The last stage we celebrate Frans' birthday10 April 2022 23:00
Congratulations French! Today you would have turned 84. You may not be there physically, but I can feel everything that you are there. In the morning we listen to the last podcast ‘Pater Frans in Homs’ before departure, after which we are dropped off again in Heusden by the bus driver.
The last kilometers
We are dropped off at 08.30 and then the parking lot is still completely empty. A few minutes later, the first pilgrims arrive who follow us (again) on the last leg. A part of my family also joins, including my brother Pieter Paul and his wife Jetske, super fun! When everyone is there, we leave in the full sun towards 's-Hertogenbosch. Great to start in the storm and rain and then end in this weather. It is just like the search for your inner home, which also starts stormy and then ends hopefully for everyone in peace and warmth.
In my opinion we are walking the most beautiful route today. Via the nature reserve 'Eendenkooi Ter Kwak' and the various nature reserves '...wheels' we walk into the 'Loonse en Drunense Duinen'. It's really beautiful. Also this day the pilgrims walk side by side, from one to the other and share the most beautiful stories. So Elza tells me the story of the legend of Christophorus, very impressive. Especially because she is also a real storyteller. I can proudly say that the goal of connection has been more than achieved during all days.
Bossche Bollen from Jan de Groot
Who's birthday treats! Since he cannot do this himself, we do it out of love for him. For the last break, my friends bought the real Bossche Bollen from Jan de Groot. The reactions of the pilgrims are fantastic. They're like a bunch of little kids getting a present on their birthday. They were probably very ready for these delicious sugar bombs. At the end I take a quick look at our bank account to tell my friends how much they can still add to the amount stated on the website, so that we will soon have a complete amount for the check and then we leave.
Arrival in ‘s-Hertogenbosch
We all arrive in 's-Hertogenbosch well in advance of time. This gives some the chance to dive right into the sun on the terrace. Het Brabants Dagblad to interview Helmi and Marie-Jeanne. To give Rob the opportunity to prepare for the prayer celebration in St. John's Cathedral. And for me to walk into St John's Cathedral for the first time in my life. I saved this moment especially for today.
My first step in St. John's Cathedral
Upon entering I am amazed by the large, but especially by all the beautiful stained glass. When I look down again I see my friends, those from the Bossche Bollen, coming towards me with their arms in the air. They are very proud of me and a beautiful bunch of flowers follows. Then the check is printed in my hands. It is the provisional end result, because we expect a number of donations from supermarkets, congregations and from collections during Lent. When I look at the amount, a smile immediately appears on my face, because the amount contains all the numbers and age of my uncle, € 88,484. Coincidence does not exist!
I then walk through the cathedral to let everything sink in on me. I see Rob and Conny sitting together on a bench. They enjoy this place. I can see that in their faces. I ask Rob where the Lady Chapel is, because that must be a very special place. He points to the room next to the entrance. I walk towards it and halfway through I get a kind of goosebumps that only get stronger as I get closer. It's almost magical. Once inside I see a huge amount of candles and the statue of Saint Mary. It's really beautiful. Of course I light a candle for Uncle Frans, the people in Syria and the pilgrims.
Just before 4.30 pm we are accompanied outside by Bishop de Korte and we receive a number of instructions and a candle. We take a photo with a check and then we walk in. Bishop de Korte asks me to walk next to him and together with all the pilgrims behind us we make our way to the altar. What the participants don't know is that I sent all attendees an email with the message that you can applaud when we enter. Hands quickly clap together when we get closer. There is a giggle from Nita behind me and when I turn around I see a lot of proud faces.
The prayer celebration is beautiful. The bishop's words are heartwarming. Rob speaks great about our sponsored walk. Feras, from Syria, touches everyone present with his beautiful words. Mark is once again singing the stars of heaven with the songs 'Rollercoaster' by Danny Vera and 'After the storm' by Mumford and Sons. The songs have taken on even more meaning for me now, it's really really beautiful. What really touches me are the reflections recited by the pilgrims. Nita's last one in particular touches me enormously, because it is about my mother's health. It is unbelievable how we have grown as a group in recent days and that this can arise from love for each other. I close by naming all the nice numbers around my uncle's 84th birthday and by saying my word of thanks. I highlight some people especially, because during my hike from Amsterdam to 's-Hertogenbosch they provided me with beautiful insights, which I would like to share with all those present. Afterwards, Bishop de Korte leaves the cathedral with me by his side and followed by all the pilgrims. On the way he asks about my mother. I could not wish for a better ending to the 'Walk for Homs' pilgrimage.
During the Eucharistic celebration in the morning in St. John's Cathedral, Bishop de Korte had thought about us and the people in Syria. Do you want to look back at this moment? View the registration of the Eucharistic celebration. It can be seen from 00:49:20 to 00:50:20.
The last Supper
Henk and Helmi have arranged that we pilgrims with supporters can eat together one last time to say goodbye to each other. We eat at Grand Café Silva Ducis. Bishop de Korte also eats with us. At the beginning I thank everyone and hand out the keepsake. It is a silver pin with the logo of 'Walk for Homs', but of course there is one special pin. This one is made of gold and is intended for the pilgrim who has collected the most, Nita. The food is excellently arranged and very tasty. Afterwards Henk thanks me with the beautiful words that he speaks on behalf of all pilgrims that they have come to love me. He tells me to give me a hug and a kiss and that accidentally ends in a kiss on his mouth. Fortunately, everyone can laugh about it and Helmi too, because she likes to share. After dinner, everyone says goodbye to each other. The hugs are flying around and I decide to ask Bishop De Korte if I can give him a hug too, because in my opinion he deserved it. The prayer celebration was too beautiful not to give it. I can only say that I have a lot of admiration for this man. Of course I will not let him leave empty-handed and give the book 'Frans van der Lugt touched by the Holy Spirit' and 'Chief Ouwe Dibbes' by Sander de Kramer.
After everyone has gone home, we decide to have a drink with my friends to end the day together. Roderick proposes to watch the documentary of Kruispunt about Uncle Frans of the KRO-NCRV together. That also happens for a reason, because I can't imagine a better time to do this together. It really turned out to be a wonderful broadcast. Not much later, messages from pilgrims who have also seen it pour in and once on the bus back to Amsterdam we call my parents, who have also been watching with pride.
You can watch the documentary here.
The 'Walk for Homs' pilgrimage has sadly come to an end, but I will continue to raise money for Al Ard. I will do this until they have built up an independent existence again. Would you also like to make a donation? Then support us here. Thank you in advance.
Ila Al Amam. Let's live from love, forever.