Family History photo-file of the memoir “14 days in May”

On this page I’ll gather all the memory-posts I collected in my “14 days in May” Family History photo-file.

14 memories I published between May 15 – May 28 2020 on different social media to promote my latest book, 14 days in May. A translation of the original version in Dutch, “14 dagen in mei” (2014).

In a few words, 14 days in May, is the true story of my father, who suffered a “fatal” accident when still a young guy. During guard duty in military service he was shot in the face, a bullet that exploded in his head.

He miraculously survived, with the help of doctors, his own willpower, and a healthy dosis of faith. But most importantly, because of the unconditional love of his girlfriend at the time, my future mother.

After a long recovery he could return to his home village in Brabant, a southern province of the Netherlands. Back home however, he found everything to be exactly the way he left it, but no one seemed to remember him anymore. 

An amazing story, an inspiring story, a love story and above all, a true story.

Note: 14 days in May is an English translation of the Dutch “14 dagen in mei”, published in 2014 and written by the author of this blog, Arthur van den Elzen. (For more info on my work as a writer, see Intro to my books. Or in general, see About me.)

“14 days in May” Family History photo-file

The pictures I have gathered in this “14 days in May” Family History photo-file are an introduction to the life story of my father. From past to present. Starting with my father’s youth, ending with the launching of the book in English on May 28 2020.

That is, exactly nine years after his death (2011). A perfect day to launch the English edition of his story.

Photo-file, memory #1 of 14

A small family: My grandfather Martien van den Elzen, 1931, as a young widower. He was left with his two boys, Ton and my father Ad.

Intro: “14 days in May” Family History photo-file, Memory #1 of 14: 

Are you in for an amazing story about love & survival? If so, follow my daily photo-messages (placed between May 15 – May 28, 2020). 14 messages total, 14 days in a row, 14 days in May. 

Memory #1 of 14: In the first photo my grandfather Martien van den Elzen, as a young widower (1931). His wife, Martina Heijmans (second photo) had recently died. She was 8 months pregnant at the time, losing also their unborn baby girl. Martina was only 29 years old. Martien was left with his two boys, Ton (standing besides him) and Ad (sitting on his lap), my father. Later in life, Ad would have his own story to tell.

Photo-file, memory #2 of 14

Photo of my Great grandmother Heijmans, with her grandchildren Ad and Ton
Another Family History photo, this time of my Great grandfather with grandchildren Ton and Ad.

“14 days in May” Family History photo-file, Memory #2 of 14: 

After my grandmother had died and my grandpa stayed behind with his two sons, the two boys spent more time with their grandparents. In the first photo my great-grandmother Elizabeth Heijmans. She and her grandfather Lambertus “Bert” had their farm just outside Rosmalen, the village where my father was born & lived his whole life. In the second photo Ad & Ton are visiting there grandfather Antoon van den Elzen in nearby Vinkel.

Photo-file, memory #3 of 14

Family photo: My father Ad and mother Thera, engaged.

“14 days in May” Family History photo-file, Memory #3 of 14: Around 1947, my young parents Ad van den Elzen en Thera Kappen were in love and dreaming of the future. First a steady job, getting engaged, then married and having children. Nothing more, just build a family together!

Photo-file, memory #4 of 14

Photo file: My father fulfilling his military duty 1951.
My father Ad, fulfilling his military duty 1951.
A photo of the whole platoon, 1951
My dad lying in the front of the rest of his platoon.

“14 days in May” Family History photo-file, Memory #4 of 14: My dad Ad in military service. Although very much in love with his girl, he had to fulfill his duty first. No problem, Ad actually liked the order & discipline. After fulfilling his service time, he would go back to his home village and marry her. But then a fatal day arrived for him, for them….  

Photo-file, Memory #5 of 14: 

On 14 December 1951, my father was accidentally shot in his face by a bullet, which left him “dead” on the floor in a pool of blood. Apparently without a chance to survive.

After a few months was taken this photo of my father. Healing, but maimed for life.
Photo taken a few months after the accident. My dad survived, but with a maimed face.
Photo of Ad after a few months
Patience was needed for the healing process, lots of patience.

These photos were taken a few months after the accident, when my father was conscious again and his life saved. Earlier pictures exist. There are even some photos taken just after he arrived at the hospital (at which moment there wasn’t really a face left, because the bullet had exploded in his head). Awful pictures, which I haven’t included here, nor in the book.

In the book there’s one earlier picture though, taken after a few weeks. It’s still a “hard to look at” photo, but which I considered essential for the story I wanted to tell.

Publishing date of the English edition of the book “14 days in May”: May 28 2020.

Photo-file, memory #6 of 14

Photo file #6: My father in the background, at the hospital in Utecht
My father in the background, wearing a plaster helmet .
Picture of my father in front of the hospital in Utrecht
In front of the hospital in Utrecht, Dr. Spijkman to the right.

“14 days in May” Family History photo-file, Memory #6 of 14: After my father’s “fatal” accident (see earlier posts), the healing process took five years. The main task for the doctors was to make a prosthesis that would hold the lower part of his face together enabling him to breath, speak & eat normally.

In the first photo you see my father in the background, still wearing a plaster-helmet that had to hold the lower part of his face together. In the second photo he stands in front of the hospital, together with another patient, one of the head nurses & doctor Jacob Spijkman, the man who was responsible for the prosthesis.   

(“Paid link”)

Photo-file, Memory #7 of 14: 

Photo of my parents, before they started a family
My dad to the right, with the rest of his family. A unique photo, my grandfather with his 5 sons.
My dad’s family, with his father and his brothers.

Between long & short visits to the hospital, my father would rest at home. It was his fiancé Thera who took him by the hand, in good & in bad times. Because my dad was still young and athletic he recuperated soon, but his whole life he would suffer relapses. 

You can still see this in the second photo, many years after the accident. My father Ad to the right, with his father and 4 brothers. He was still trying to survive that fatal shot in his face, years before! 

Photo-file, Memory #8 of 14: 

The bridegroom picking up his bride at her elderly home
Tradition 1956: the bridegroom at the elderly house of the bride, to pick her up for church.
Photo of my father & mother on their marriage day
Feb 2, 1956, marriage day of my parents.

Then finally…, more than four years after my father’s “mortal” accident he could finally marry the love of his life (Feb 2 1956). For both of them the happiest day ever. An emotion shared by family & friends. A day to remember for all the people in Rosmalen, his home village in the south of Holland! 

Photo-file, Memory #9 of 14:

On the day my parents Ad and Thera married, they moved into their own house (second photo). Instead of looking for a place to rent, Ad’s father Martien arranged this newly built house for them. 

Soon their first child was born, followed over the years by four more children. Me, second to the right – trying to sit still – with my three brothers & sister.  

Photo-file, Memory #10 of 14:

Photo of my parents, 2008, Guachalá, Ecuador
Photo of my father, in Quito Ecuador 2008

After the “mortal” accident in Dec 1951, my father Ad continued life as a medical miracle. He enjoyed a long life with the young girl that had been waiting for him at his bedside and shown unconditional love for him. They married in 1956, had five children and were more than 60 years together before my father got ill and died in May 2011. Leaving Thera behind. 

In the first photo my parents the last time they visited my home country Ecuador together. The next photo: my dad just after he arrived in Quito from Amsterdam. I sometimes wish I could step into this picture. Give him a kiss and show him the book I wrote about his life story. 

Photo-file, Memory #11 of 14:

Some years ago my mother found a box with old letters in the attic. Letters of my parents, written between 1951 and 1959. A correspondence that started soon after my father’s accident and went on during the many times he had to go back to the hospital. 

Because my mother considered the letters too personal, she wanted to throw them away. Until she asked me. As the writer of their story, I am glad she kept them. I used them for the book I wrote about my parents. Coming out soon (but already available for PreOrder on

Photo-file, Memory #12 of 14:

Book cover of Dutch edition of the book on my father: 14 dagen in mei
Article on my book in the Dutch press, with a photo of my dad

In 2014 the dramatic & true story of my father was published in Dutch, titled “14 dagen in mei”. Fortunately the book caught the attention of many people, as well as the press. 

Photo-file, Memory #13 of 14:

The translation of my father’s story was actually born in London. 

The reason: a few years after the book was published we received an invitation to be part of an exhibition on the history of odontology. It was named “Teeth”, organized by the Wellcome Collection in London. 

The organizers of the exhibition had heard of my father’s story through a contact in Utrecht. Items of his “medical-miracle-“case” were placed beside other interesting items & documents concerning “Teeth”. To give an example: a silver toothbrush that belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. 

My mother, already 87 years old & never a great traveler, didn’t think twice and visited the exhibition in London with her granddaughter Evi (translator of the story). An honorable visit for them, but also for the organizers who welcomed them with open arms.

Photo-file, Memory #14 of 14: 

Book cover of “14 days in May”, written by Arthur van den Elzen
Front and back cover of “14 days in May”, written by Arthur van den Elzen
Photo of my parents Ad & Thera van den Elzen, from the back cover of “14 days in May”, written by Arthur van den Elzen

And then finally the official launch of “14 days in May”, the English translation of the story of my parents. 28 May 2020, exactly 9 years after my father died.

The book is dedicated to my mother, Thera (89 years old). I am glad she’s still with us. It must be because she’s an angel.

I didn’t make real changes to the original cover of the Dutch edition, because I like the “Dutch” design too much (by Stan de Wijs/ 

Video presentation: Intro “14 days in May”

A few days before the official book launch on 28 May 2020, I made the following “14 days in May” video on youtube.

In case you missed the link: Video presentation “14 days in May”

Back ground information “14 days in May”

In another post I’ve gathered some background information to the story. Why I wrote it, how I wrote it, some reactions to the earlier Dutch version, and other information. Click on the following link to go to that post: Background info to “14 days in May”.

Availability of “14 days in May”

If interested in the book:

(“Paid link”:)

The Dutch edition, you can order through the following link: “14 dagen in mei”

For an overview of all travel posts of my blog, go to: the Home Page.

  • Final message, for fellow travel writers & bloggers: TravelPayOuts is a global integrated affiliate program focused exclusively on travel offers. If it works for me, it will probably work for you too: TravelPayOuts.
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