Yesterday I visited two patients around the age of 90 who both spoke to me of being ready for death. They were not suffering unbearably, but their faculties were failing and they were finding their lives irksome. On returning home I read a book review in the BMJ discussing death, which suggests that we need to accept it in order to live a fully human life. Somehow it gives life its worth - for immortality would be intolerable. And I am currently reading a theological book which describes how one of the purposes of religion is to let us step outside our mundane existence and come to terms with suffering and death. As I am now nearer the end of my life than the beginning, I wonder whether part of my value to patients is to present and interpret this sort of truth to them. I certainly feel that this is a more worthwhile use of my time than doing bean-counting audits.
One of those two patients was a charming and courteous Welsh gentleman living in a residential home. I found it a joy to talk to him, and as I left I said "you're the nicest Welshman I know". "You don't know very many" he replied.