The nineteenth of November is my birthday; this year, I will keep it by driving to Hobart for the funeral and burial of my old friend Ben. Having heard that he truly had that which we pray for, a "good death", I am glad to go and mourn in hope, praying that his soul may rest in peace.
Of your charity, please spare a prayer for Ben, an Ave or a Salve or a Requiem; please pray too for Jane his widow, and for their family. Ben I met late in his life, a long, a good life: as it is, I have known him and Jane for the better part of twenty years, and what a privilege it has been.
The parting of friends is a painful thing. I think oft of Tolkien's portrayal of this, and of "Bilbo's Last Song", surely J.R.R.'s parting song ere he left this world to pass over to the Father.
Donald Swann's setting of Bilbo's Last Song.
My family and I celebrated my birthday a day early, on Sunday. Every year passes more quickly; my father lived to 84, my friend Ben to 88; as for myself, today I reach the number of (to misquote the Apostle) forty stripes minus two. It is strange but sobering to reflect that more than half my life is already over, and with little or nothing to shew for it.
St Philip Neri used to lament his hitherto slack life (!) after recovering from illness, and would say, Now I purpose to set my life in order, now I purpose to make a new start, now, a sinner, to strive for holiness – may I be granted grace to do the same, so numbering my days as to gain true wisdom.
Tempus fugit! All things pass, and all too quickly: let us redeem the time, for we know not how short the time is that may remain. Remember, O Christian, the Four Last Things: death, judgement, hell, and heaven. Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.