A week or so ago we lost a friend. He was born on the last day of 1954, not quite 6 months before the G.O. The brief notice in the local newspaper closed with the words “Sadly missed by all his mates”. Mates who could only witness the inexorable claim illness made on his life. But mates who drove him to doctors appointments, visited hospitals, mowed the lawn, brought food their missuses made, delivered & chopped wood for the fire in his living room that was the only thing even before the onset of winter keeping him warm, and much more. Mates who at the end when there was no more to be done, sat by his side, at his home.
To me he was a friend. One of the first I made in the village. He was a man of interchangeable aspects: flair for life; and for self destruction. He was also private and generous. I’m not sure he shared the full details of his condition with any one person. The cruel physical manifestations of its progress were testimony enough.
He wasn’t being spared himself but elected to spare others if they wished and so faded from social life, retreating from company but not unwelcoming of it, as his corporeal presence diminished. The last time we saw him was a month and a week before he left us.
Each time we visited our friend this year, the G.O. and I prepared ourselves for it to be the last. Up until late the year before he would ask, when are you coming home for good? It was when he stopped asking I really began to worry.