Stones make terminally ill Aart (69) cry with happiness: ‘Years ago that he showed emotions’ | show

The terminally ill Aart van Duijsen (69) from Leiden could not have wished for a better birthday present: to attend a concert by The Rolling Stones one more time. Thursday evening, two days before his birthday, of course, the time had come. ,,A great and unbelievable experience”, says his wife Els (67) looking back to this site.


Caspar Naber


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About fourteen years ago, her husband was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, a hereditary brain disorder in which the symptoms keep getting worse. ,,My husband no longer talks – communication is very successful now and then with cards that read ‘yes’ and ‘no’ – and he can’t show emotions,” his wife explains.

The Stones changed that, she says with a mix of surprise and joy. ,,When they came up, Aart cried a lot, something I haven’t seen in years. It strengthens his permanent caretaker and me in our feeling: it enters him. Moments later, the tears were gone.”

‘In hindsight but good’

Nevertheless, it was a moment of happiness for his wife, she says. ,,We have been trying to say goodbye to pieces of Aart for years, things he can no longer do. It’s great that we got to experience this together.”

Her husband was able to attend the concert in the Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam thanks to the Ambulance Wish Foundation. He had initially arranged that the Stones fan could be present at the concert on June 13, but that was canceled at the last minute because lead singer Mick Jagger (78) had tested positive for corona.

,,Bad because we were already completely settled in the stadium, but afterwards it was a good thing, because now the surprise came just before his birthday. Aart will be 70” on Saturday, his wife reveals.


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Thanks to all these people we had a great and incredible evening

‘He just a little more than me’

Her husband received presents from all sides during the support act, she continues. ,,When we entered the room with Aart on his stretcher, people started clapping spontaneously. They really sympathized with us.”

The almost seventies attended several concerts by The Rolling Stones in his better years. ,,He was among others at the Malieveld in The Hague and in the Gelredome in Arnhem. We attended the concert in the Goffert Stadium in Nijmegen together. We are both crazy about music, but he just a little more than me, always collected vinyl”, says Els. ,,Sometimes it’s just a bit too much noise for me”, she admits with a chuckle.

No bucket list

The Stones concert was Aart’s last ‘outing’. ,,There is nothing more on the program”, says Els. There was no question of a bucket list, she says. My husband simply has no energy left.

The retired psychiatric nurse can no longer be treated – nothing can be done against Huntington anyway, his wife notes – and is currently staying in a care center in Katwijk because the location in Leiden is being renovated. Before that, the couple lived together in Voorburg.

,,When Aart moved, I went to Breda because of the children. We have two and five grandchildren. I tell him a lot about it.”

The view of Aart, with his regular nurse next to him. Insert: The Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger. © Els van Duijsen/Reuters

Els did not want her husband to be recognisably filmed or photographed during the concert because he cannot give permission. Despite this, she wanted to share their story with the outside world. “Because I want to draw attention to Huntington’s disease and because I want to put the people of the Ambulance Wish Foundation in the spotlight. They arranged everything down to the last detail.”

Arch’s wife, who also worked in psychiatry and thus met her husband, feared after the cancellation of the Stones concert in June that it would never happen again.

,,I tried to arrange new tickets myself, but I simply couldn’t get through. After five minutes the concert was sold out. Aarts regular nurse came up with a plan B. She asked: ‘Is it okay if I call in the Ambulance Wish Foundation?’ Thanks to all these people we had a great and incredible evening”, says Els van Duijsen.

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