Robert Gordon Van Buerle – Rest in Peace

I’ve been struggling with how to put this in words, how to share this news with others. But as time marches on I suppose the only way is to simply do it. This week has been a difficult one, dealing with the loss of my Grandfather who passed away early Friday morning and preparing for his funeral this coming Friday.

To say it came as a shock wouldn’t be quite the right phrasing, we suspected he wouldn’t be with us much longer. In his last few days, we made daily visits to see him taking turns sitting at his bedside and holding his hand, so he knew he was loved and surrounded by family. The good thing is he wasn’t in pain, he got to end his time peacefully.

For those who know me it’s no secret that I’m very close to my family, we help and support each other always, so it should be no surprise that this loss is immense. My Grandfather, Robert Gordon Van Buerle, lived an extraordinary life working in the UN and travelling the world—my mother wrote a bit about it in her own blog post. It was thanks to him I was able to write some of my best articles for university assignments, I can recall fondly sitting across the table from him with my recorder on and my notepad at the ready.

1951 Robert Gordan Van Buerle – Johore Police

It was only a few years ago that my Grandfather on my father’s side died, John Henry Hanton, and that rocked me quite a bit even though I hadn’t had such a close bond with him. Both of my grandfathers were and continue to be dear to me. When John died, I’d been unpublished, he never got to read my writing or know that I would continue to make steps towards making my dream come true… so I’m forever grateful Granddad Robert got to see me published, that I got to see him hold ‘Beginnings’ in his hands and see my name in print.

Myself & my Grandmother with my Grandfather as he looks through ‘Beginnings’

Of course, this loss is different than losing John… it’s different to any other loss I’ve suffered. As soon as I heard the news I crumpled, I did what I could to help my mother and brother, but I spent most of the day crying. We had to contact family, near and far, to inform them because we didn’t want them to hear it from someone else or on Facebook. I couldn’t even conjure the energy to inform my closest friends until later that evening because somehow it felt personal and as if I should keep it all in. There’s a numbness that took over for the days immediately after, that’s still somewhat present now, but still, I continue to write because I know my Grandfather would want me to keep striving towards my dream.


Many of my fondest memories involve my Grandfather, visits to England and travelling to New Zealand. Going to Perth, eating rambutans in Darwin. When I got Janie on the day after my ninth birthday, I’d been planning to call her Lucky, but Grandad called her Janie and so that was the name she was given (in memory of his old dog Janie the first). And the day I graduated from Bond; Grandad was there watching me cross the stage.

Grandad and I after my Graduation with my Bachelor of Journalism

He prized education did my Grandfather, he made sure his children received a good education and had always wanted them to go onto University but none of them did. It was a special moment for him to be able to attend my University graduation, and I’d known from the start when I enrolled that I wanted him there to see me when I graduated. Unfortunately, my cousin won’t get the chance to have him watch her cross the graduation stage. There are so many memories waiting ahead of me, and for a great many of them I’m sad to know he won’t be there for them… but I’m lucky I had him for longer than some.

Grandad and me at the Mah-jong table

When we moved to Bribie Island, it was to be closer to my Granddad and Grandma. There were lots of new things my brother and I learnt to do so that we could help my Grandfather enjoy life more and help with his Alzheimer’s. I can remember pulling out the old Mah-jong set and sitting down to learn the rules, memorising how many tiles you needed to construct the walls, and playing games every Saturday to see a smile on my Grandfather’s face.

As he grew older his tastebuds craved the flavours of his youth, Malaysian cooking. So we cooked meals like Roast Duck and Roast Chicken with oriental flavours, my brother pushed me to learn how to cook Ondeh Ondeh, and we formed a kind of symbiotic cooking relationship with each of us carrying out certain steps to make sure the dishes turned out right. Only a few weeks ago my mother spent time making Youtiao because my Grandfather kept asking for it, and we all tried it as she made numerous attempts at getting it right.

There are flavours and smells I’ll always associate with my Grandfather, possessions and songs that will remind me of him eternally, in my heart he’ll always live on. So whilst we close the chapter on his life, the story of his legacy lives on with our family. Rest well Grandad, we love you always.

Grandad and Molly, both gone but never to be forgotten. R.I.P.

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