Faith, loss, Memories of my brother, poetry

My Brother’s Words: Announcing The Poetry Project

Before there was me there was my older brother Greg. Gregory David van der Kwaak. Or simply GVDK, as he was often known. Greg was, among other things (and there were many) a poet. Like many people of gifting, he started creating young. When Greg died in a car accident aged 22 he left in his wake a trail of grief the size of continents, and literally hundreds of people stumbling around in the darkness trying to stay upright his absence. But he also left behind something else. His words.

Shortly before he died Greg assembled a volume of his poetry, meticulously edited, ordered and, of course, written. Ever-helpful, he did for us the very thing we would have wanted. He gave us continued access to his heart through his pen.

For years I, and many others, have read these poems and marvelled at the proficiency, wisdom, and productiveness of the writer. I have shown them to outside sources, who have praised them for what they are: skilful works of art. But what stands out, even now, is the way the poems don’t stay put on the page in accomplished isolation, but rather the words seem to do something extraordinary: as they speak, they simultaneously listen. When I, and others who knew Greg read these words, it is as if he is still talking to us, helping us get by even in his absence, indeed to process his very absence. In his poetry Greg is still very present.

For many years I, and my parents, wondered what to do with these poems. For the moment I have decided to offer them in this space, for others to read. Although his topics were diverse, above all I would term Greg’s poetry ‘relational’, his poems speak to the heart. From the heart. From one who was after the heart of another. His Lord.

I hope you enjoy reading Greg’s words if you haven’t seen them before, or rediscovering them again if you have. Each week, as well as my regular posts, I intend to load a new poem onto the blog space. I hope they speak to you, as they have already spoken to so many. Including me.




  • Nikki, so inspired by the ways you honor your brother here. He was certainly lucky to have you as a sister. Can’t help but notice your pink sky picture is something comforting I saw in my own sky the night my brother died. Grateful for the way God’s comfort remains the same, through different stories and across oceans. xo

    • Kaitlin – thanks so much for stopping by and reading. Yes, it is supremely comforting to see God holding each of us, even as we feel the earth shaking. Greg was special, as Kendall was too, it seems. We have been given great gifts in our brothers. I love that you too long to honour yours. Much love, Nikki

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