dinsdag, maart 14, 2017

At the age of 78 Kees Scheijgrond died in his hometown Gouda on 21 February. From 1995 until 2010 he was Chairman of the Dutch Foundation of Initiatives of Change (IofC-NL). He was the most 'active' chair IofC-NL has had. He took numerous initiatives, both in the Netherlands and further afield, to bring about the changes he wanted to see in the world.

Kees ScheijgrondThe service of thanksgiving on 25 February in Gouda was a beautiful illustration of his multi-faceted life. The 'Joostkapel' could not hold all of the more than 300 people, so the 'overflow' was able to follow the service on a screen in another church across the street. Via  Facebook-livestream people in other countries were able to be part of this farewell service for Kees.

Kees was always looking for opportunities to connect with others. In that same spirit the clergywoman, Kim Magnée, asked everyone at the beginning of the service to just shake hands with the people near them. During this relaxed moment, the grandchildren came forward to light the candles and share the various things they had made for Opa (grandpa). A drawing of a swimming pool, because 'Opa liked swimming and so did I', a hockeystick, because 'Opa and I both like hockey', a piano, because 'Opa could sing so well'. And Opa was really good at handcraft, telling stories and listening. 'I will always treasure my memories of you, Opa, and I miss you already.'

Then Kees 's wife Marina spoke. 'This is probably the most difficult moment of my life, but at the same time I am so happy that all of you have come to be here, in this church and the one across the street and that people elsewhere in the world can follow this service via "lifestream". Making connections was important for Kees and now we are connected with the whole world.'

Marina continued to give an overview of Kees's life. An important moment was in 1966. Kees was already a Navy Officer. During a weekend break, staying with his parents in Amersfoort and while washing his red Volkswagen Beetle, neighbourhood girl Marina came cycling past and they got chatting. Three months later they had their first date, got engaged in December 1967 and married in December 1968.

A turning point was their visit to Caux in 1974 for a winter conference of what was then still called Moral Re-Armament. It was the beginning of a search for more meaning in their lives, for a greater sense of being connected with other people and for the meaning and value of family life. Back in Gouda they started looking for a church they might join and ended up in the Joostkapel, a liberal protestant church. 'We have put a lot of time and energy into this church and taken many initiatives, but we have also received much in return - a meaning for our lives.' During one of their last exchanges Kees said how grateful he was: 'I have been so richly blessed.' He recently had a piece of jewelry made for Marina, depicting two swans as a symbol of their bond.

Jan-Willem, the eldest son, continued the story, also speaking on behalf of his brothers Peter and Eric. 'Dad was always planning his next adventure. He had an unshakable trust in his fellow human beings. He practised the slogan "change the world, starting with yourself." A Navy Officer should be honest and reliable, and that he was. I was really proud that he was in the Navy. I remember when we were allowed to visit his submarine. His search for a meaning in life, really started when he met my mother Marina. He started the practise of having "quiet times", and applied in his life the standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. He was able to help many people and always aimed at reconciliation.' Jan-Willem then recalled the many things his father had undertaken following his official retirement from the Navy at the age of 52.

During this second phase of his life he and Marina gave a series of training courses in Eastern Europe about the foundations of democracy, as part of the IofC programme Foundations for Freedom. Later on they facilitated training courses in Sierra Leone on Moral Foundations for Democracy, for the army, the police and civil society groups. Kees was also actively building bridges of trust between people in one of Gouda's neighbourhoods, started a discussion group with Dutch fathers and fathers of Moroccan descent, and he sang in three different choirs. Members of these three choirs sang during the church service. Jan-Willem: 'Dad was a moral compass for me. For him the family was the cornerstone of society. He was a man with an enormous perseverance, continually asking questions and looking for dialogue.'

Through these stories, as well as through the words of daughter-in-law Margje, who spoke also on behalf of the other daughters-in-law, Magdalena and Sheila, a picture of Kees emerged as a dedicated family man, enjoying cycling tours, walks, family excursions, or just spending time together. Margje: 'He was a genuine listener, and good at making you think.'

Kees was a whole-hearted Navy man. Former colleague, Ad van der Sande, spoke about the first phase of Kees's life, his 32 years in the Navy. 'Kees stood out because of his quiet, fatherly personality. He was smart and disciplined. And naturally he was chosen to be president of the senate. He solicited respect and gave that to others.' For people who only knew Kees during the second phase of his life, it was interesting, listening to Van der Sande, to get a picture of what Kees was like as a Navy Officer.

The final hymn (here translated from the Dutch), gave a glimpse of what life may have been like at sea, and, in a metaphorical sense, on land:

I hoist my sails to catch God's winds,
though badly damaged they are.
But hoisting them, I trust in Him,
as Christ himself, as unseen guest,
is passenger on my ship.
On His command I dare to brave
the high and stormy seas.

'The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.' Rev Kim Magnée quoted this line from the Gospel of St John Chapter 1 verse 5, to illustrate that Kees always tried to stay focussed on the light, in order to reconcile people with each other, to prevent negativity, to apply the principle of adversarial process, to be ready to take a first step, to extend a hand of friendship. His strong will and determination meant that he would not take no for an answer. That could sometimes be difficult. On the other hand, he was also able to make himself vulnerable, and he challenged people into having exchanges on a deeper level: What do you believe? What is it that really motivates you? Differences he regarded as an enrichment. Strangers to him were friends whom he hadn't yet gotten to know. Magnée described him as a motor of new initiatives.

The presence of the hundreds of people who had come to say their last farewell was a clear reflection of Kees's social involvement. They braved the cold weather to share in the moving final ceremony at the graveside. Rev Magnée, and those who wanted and were able to, said the Lord's Prayer, after which she spoke a blessing. Then two notes from a Navy Officer's trumpet introduced a minute's silence, while the casket was lowered into the grave. When Kees Scheijgrond had reached his final resting place, the trumpet broke the deep silence with the Last Post, after which Ubi Caritas was sung.

A remarkable human being has passed away. The Dutch Initiatives of Change Foundation owes him a great deal of gratitude.

Hennie de Pous-de Jonge

(translated by Maarten de Pous)