Van Gogh

"Every Sunday the family, clad in black and bearing flowers, set off to the little cemetery at Groot-Zundert, where they went directly from the gate to a grave marked 'Vincent Wilhelm Van Gogh 1852.'

A single date to mark a birth and a death, for this was the grave of a child six weeks old. As the father, mother, two sons and three daughters prayed, the eldest of the boys--also called Vincent Wilhem--stared intensely at the gravestone and the name, his brother's, that was also his own."

The young Vincent Wilhelm was born March 30, 1853, a year to the day after the death of his brother. Was his destiny to be that of an earthly replacement for the child now lying at his feet beneath the slab of gray stone? To take the place of another? Or was he himself the other his identity had usurped?

Each Sunday little Vincent Van Gogh--the new Vincent--asked himself the same question, not daring to look at his mother with her hands joined and her eyes brimming with tears. Whom was she praying for? The dead child? Or for Vincent himself, the substitute? As they silently made their way home, Vincent, troubled and riven with doubt, stayed huddled against his younger brother Theo, born May 1, 1857, with whom he was very close.

The dismal ritual was repeated every Sunday for years. Every March 30, they celebrated Vincent's birthday, but who were the celebrations really for? The dead child or the boy who was now ten years old? ..."All his life Vincent would struggle against a brother more insistently present than if he had actually been alive, as his parents inevitably measured him against the virtues they attributed to the lost child."Pierre Cabanne, Van Gogh, Terrail, 2006, pp. 7- 8.