TOM MELLY writes:

My father, as you probably know, had been very unwell for some months, and his health and intellect had been failing him for some time before that. Hence his death, when it came, was neither a surprise nor unwelcome.

Nevertheless, it has inevitably been an emotional time for the family. I thought I was prepared, but the real understanding of how much I'd lost from my life was something I had to learn after his death.

The amount and the generosity of the coverage and comment his death has engendered is something I know he would have loved. To be honest, it has taken me by surprise. I had thought, rightly I suspect, that his level of celebrity-stock had fallen over the past few years. What I had forgotten, in these days of ephemeral and meaningless fame, was that his status was anything but ephemeral and meaningless.

His funeral is this Friday. (13th July 2007) Kensal Green Cemetery

As well as an excerpt that he requested from King Lear, I will be reading the death of Falstaff. It will stand, for me, as a fitting tribute to my father.

Nay, sure, he's not in hell: he's in Arthur's bosom, if ever man went to Arthur's bosom. A' made a finer end and went away an it had been any christom child; a' parted even just between twelve and one, even at the turning o' the tide: for after I saw him fumble with the sheets and play with flowers and smile upon his fingers' ends, I knew there was but one way; for his nose was as sharp as a pen, and a' babbled of green fields.

'How now, Sir John!' quoth I 'what, man! be o' good cheer.' So a' cried out 'God, God, God!' three or four times.

Now I, to comfort him, bid him a' should not think of God; I hoped there was no need to trouble himself with any such thoughts yet.

So a' bade me lay more clothes on his feet: I put my hand into the bed and felt them, and they were as cold as any stone; then I felt to his knees, and they were as cold as any stone, and so upward and upward, and all was as cold as any stone.

Sir John Falstaff - William Shakespeare

©MMVII House of Graham