As someone in their seventh decade I consider myself both lucky and privileged to still be conducting an occasional correspondence with my godfather that has endured over half a century.
A former academic who lives on the far side of the world, at 97 he still reads avidly, takes the Times Literary Supplement on subscription, follows the world’s current affairs and sport, and comments with perception, wisdom and plenty of acerbic wit upon every aspect of life, family relations, medical matters and indeed anything that takes his fancy.
If you didn’t know different, you take his musing for those of a forty-year old. I certainly feel I have to be on my mettle just to keep up with him.
I recently had to advise him of the death of a close family member whom he knew well and within 48 hours he had replied – as I knew he would – with one of his pithy missives (less than half a page of A4) containing his usual mix of insightful observations, mischievous humour and curt throwaway lines.
In his inimitable style, he offered his ruminations upon his own experiences with “end of life” care, admitting with typical modesty that he had often felt inadequate towards his patients both because many of them needed the comfort of religion and his close contacts with fatal illnesses and wartime injuries had hardened his tender feelings in the cause of remaining professionally effective.
In conveying his condolences, he added “I hope I do not disturb you when I say that the thought of eternal life troubles me greatly as I simply could not do it all again”.
As I came to the computer this morning I happened to re-read his note and could not prevent myself marking this line down as yet another of his classics.