In times like this, the only thing I know how to do is write…and so today I will share a very personal post:

I first met Antoine when I was 23, eleven years ago. I was fresh off the boat from Canada, and he was fresh to his job as director at a small online start-up. We met with equal enthusiasm, spirit and the sense of possibility. It was an exciting time and I was thrilled to be part of building something we all believed in.

He was my first actual boss and an excellent one. He gave me endless freedom and far too much responsibility. The job allowed me to travel to Belgium, Germany, England and France. He was game for anything: any idea, any plan, any pitch – as long as you came to him with a solid plan and a feasible budget.

His laugh was loud, unique and infectious. He took risks, took chances and persevered. Above all, he was a kind and supportive man who continually empowered and trusted those around him. He let me delve deep into a whole new fascinating world encouraging me to gain new skills and grow. Hours were long and days were chaotic, but in the chaos I gained skills and experiences that lay the foundation for my career.

I left Expatica – after nearly 4 years with a heavy heart, but it was time to move on. I knew that leaving Expatica did not mean leaving the friend I had made, behind. Sure enough we’ve always kept in touch. Antoine was always the first to congratulate me on any successes I had. He was continually keen to offer help and encouragement where he could.

Over the years, we’d meet regularly for coffee and discuss business, work, life and our families. His face always brightened up when speaking about Simone and the boys. Our easy banter was carefree and comforting. We’d tease each other with the familiarity that comes from working long hours together on chaotic projects and seeing each other at your best, and worst. I loved poking fun at his “Dutchness” and he’d rib me on all things Canadian. He’d laugh (loud!) at the “naive Canadian” intern who he met many moons ago.

A few weeks ago we met and discussed the idea of working together on a new project. The thought of working together again – ten years after first meeting – felt right. His enthusiasm was infectious and I looked forwarded to seeing each other more, in the process of creating something new. The last time we saw each other, a few weeks ago over drinks in the sun, we shared endless laughs and made plans to finally go camping – Dutch style – together this summer with our families.

kindnessOn Monday night I was on the radio discussing my new book. The interview was in Dutch and I was worried about how it went. Two seconds after coming out of the radio studio – I got a text –  from Antoine. I hadn’t told anyone about the show, but he had somehow heard – and in his usual supportive fashion was the first to reach out with kind words. Like he always did, for so many.

That text message on Monday evening was my last correspondence with Antoine – and a true reflection of his character : taking the time out of his busy life, to reach out to others with kindness, heart and humour.

Antoine was one of the first people I met in this country, and he felt – and treated me – like family. He always had a smile on his face, and didn’t take life too seriously. He continually challenged himself and others around him to dream big  and be better. He was adventurous, smart and driven.  But at the end of the day, after all his accomplishments, he was one of those special people who strived – above all – to just be a good person. And he truly was.

Antoine, Simone and their two young boys (Quint and Pijke) will all be truly missed.

I am but one person – of the so very many – who is better off for having known Antoine, Simone, Quint and Pijke.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who lost loved ones in this senseless tragedy.