Today was a very sad day because I received a text to say that a lovely 90 year old man who I have known for over 2 years now, has died. I didn’t know him very well, but I didn’t need to. He was one of those people who was incredibly approachable, likeable and warm-hearted. He had an excellent sense of humour, often commenting on the poor ability of his ducks to look after their ducklings, “She is a useless mother”, he said as he stood stooped over this duck waddling gently past him with her ducklings following haphazardly behind. “She never seems to keep track of where they are and just leaves them to their fate. She also makes nests in the most ridiculous of places, tractor seats, shelves….ridiculous!” and then he would wander off and leave me to tack up the horse I was riding, which was kept on his land (hence how I came to know him). I don’t know an awful lot about him, but what I do know is that he was a Lieutenant Commander during and after the second world war. He has that wonderfully old fashioned British accent that you can imagine listening to while crowded round ‘the wireless’, just like Winston Churchill,
He was often smiling and chuckling at jokes and, despite his age, continuing to find the world amusing and enjoying socialising with anyone regardless of age. He enjoyed talking to my daughter when she came to ride with me and, when she mentioned that her school project was on the history of buildings, he dug out some paperwork on the heritage of the old Mill he lived in for her to take into school. On Mothers Day he let my daughter pick daffodils from his flowerbeds for me. You would often see him on his ride-on lawnmower with his claret beret getting ready to tackle any grass that had dared to grow overnight. He was active and a doer – always busy, which is why it was a surprise to learn that he turned 90 last year. Apparently he was never into parties, but he wanted a party for his 90th and was happy for people to organise it for him. Just 2 weeks before he died, he allowed his gardener to have his wedding reception in a large marquee on the lawn. After 17 years the gardener’s girlfriend had grown tired of waiting for him to pop the question, so she did it on a leap year. He needed to go to the opticians, so she contacted the opticians and asked them to use a special note for his sight test, which read ‘Will you marry me’ (with her signature at the bottom of course – not a random proposal from a routine visit to the optician). It was my 90 year old friend that told me that story with a little chuckle as he recalled the details. I can’t be the only one who has allowed the thought to cross their mind that maybe he was waiting for the wedding to be over before he allowed his illness to really take hold of him.
It was pneumonia that turned a cold and chest infection into a fatal illness. My Mum said that you can get immunised against pneumonia now via the pneumococcal vaccine provided you are over 65. I get the feeling that had he received this he would have just kept on going and going – he certainly wasn’t frail and he certainly was still enjoying life – how fabulous to still be active and taking pleasure in the world at 90.
When I heard he had been taken ill and rushed to hospital on Friday I bought a get well card and wrote a note to him hoping he would feel better soon and signed it from my daughter and I. The lady who cares for him then took it up to hospital that day. I hope he read it as it was the last contact I had with him. I think he was the sort of person to find the inscription on a gravestone ‘I told you I was ill‘ funny, like Spike Milligan – I’m sure he would let out a little chuckle at that.
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