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    Our dear departed

    Jan van der Burght

    Jan van der Burght

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    Frederic Vital Mees smallJan van der Burght (1934-2020)


    Born in 's-Hertogenbosch (NL) on January 21, 1934
    First vows on May 1, 1954
    Missionary in the Netherlands
    Died in Teteringen (NL) on September 30, 2020
    at the age of 86.

    During the funeral service, the Gospel reading was the story of Lazarus's death and resurrection (Jn 11:11-17). The meditation that follows starts from this theme: “Our brother is dead, Lord”. Lazarus's death brought great sadness to the hearts of his sisters Martha and Maria, who must have regretted it. It is what we Scheutists can say today: “Brother Jan is dead, Lord”. He is no longer...

    Jan came from a family of five children, of which he was the eldest and the first to die. The other four children now also say with great sadness: “Our brother Jan has died”.
    “My brother has died, Lord, he is no longer...” “He is no more”, says the song. Yes, Jan is no longer with us as he was before. But can we dare to believe the other words of the Gospel where Jesus says: “Whoever believes in me will live forever”.

    We, men and women, try to give meaning to life and death. We are confronted with our limitations, sickness, and death. And in this respect, we can certainly learn a lot from Jan.

    We can say that he has shown a lot of care and attention in his life. In addition to the household tasks, he was a cook for seven years, first in our community of Nijmegen and then in De Lutte. He was very concerned about the welfare of his sick and aging confreres. Until the last hours before their death, he cared for, accompanied, and supported many confreres, together with Sister Hieronyma. I was there when he cared for months during the long and painful illness of our confrere Gerard Jacobs who had returned from the mission with bone cancer.

    He did everything in the simplest but essential details, making sure that the sick person always had something to eat and drink. Jan took care of everything the ill persons needed and made sure they had something to eat and drink. And Jan did it until the end. The last things he could do, like moistening his lips, Jan did. It was in his nature. He had a strong ability to feel how he could take care of others.
    When he was Councilor of the NL Province (1972-1995) and Treasurer of Sparrendaal community in Vught (1969-1998), Jan proved to be a competent and prudent man. Apart from his care for the sick, Jan regularly visited the confreres who were received and cared for outside Sparrendaal, and he followed them closely. Not everyone appreciated his attitude. For some, Jan was rather curious and disturbing, and others found it difficult to accept him.

    However, Jan stuck to his way of doing things and did not want to give or leave anything in others' hands. His mission in Scheut was to be of service. What we can and should say about him is that he was helpful. He was ready for others. That is how he served the Congregation and the confreres. All these years, he was at the service of Scheut in the houses and communities of the Netherlands. Especially in Sparrendaal, Vught, he received confreres and visitors. All visitors knew Brother Jan, and Jan knew the visitors by name.
    He did his work with all his heart and soul. He never worked as a missionary outside his own country. It hurt him when a confrere, who did not know him, asked him, “Where have you been for mission”? Jan had difficulty answering such a question, and he suffered from it as if he had only been a second-class missionary.

    As I have already told you, Jan used to care for others and deal with others’ sickness and death. On the other hand, Jan had more problems accepting his aging and illness. I think it was challenging for him to accept his declining health and limitations. He had health problems for a long time, especially with his feet, and he did not seek treatment. This attitude continued even when he was already much sicker than we thought.
    “My brother is dead, Lord... He is no more”. Jan fought his battle. It is true. And he did so until he could no longer continue to serve others and gave up all the things he cared for so faithfully.
    His life of service is over. Jan worked with the talents that God gave him. We can say with great confidence that Jan, upon arrival at Peter's door, heard the voice of God: “You have been faithful in the handling of your talents. Come into the house of your Lord”. ■

    Henk Kaal