If today was the last day of my life I would want four comforts.

I would want my three children to be with me. Your children don’t belong to you but they are of you and as such represent a myriad of two-way transactions which form a large part of your life. I’m very fortunate that my children have achieved and given so much joy over the years that having them beside me would bring a degree of comfort in my final hours. Talking with the children would generate stories of their growing up and it is stories that provide social nourishment. When I’d passed those stories would give them comfort and hopefully some laughter. While those stories live in the children’s memories then I will live on after the physical presence has gone.

I would want to be beside the sea. My formative years were spent close to the sea and even though it hasn’t always been flat calm when I’ve travelled on it, it has never done me harm. In one mood the power of the sea is a reminder to us all of the unrelenting force which is Mother Nature and our relative insignificance. The sea in a different mood can provide comfort with its gentle lapping against the land. It is a reminder of the life giving presence of water on the Earth, a source of food and even has a smell all of its own. It influences the shape of our world and the weather that we all experience. We, in the UK, are an island nation so why would we not want to be close to the sea at the point of our leaving this life?

I would like a bottle of malt whisky to be available. This may seem to be a frivolous waste of an opportunity, and let me assure you that it wouldn’t be my intention to drink the whole bottle, but it has been one of my personal comforts throughout the majority of my adult life. I have never made myself drunk or ill on whisky but have learnt about the subtleties that each type of malt whisky embodies. It is often described as the ‘water of life’ and that symbolism seems appropriate for someone’s final moments. If you sip whisky gently you may discover a surprising plethora of flavours. One of my favourites, Oban, has subtle hints of caramel, honey and vanilla. Coincidentally, vanilla is one of my favourite flavours, and so it is unsurprising that I enjoy an alcoholic drink which has that characteristic.

I would like photographs of my parents in my hands. In many ways this reflects back to the presence of my children. Irrespective of your relationships with your parents, and they can be stormy, we are all an amalgam of our parents genes, attitudes and learning mixed in a new package. It is natural for me to look upon their countenances in my final moments. It will also, as before, generate stories that will provide a level of continuity for the children about their family which in their turn they can pass to their progeny.

My parents, for all my faults, stood by me for as long as they were alive and I am trying to be the same for my three kids. One thing that I’ve made a bit of a mantra is that they can’t do anything in their lives that would stop me talking to them at the very least. If you keep talking all situations are repairable.

Selecting the above four wishes in a relatively short time was quite difficult and of course there are things that are missing. I haven’t chosen any of my favourite music to have playing, a favourite book or the Bible. It’s probably because what is important to me are people and the bottom line is that we are social animals. To die without others nearby must be a terrifyingly lonely experience whether you are in pain or not.

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