Looking through the hail of political hype and crossfire ahead of the December 12th election, here are some stories of the week which bring us closer to people and values, include reflections on deaths of individuals.
Doctor Sir Jonathan Miller has been part of our lives since Beyond the Fringe and all that followed from the 1960s in the arts, culture and a determination to be honest. He openly shared his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and gave time and talent to supporting voluntary work and encouraging governments to give more attention and funds to research and services. There are several moving and informative commentaries on his life and death, which are helpful. www.theguardian.com/stage/2019/nov/27/sir-jonathan-miller-obituary
Clive James came later into my world, but he too has been an immense figure and support for many over decades. He too celebrated open honesty, with humour, and a demonstration of a huge knowledge and compassion. Dying with leukaemia, he continued to write and reflect on being older and more infirm to very near the end. His memoir and his later works are especially helpful. www.theguardian.com/global/2019/nov/27/clive-james-obituary
Very different deaths are those of three older men, killed by Alexander Lewis-Ranwell in February this year. These were sudden violent deaths of innocent neighbours – killed by a man driven by psychotic beliefs at that time. His family had alerted services to his dangerous state. He had been taken into custody but then released on the say-so of a doctor who had not known him previously and who seems to have conducted a perfunctory examination. Our vulnerability in the face of illness is laid stark. Our shared responsibility for making and sustaining competent services must not be set aside lightly. www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/exeter-triple-murder-trial-accused-3583713
These are matters to take note of, think and pray about. We might join with others in seeking action.
The Guardian on Friday 29 November carried a heart-warming story of the lives of Joan Neininger and Ken Selway. Ken died recently aged 92. They began to know each other when Joan saw him from her bookshop – he was homeless, recovering from mental illness and searching for food in litter bins. Joan took to him and researched homelessness and mental illness, going on to campaign for better services. She and her husband Norman became friends with Ken and supported him over the many years. After Norman’s death Ken and later Joan moved into sheltered accommodation. Their last two years have been spent as man and wife. Ken died recently with a chest infection in hospital. But theirs’s is a story which encourages hope – recovery despite early set-backs – enduring friendship into very advanced years.
David Jolley December 1st 2019