Saturday, 6 June 2015

Death is Nothing at All???

Thursday night saw us in the BBC Radio Theatre at the top of Regent's Street watching the recording of this week's Radio 4's News Quiz.  All great fun!

It was hosted by the brilliant Sandi Toksvig who will be leaving the show after it completes its current series. All the panelists were wonderfully witty.  The recording lasted an hour and a half and then overnight the backroom technical people whittle it down to the half hour that is eventual broadcast over the weekend.

So, all was going well and we were coming to the final goodbyes when Sandi Toksvig had to announce that a much loved panelist on the show, Charles Kennedy, had died this week.  It just cut her up and for a few moments she was simply unable to continue.  All our hearts went out to her because it was obvious that this depth of emotion had caught her by surprise.  She thought her professionalism would see her through, yet when the moment came, announcing the news of a much loved friend was just too much.  After a brief pause there was a retake and that's the one that was broadcast.

Charles Kennedy was just a year older than me so I too feel his death in some way, but no where near the way that our host did.  She spoke of him with such warmth and admiration.

This afternoon I sat alongside a friend who is probably spending her last few days in a hospice.  I held her hand and prayed as we both wept knowing that in all likelihood this was the last time we would meet  this side of heaven.  I'm always comforted that instead of presenting Jesus as a stoic, the gospels have him as the friend who wept outside of Lazarus' tomb.

Whilst Henry Scott Holland's poem, 'Death is Nothing at All' has some fine sentiments in its later lines, I confess I find its opening ones a little difficult to take.  Death - is, as someone once said, 'an awfully big adventure' and personally I would never want to reduce it to 'nothing at all'.

The simple truth is that most folk, like my good friend this afternoon, would so value a few more weeks or even days of life.  And no one, I believe, in Thursday's audience had anything other than the deepest sympathy for Sandi Toksvig who has lost a good friend far too early in both their journeys.

I sometimes use these words at the funerals I am privileged to take - they do not say it all but they do say something I hold on to and count as very dear when it comes to saying goodbye to people I love:

Where does the journey end?
Beyond where you can see.

Where do the years end?
That’s unknown to you or me.

Where does life end?
In love and eternity. 

With best wishes,

Ian

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