Commentators heap praise on Amsterdam mayor after cancer diagnosis

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Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan's announcement that was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer completely shocked what seems like the entire Netherlands, including commentators James Worthy, Theodor Holman and Janneke van der Horst. In columns written for their mayor in Het Parool, they have nothing but praise for Van der Laan.

"I've been jealous of other countries and cities", Janneke van der Horst writes. "Their wines, their squares, their climate, their mountains, their beaches, their language, their literature knowledge, their dances, their bread, their cheese, their books, their unaffected or ridiculous emotions, their men, their women, their folk songs, their outdoor life, their actors, their supermarkets and even the outfits of their police. But over the past years in no city or town in the world, have I been jealous of their mayor."

James Worthy describes Eberhard van der Laan as Amsterdam's father. "When I think of Eberhard van der Laan, I do not think of is performance, but the stories that people tell about him. They are beautiful stories." He talks about the mayor stepping in as a substitute in a football match between DVVA and Sporting Noord in 2011. The DVVA team was three players short. "Two minutes before kickoff, he was suddenly on the field. No one called him, but there he was. Our mayor. He was not wearing shin guards and his shirt hung out of his pants throughout the match, but they say he scored seven goals that day. One for each district. That's Eberhard van der Laan."

"Van der Laan understands better than anyone what the role of a mayor is. He is the father of the city. Nothing more and nothing less", Worthy continues. "If the canals can not sleep, he lulls them to sleep. And if the flats in Bijlmer are feeling cold, he blows hot air into the high rise. He is the helping hand for every bridge about to collapse. Loving. He is the least creaking step on each staircase. And if the city is crying, he tells a dirty joke. He is the bread roll when you have not eaten in three days. The man is much more than a mayor. Eberhard is the comforting light at the end of the IJ tunnel."

"God damn it!" was how Theodor Holman responded to the news that Van der Laan is seriously ill. "I could not help but curse after the news." According to him, the only tiny bit of advantage about knowing that the mayor is seriously ill is that you can show your appreciation. "But how do you do that? How do you do it with the weight that you want to give it."

"Sometimes there is knowledge that you'd rather not have because it makes you sad. Even when you don't know someone that well. You do not want to be aware of their future suffering. That is also a reason to curse: you cannot alleviate someone's suffering. Though: our mayor's awareness that he is so appreciated, the fact that so many people cursed when they heard about his illness, can do nothing but make him aware that he is doing his job so well. And that comforts. Comfort must kom from others and when so many want to give comfort, that does not scare the disease away, but does warm the soul." Holman writes

"So: strength Mr. Van der Laan. Strengh lovely mayor. There are plenty of things for you to be proud of." Holman concludes. "And now I'm going to do more cursing."