Earlier this week I accompanied my father to his club, where he was hosting a lunch attended by two friends, both members of an important charity board. This passed off most satisfactorily, save for the indignities of old age – as he would describe them – that are now his lot.
He is markedly less steady on his pins than in his pomp and, because the club’s lift was out of order, he was obliged to ascend the giant, spiralling, staircase in order to reach the dining-room using both his stick and the rail. It was a climb made in circumstances that, had they been confronted with similar on the 1924 Everest expedition, would have made Mallory and Irvine think twice about setting off on their heroic final assault on the summit.
After the lunch was over – and having again with some difficulty assisted him up and into the back seat of a taxi – I fell into conversation with him on the way home. He had just mentioned my mother, who died in 2007, when totally out of the blue, I suddenly asked him whether he believed he would be reunited with her one day.
“Well, I certainly hope so …” he replied.
This didn’t entirely surprise me, for my father has a strong religious faith – in the sense that, until recently, he has always said his prayers beside his bed every night and still regularly attends church.
When I probed a little more, he added that he had conversations with God, in which he told God what was going on in his life and, on occasions, e.g. when difficulties had presented themselves, God suggested to him, or told him, what he should do.
How did God do this?
“I don’t hear voices, if that is what you mean. It’s just that, when I tell him things and ask for his guidance, he responds by giving me some sort of guidance – a feeling – as to what I should do”.
I mention this today, not because the above episode provides some extraordinary insight into humanity – I am sure there are people around the world who have not dissimilar exchanges with friends and family – but because, as far as I can remember, I personally have never previously discussed the subject with my father in my sixty-two years on this planet.