She came for my wedding and our cat was happy to make friends
She came for my wedding and our cat was happy to make friends

Wedding day
Wedding day

as long as she was able to travel, we went to Holland every year for a family reunion
as long as she was able to travel, we went to Holland every year for a family reunion

Our cat, five, was happy to see her again in 2011
Our cat, five, was happy to see her again in 2011

We went for a tour of Stanford
We went for a tour of Stanford


After 2011, she wasn't able to travel anymore, so I only saw her in France for Xmas, including a yearly Xmas day lunch that my brother and Diane helped more and more with over time.



By 2017, she wasn't able to care for herself anymore, including getting up if she fell, so we had to move her to a retirement home. I flew to france last minute to help with her affairs, emptying her house, and helping getting it sold. She ended up staying there 3.5 years as her health and mind got worse over time, until her heart attack (by then she wasn't able to walk at all anymore, and gained a fair amount of weight):



Last Xmas, 2020, was challenging. Travelling was restricted between both countries, but since I was a citizen of one country, and resident of the other one, I was allowed to travel. It was not a fun 12H flight wearing an N100 mask the whole way, but I'm glad I made it. Her facility made us wear scrubs for covid, which felt a bit over the top, but whatever. Last time I saw her:


my last picture of her
my last picture of her

We were allowed to see her 1h in a special room instead of the normal 30mn due to covid restrictions. I think she was happy to see us, although it was hard to tell. I could have gone to see her a second time before leaving Paris (2H trip for 30mn allowed visit), but I didn't really have it in me, especially with the covid restrictions added, the visit was difficult and bittersweet.
I tried to talk to her on the phone these last few weeks. the first time, she sounded confused, could only reply in Dutch, and it wasn't clear she understood that I was calling her. The 2nd time a week later, she barely managed to pick up the phone, dropped it and the line went dead.

She finally died of a heart attack during lunch about a week later. The staff tried to revive her, but did not succeed. She was 77.

It's a tough thing to say, but as far as I was concerned, she had very little quality of life left (although at least she wasn't physically suffering, but I'm reasonably sure she could tell she was losing her brain over time, and to me, that would be more painful than physical pain), and as hard as it is to say, I was conflicted about whether she was still able to enjoy life. I know it was painful for me to see her over time (the few times I was in france), so in some way I was kind of waiting for it to be over.
It would be easier if I could believe that she's in a better place, but I only get to believe that her time on earth ended and hope she got to enjoy most of it as much as possible.
Spend quality time with your loved ones as if it could be the last time, as you'll never know when it was, until after the fact.

More photos, courtesy of google photos auto face recognition and sorting: https://photos.app.goo.gl/cjBkLgzn4AV7UVAS7

Normally I'd be fighting with airports and how to get back to France (tricky since I'm snowboarding in Utah, don't have my passport, and need to fly in the wrong direction first to get it, plus covid tests, before finding some flights back towards Europe, the direct flights having gone from 3 per day to 2 per week at this time), but my mom opted to give her body to science, and given travel restrictions and the covid risks to the rest of the family, we won't have a ceremony at this time, but this page is my remembrance of her.

20000125-003024 20000530-210321 20030104-131733 20030105-075838 20031226-133544 20051228-153908 20070105-050653 20070504-131140 20070505-114949 20090803-095135 20090808-165105 20100102-180000 20110507-155414 20110514-164059 20111225-090806 20130916-112749 20141225-143923 20171225-040544 20181227-043936 20201226-080706

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