My friend Carola invited me to join her on a trip to Bloemendaal, a town near the Dutch coast. Hidden away on the edge of a forest is a small graveyard, Begraafplaats Adelbert. Carola had a good reason for visiting this special place as her father is buried here. I was honored and excited to come along on this beautiful day.
The Roman Catholic graveyard is from 1924, which is also when the chapel was built, designed by the French monk and architect Dom Paul Bellot with his signature expressionist Brick Gothic style. Stained glass windows create a warm atmosphere inside with a wonderful color scheme.
The landscape architect for the cemetery was Leonard Springer, who is buried in the other cemetery in Bloemendaal, de Algemene Begraafplaats.
Carola (who is also studying to become a landscape architect!) lit a candle while we explored the chapel. It doesn’t translate well on these photos due to the warm hues, but it was a freezing cold day. On the next photos outside you can see a thin layer of ice on the ground.
After walking around for a bit, Carola thought she had found her father’s grave. She wasn’t quite sure though, as it had been a while since her last visit. But she thought she recognized this spot, overgrown with shrubs. We tried moving aside the plants a bit to look for a grave marker, but couldn’t find anything to confirm this was the right grave.
Slightly disappointed we walked on, unsure if we had or had not found the right grave. But perhaps it didn’t matter; we were definitely at the right cemetery and he was here, somewhere in the midst of this beautiful landscape.
One of the most peculiar headstones I noticed was of a child’s grave. Toosje was her name, and she only lived for four years, from 1931 to 1935. She holds a stuffed bunny on her photo and has the sweetest look in her eyes. Most child graves in the Netherlands for children below the age of ten are quite small and are assigned to a specific area of a cemetery. Toosje is right near the entrance on a prominent spot and has a tall headstone. Her parents must have broken the rules for her because she was exceptional; an angel I bet.
We discovered a wooden fence with a door and couldn’t help having a look inside. It turned out to be the place where the graveyard collects all the flower offerings that are left after a funeral, as well as the plant remains that are removed when they maintain the graves. It looked a bit like graveyard within a graveyard, a little bit creepy, as if a bone could be poking out from the midst of the dead plants.
As the sun made its way toward the horizon we made our way back to the entrance. The graveyard had such a serene vibe, it was lovely to stroll around here for an afternoon and examine the graves. But the cold was getting to our bones and we wanted to warm up in a cafe in town. As we got closer to the main entrance gate, the sun was shining low through the trees in a spectacular way, giving the scenery an otherworldly glow.
Just as we were about to leave, Carola received a text message from her aunt. She had asked her if she knew the exact place of her father’s grave, and her aunt texted her the directions. We headed back inside, et voila: we found her father’s grave. A stunningly beautiful photo portrait of him was standing in the center.
This moment, standing here, being able to let go of the doubt we felt earlier, seeing Carola’s face light up, felt to me like witnessing a magical moment. The perfect ending to a perfect cemetery visit.
I really enjoyed this review. I share this rush through the atmosphere, the colors and the awareness that life goes beyond terrestrial existence.
I was happy for the wealth in the amount of photos. The small oval portrait of the child and the photo of his friend in front of the portrait of the father were particularly moving for me.
Thank you for sharing something so beautiful and your dedication to doing it with sensitivity.