Book Notes: The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

Book Notes: The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen January 24, 2019

I am heading into a super busy weekend, and ought to be already running around like an insane person, or Wisdom crying aloud in the streets while no one listens to her, one or the other. But first I wanted to draw your attention to an interesting book I recently discovered on audible.

You might be, as I have been, running into terrible and shocking news stories about the new reality of death in the Netherlands. Euthanasia is legal there, of course, and it seems that more and more people are taking advantage of this apparently consequence-less manner of escape. It is good for everyone, because ill and unhappy people do not have to be trapped in life, but can, of their own free will, control what has so long been in the hands of God alone. Doctors are free to help them.

The question is, as some news stories are beginning to tell, is it always a ‘free choice?’ Or are doctors and families coercing older people, or very sick people, or very unhappy people to do away with themselves? Certainly, it is expensive to keep medically complicated people around, and also, many people suffer for sure, and so sometimes it seems it would be better if they went away and made room for other younger—although what does young mean anymore—people.

Closer to home, the children and I do our best to go visit one of Good Shepherd’s nursing-home-bound members every week. She stood in as the grandmother (our mothers being so far away) we so desperately needed when the children were tiny. She is in a dementia unit, which means that she has to have a little circlet around her ankle that sets off an alarm if she goes through the wrong doors. She knows that she doesn’t like the object, but she can never put words to why. She is always thrilled to see us, and knows us, thank heaven, and is healthy and well. But she is frustrated by her estate, as are we. Every week we balance gratitude for her health and safety, against sorrow that she lives so isolated from the life of the church of which she was so central a member for so long.

So, pondering the near (our friend) and the far (the Netherlands) when I was scrolling through audible, looking for something interesting and funny, I clicked upon The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, by Hendrik Groen. It is turning out to be very funny, and occasionally poignant, and certainly thought provoking. I am still in the early stages (like February in a year long diary) and am enjoying the characters and the writing very much.

Hendrik is an elderly gentleman living in a euphemismisticly termed ‘Care Center,’ which seems to be something like assisted living. He has no family, his only daughter having died in childhood. He has no religion, although he did make one impossible bargain with God. The one thing that he does have is a powerful will to disrupt the status quo, and to go out with a bang. He also has one or two good friends in the Care Center, and a powerful sense of humor about all the others. If he dies before the diary is finished, he announces in the beginning, portions of it have to be read out at his funeral.

I am loving the indirect and humorous way he deals with the reality that political, cultural and economic trends effect the ordinary person sitting in a chair by the window, wishing that spring would finally come. People making decisions in government, or in office buildings, or in the imaginations of their own hearts have real world consequences for people who have no power, no agency, no ability to go anywhere else or organize their lives in the way they would like. And yet, even in the narrowness of a confined life, there are a thousand small decisions that effect one’s happiness one way or another.

I’m not very far in, and already the ‘pill’ has been brought up several times. I am beginning to be anxious about what will happen.

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