My friend Peronne was a singularly unique individual. We're all unique to some extent, but Peronne was somehow more unique than most. Born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, and into a noble family, her innate natural warmth, compassion and genuine interest in her fellow human beings enabled her to overcome the boundaries of class and deference and communicate with people from all walks of life in the spirit of truth and equality.
Growing up in a family and a congregation that allowed her to be herself, and to explore her natural curiosity, she soon discovered faith as a way of life, while realising that the important things in life came down to individual choices. When it came time to go to university, she knew there was only one study for her: theology, which she read in Leiden and Oxford. She became a vicar, and a tireless advocate of interreligious dialogue. She even became the president of the Dutch chapter of the International Association for Religious Freedom I.A.R.F., and also worked for some time as a volunteer for a faith-based NGO at the United Nations in New York, and as a fund-raiser and guest-preacher at the All Souls Unitarian Church in the same city. She recently published a book on the importance of rituals.
Naturally, she was much more than a vicar on a mission to do good. She was my friend, who loved good food, who loved to have people round for dinner (she was the perfect hostess as well as a fantastic cook) or go out to the finest restaurants; who was a tremendous wine buff whose greatest enjoyment lay in sharing her favourites with her friends and acquaintances. She loved classical music and the opera, jazz recitals and Paul Weller. She was fond of art, clothes, jewellery, and makeup; liked to travel (both for work and for pleasure), and we often used to go on shopping sprees to London together. She absolutely loved vintage sports cars, owned a red Alfa Romeo Spider, and drove in rallyes all across Europe. She loved parties and apart from throwing some magnificent ones herself, always lit up every party at which she was present as a guest. People gravitated towards her. Men lost their hearts to her, and she broke a fair few, though never out of malice or just because she could. She would have loved to have found Mr. Right, but although she thought she might have once or twice, she was always disappointed in that hope.
She never judged. She accepted everyone, young or old, exactly as they were, and never tried to change anybody other than to try to induce or encourage them to do good. She was loyal, supportive and unwavering in her friendships. She was a great listener and a giver of sound advice. She was, quite simply, a wonderful human being, one of the best there ever were on this planet, and the world is a colder place without her.
Yesterday, we took her to her final resting place. After the coffin had been lowered into the grave, her father scattered the ashes of her half-brother Ben, who died 13 months ago, over the lid. It seems fitting that the two of them, so close in life, should be together forever in death.