The Years Before My Death

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I love this phrase. It’s the title of the autobiography David McPhail a Christchurch lawyer, actor and comedian. It is a clever title for an autobiography, but it also captures nicely my own recent thinking on mortality.

This thinking has been prompted by a number of events. I’ve been thinking about my father, Jack, who died in 1996. I think about him often. These thoughts were more acute recently as my lovely Uncle John (my mother’s older brother) and my equally lovely Uncle Jimmy (my mother’s brother in law) have died this year. Jimmy died on the 18th August and will be farewelled from his Church tomorrow (22nd) in Whitby Ontario, he was just shy of 80 years old. John died in Nicosia, Cyprus 16 June a month before his 81st year.

This October will mark 16 years since my father made an early exit. He would have been 80 on August 28th this year. I would have liked to have marked that milestone with him over a glass of Pusser’s Naval Rum perhaps, or with a beer.

I guess I worry about my own longevity with a Dad that ‘popped off’ at 64 and with mum having snuck away at age 77.

It isn’t something that one can really do much about, the actual dying bit. But what one does in the years before ones death is a different matter.

I am more determined than ever to live life to the full, to add a wee bit of kindness and to experience lots of new and different things. To pass on the good bits to my own children and to (hopefully) leave them with some of the wisdom, joy and sense of belonging that my own parents and wider family have given me.

My parent’s managed to squeeze in a fair bit before they shed this mortal coil. I’m going to do the same.

Oh and this little testament was tapped away at 04:30 in the morning on a sleepless night in Boston, Massachusetts. I’ve seen some wonderful sights and caught a glimpse of some momentous history in this place. All part of the plan noted above.


  1. Karen and I were talking about this very same issue as we lay in a tent 15km from the Syrian Border in the Golan Heights. I realised how important it is to live this life, otherwise what is the point?

  2. Mortality seems to be very high on the agenda at the moment. As you say there is nothing one can do about it – death and taxes are the only realities in life (can’t remember whose view that is). But in the interim there is much to be enjoyed. I can remember being with Anne in New Zealand about 6 years ago and we were debating the exact words of W B Yeats ‘When I am old and grey and full of sleep….. when we both stopped laughed and said ‘how can we be arguing about one word in a stunning poem?’ Anne still had to go off and get her copy of Yeats’ poems to see who was right.. Poetry, reading and nature seem to be a gift to keep us going…..Thank goodness for these things. Gerald Manley Hopkins, that tortured soul, wrote ‘Glory be for dappled things….’ as he recognised the gift of creation.
    This together with football gives me a direction in life – how weird is that?
    Keep in touch Justin

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