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  • Writer's pictureCasper de Leuw

Celebrating Angele’s life - my speech

Celebrating a life, or mourning a death. These are two really different approaches as a response to the same event. Angele passed away, Angele moved on from this life. She’s not here anymore. I lost my wife, our children lost their mother. Her parents lost their daughter, her siblings lost their sister. The list goes on and on. We all lost her 2 weeks ago. And this loss comes with pain, grief, and sadness.

Yet, today we are here to celebrate her life in a way that nobody thought was possible. To share memories, laughter and tears, and look back at her life while having drinks and food and music. In an environment where you can feel free. If you want to cry; we’ve got tissues. If you need to pee; we’ve got toilets, if you want to drink or eat, you’ll be served.

A celebration. Because there is so much to celebrate. So much to learn. So much to be grateful for.

And doing that in the presence of all these people is insane. Throw a party, she said. So that’s what we did.

Throughout her life, Angele managed to connect with a lot of people. To inspire a lot of people. She always had so much excitement and joy in life! Wanting to do crazy things, spend time in ways people never thought feasible, and she always gave so much to whoever came into her life!

In preparation for today I went through hundreds and hundreds if not thousands of pictures and videos. 10 years. We’ve spent 10 years together. And in those 10 years we managed to capture so much, it is incredible.

A random list of countries we visited (I might have forgotten a few): Netherlands and Malta of course. Belgium Germany Austria France Spain Italy United Kingdom Portugal Greece Denmark Sweden Norway Cuba Peru Turkmenistan Uzbekistan Kyrgyzstan Kazakhstan Jordan. And then kids, covid and chemo got in the way…

We wanted to travel the rest of the world. Anyone remembers Bouncer? Our little penguin? There’s one promise I made to Angele: wherever I will travel, I will take Bouncer, and some of Angele’s ashes so I can spread this out to every new country I visit.

But life wasn’t only about travel, and had it’s ups and downs. We fought, we cried, we suffered. Hit so many low spots, had many failed projects, challenges with money, and health. Just listing the amount of times I have driven to hospital in the last 10 years would give a few pages extra to this stack. Jessie’s first week in NPICU, or the time Jessie pulled a cup of burning hot tea on herself and Jessie and Angele had to spend a week in the burns unit, two weeks before Tobias was born. Tobias’ jaundice that kept us going back there, Angele’s sleep apnea and tiredness, my asthma. My broken foot. And then, Angele’s cancer. Yes. The last four and a half years have been rough.

But I am not standing here complaining. I do not feel like a broken man. I look back with pride. I look back and can say with confidence that I did a good job. Because if I look back at these 10 years, then I can say I grew. I grew with Angele, thanks to Angele. I also “grew”, but that’s maybe the Maltese influence.

And I think the last year and a half we both have grown so much, that it is still hard to properly grasp for me. Something shifted, something went into a higher gear, from the moment we found out that the medical world did not have a proper answer anymore.

Angele worded it quite right in December. 2022 was our worst year and our best year.

In her own words:

As I focus on positivity, I understand that I do not have guarantees I do not know whether I will overcome my disease I may live for less than another year as predicted by the medics Or I could live for longer and beat the statistics

I will for sure dedicate the rest of my life however long it is To inspire others with the story of my diagnosis I want to help others by sharing my experience, struggle and teaching In the hope that you find something that is enriching

2022 has been the worst year As my old self had to disappear 2022 has been my best year As my renewed self, had to appear.

Looking back, I would say that before 2022 we struggled. Struggled with life. Stress from work, from being sick. Two tiny little demanding babies. Immense pressure we put on ourselves to do things “right”. To try and somehow turn this disease around. And we only made it worse.

In 2022 that turned around. Angele did not get better, but we managed to turn it around. We stopped being a victim. We stopped thinking it was the outer world that was to blame. We started to turn that positivity that we always had into a big beaming light, of enlightment.

Did it turn things around from a health perspective? For a while absolutely. From summer 2022 till April of this year we had the time of our lives, despite – or maybe thanks to – our circumstances.

We meditated, we enjoyed brunches together. Outings with the kids, going into nature. Walking meditations. One of our favorite spots was right here. We would start close to the parking lot over there, at the edge since there’s a small path there. Meditate, walk, meditate and walk. All the way up till the trees over there. Beautiful views, greenery. Between Mgarr and childcare. If you stand over there you can nearly see our house.

It was a good time. But even when things turned for the worse this year, we took it with the same positivity and grace.

Anyone who has seen Angele in the last 3 months should be able to confirm that Angele stayed strong and positive all the way till the end. At the end of April, early May, she was in a lot of pain. She suffered. But she did not complain. In the two and a half months that I took care of her at home with help from a lot of people that are gathered here today she never complained. She did not feel sorry for herself, she did not have pity on herself. She thanked her carers for everything they did. She called me the best husband she could ever imagine. She loved her sister Antoinette “20” on a scale of 1 to 10. She smiled at everyone who came to visit or help. Whenever she had good moments she was trying to have fun, engage in conversation. And eat. I have never seen someone enjoy food as much as Angele did these last 3 months. Incredible. Sushi. Brownies. Sorry, no sushi today. But we will have her brownies for dessert today! Simply amazing.

Did we hit rock bottom? Yes, we did. Angele hit her rock bottom in the last days of February 2022; I hit mine a few months later. Am I at rock bottom now? No. I think am not. I am hurt, at times still in disbelief with how fast it all happened. 4 months ago she was still dancing the night away. It is still surreal to come home to a house without Angele. I scream, I shout, I cry my heart out at times. But thanks to the way we went through this together, I can say that Angele gave me a steppingstone and a massive kick forwards and upwards. And I better make the best out of the rest of my life.

Not just my life. Also the life of our kids. Jessie and Tobias. Our little “monsters” we used to call them. They are actually little angels in disguise so I will try to refrain from calling them that. They have been such little strong champs throughout all of this. It is heartbreaking to hear their comments and questions at times. But they somehow are dealing with this with so much strength and grace. They’re getting help, and they have a massive amount of loving and caring people around them that have been there for us in so many ways these last few months. I don’t even know where I would have to start if I were to thank you all. Thank you. All!

One of the things Angele and I were always trying to find is to see how we can raise them in the best way possible. “The best” is of course a debatable term, but for us that would mean a loving and caring environment where they can play, be children, and learn at their own pace. Be outside, become resilient. It seems I finally found something that is suited for them, and if all goes according to plan they will start in this new forest school as of October. When I was telling this to Angele she was super excited. It was literally one of the last things I shared with her, and the joy and relief I saw on her face is still making me feel emotional beyond words.

Yes, the 3 of us will have some challenges ahead. Big challenges. I will keep the same approach though: positivity, love and care. And we better make the best out of it.

I think that is what Angele was trying to teach us all. You never know what life is going to bring. You’d better be happy now. Don’t wait till the magic moment is there. That magic moment is now.

The positivity she brought, and inspiration she was to others is something that I will try to live by for the rest of my life; somehow I will make sure that this spirit isn’t lost.

As I said in the beginning. We all lost her physical presence in this world. But we all gained so much in the process; so let’s celebrate that, keep her spirit alive, and be happy, now.

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