Saturday, July 26, 2008

A sad week

Kate Mortimer has had some wonderful obituaries in The Guardian, The Independent and the Times this week, but this is how I will remember her, standing in her kitchen, at the hatch where she read her post, her papers and did the Times crossword as well as making tea and supervising her family, friends and pets. I first met Kate when I was five, but later she became my guardian when I was at boarding school, my godmother when I finally decided I needed to be christened at the grand age of 10, my landlady when my mother and I moved into her Hammersmith house, my boss, when I dipped a toe into the world of financial regulation and always, a funny, warm, generous and loving friend. Her funeral this week took place in the church for which she had raised tons of money for restoration, repair and maintenance, with a crowd of friends and family, on a ludicrously beautiful Devon day. She will be deeply missed.

And yesterday came the news that another fine, funny, warm and generous soul had died. After a long battle with pancreatic cancer, Randy Pausch, the computer scientist, has died.

There are plenty of platitudes that one can utter, but the basic truth is that death, particularly the premature death of people who have given so much and have so much more to offer, is miserable and unfair. But having known Kate and having known about Randy Pausch, both rigorous, ethical minds who shared their knowledge and their expertise for the benefit of their fellow humans, has been a privilege and the best that we who are left can do is try to live up to the standards that they have set - being brainy, and then working their brains hard, being decent, and then building on that with loyalty and generosity of spirit, exploring their dreams and helping others achieve their dreams.

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