The courage and tact of Kefah Allush were rewarded with great candor from Olga Commander’s side

When the Fiat 500 with a blank wooden coffin on the roof drives into the picture, I tend to run. The sight reminds me of that famous poem The Gardener and Death van P. van Eyck. The gardener is shocked to discover death in the morning. Flees, runs for a day, to feel safe in Ispahaan. But Death is surprised that he saw the gardener still pruning in the morning: ‘I was surprised when I saw work standing still here in the morning, which I had to fetch in Ispahaan in the evening.’ Death, in short, has its own agenda and you cannot avoid it.

Kefah Allush in 'The Chest'.  Image EO

Kefah Allush in ‘The Chest’.Image EO

That sense of fate underlies the EO program The chest, in which program maker Kefah Allush interviews famous Dutch people about death in their lives. Monday was part two of a new series. As we know, celebrities are not afraid of the devil, and certainly not of Allush’ Fiat, who will symbolically bring them the last model of their wooden coat. On Monday he visited Olga Commandeur, presenter of The Netherlands in motion. This weekday morning program encourages seniors to keep their bodies flexible, at least in the run-up to the flight to Ispahaan.

The interviewee can choose: does the box go inside, or does it stay on the Fiat? Commander kept him out, which in no way meant that she showed any trepidation about discussing the end of life at the kitchen table in colorful terms. If I had the inclination to let the day so triumphant due to the arrival of a new cabinet overshadowed by my own sense of death, Commander immediately took the zapping reflex away from me.

Far away and at the same time close is death for Commander, she immediately told Allush. “Why?” he asked. Recently, she replied, she was diagnosed with pre-cancerous breast cancer, resulting in an amputation. She spoke about it with an astonishing, almost light-hearted sobriety.

She had not felt great fear during the illness, but she had known difficult moments. “Which one?” Allush wanted to know. ‘When I was allowed to wash in the hospital and saw myself in the mirror. Very confrontational. Still mutilated, on that one side.’ Allush: ‘That one breast gone.’ Yes, Commander agreed: ‘That looked very ugly after all.’ Now it’s a bit nicer again, it sounded soothing. A less experienced interviewer would have nodded in relief: Happy! If not Allush: ‘If you now go back to that moment when you stand in front of the mirror…’

It takes courage and tact from the interviewer to get to the heart of such highly personal topics. Allush was rewarded with great candor from Commander’s side. In the conversation she emerged as a compelling storyteller, with Allush having to do little more than listen carefully.



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