My brother always loved the bush. In our younger years we grew up across the road from some wonderful bushland. While the rest of the kids saw creative-game possibilities in swamps, piles of rocks and canals, Jan saw only the landscapes and their natural beauty. Jan would go off with the boys who stated that girls weren't allowed and he'd come back with detailed descriptions of trees growing in ponds and glow-worm tunnels. He grudgingly dragged me to some wetlands that had trees in the middle and made me see the wonders of nature that I still appreciate today. He took me on a long bike-ride to see a volcano that had been extinct for 30,000 years. When I wanted to climb it, the mathematician in him calculated that it was about to erupt and we'd better head home. I begged Jan to take me to see the glow-worm tunnels but he said they were too far for a girl to walk. A couple of years ago on facebook, he posted some pictures and descriptions of a glow-warm tunnel he'd seen near Newnes. I asked him to take me there next time he went. Again, he told me it was too far from where the road ended for me to walk. One day he came home with a description of electric eels he'd seen swimming among trees in a swamp. Of course I wanted to see them. Off course they were too far away. But a week later he came home with a bucket full of water and an electric eel. He told me I could keep it in my aquarium which at the time didn't have any fish. I asked what its name was. He said "It's your eel. You name him". Jimmy stayed with us for about a year and Jan figured that he was growing too big for the aquarium and took him back to the swamp. How many people can say their brother gave them an eel for a pet? I'm still waiting to see my first glow-worm tunnel. Or even a glow-worm for that matter. And while I wait, I treasure the memories of a wonderful brother who made childhood something quite extraordinary.
Dear Gert Jan, Rust zacht. Ver weg...... Liefs uit Holland Hans van Schaik
Gerrit Jan had a few names, in his youth his was Pico, which was short for Piccolo – small one - he was known to most as Jan, and to family as John, I'll refer to him as John. I'm the baby of the family and John had actually moved out of home to Wollongong before I was born but had returned and ended up taking my mum to hospital for me to be delivered. From that day to his last he was often mistaken for being my father, the nurses and doctors at Parramatta hospital apparently would give mum strange looks thinking she was a cradle snatcher. Even though he was old enough to be my father I never felt the generation gap you might expect. Growing up our house was a busy one, with many visitors coming and going and I had sensed that this one male visitor was given special treatment but it wasn't until I was around 6-7 that I realised he was actually my brother. He was a boisterous, interesting, energetic, happy person, you always new when he was around. LATER, when I got my own store as a Manager of a local Pizza Hut not too far from where John and the girls lived, he would regularly bring the girls in on a quiet night and I would often be able to sit with them, and if not it was just nice to have them there for dinner. We have celebrated a couple of our birthdays at the races and I fondly remember his strategy. He wouldn't place a bet unless he had seen the horses on their way to the barrier which horses had the smallest ears and the biggest rump. I don't know what the biggest rump signified, but the smallest ears he figured meant that there was less donkey and more horse so a better chance of a win. LAST YEAR when he moved there were 2 things in large supply, books and hats. Reading is something our family all enjoy with a passion and are known to devour books, but he was known to read whole books in one sitting if it grabbed his interest. He particularly liked Science Fact, Science Fiction and Fantasy. And there's the legend that he read The Lord of The Rings in one sitting on the train back from Wollongong. He enjoyed many pastimes, but the one of music is one he shared with me that endured for both of us. I adored his flute. It was shiny, had some special tiny keys and could produce the most serene tone. It was only a matter of time before I would follow in his footsteps and learn to play the flute too, for which I am eternally thankful as it started me on the path to meet my husband. He played guitar and flute, and even studied at the conservatorium of music for a while when he returned from Wollongong. This came about when he was playing in a coffee house with a band and someone came up with a didgeridoo and offered a year's tuition at the Con for the first person to be able to make a continuous sound using circular breathing – it was Don Burrows and yes John was the first. The music that comes to mind when I think of him is Elton John, Mike Oldfields Tubular Bells, Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick, Kate Bush, Bob Dylan, John Cougar Mellancamp and lots of classical music. I cherish the memories I have of playing flute and flute and guitar duets with him, as this was when our relationship really flourished. Photography was something else he enjoyed which at first made finding photos of him difficult as he was so often behind the camera instead of in front of it. We did manage to get quite a few together and have put them in a display to show you next, with one of the songs most played on his iPod – Dire Straits Why Worry. You will also get to see a few from his hat collection. Before I go, I'd like to thank all the staff at Fernleigh, where he spent the last 6 months. He said he'd worked in as many as 41 nursing homes and Fernleigh was one of the best. We thank you for your care and professionalism, there is not one person I came across that wasn't friendly. There is certainly a good atmosphere and morale in that place. As we all know nurses can make some of the worst patients but you treated him with dignity and respect, and gave him friendship.
You helped me so much. Through all the worst times you were there. You always had the right answers. Now what? Feel so lost. Felt so helpless in your suffering which you knew and you even helped me there. Hoping my memories will sustain me but so far they're just breaking my heart.
Old mate, we have shared a friendship for almost 50 years and now you have been called home to God. I shall miss you and cherish the memory of a fine and decent man from a kind and loving family of which I have always felt part of. RIP