This morning I am sad, after receiving word that a dear friend in Hobart died last week.
Keith Welsh died in his sleep in the early hours of last Monday morning, aged 103.
A member of my home congregation in Sandy Bay, I have many fond memories of Keith. In the early days, he would always sit with his mate Jim in church, and being two elderly, and rather deaf gentlemen, their running commentary of the service was rarely as sotto voce as I'm sure they thought it was. (The pair reminded me of Statler and Waldorf, the two old guys who contributed comments from the peanut gallery in the Muppet Show).
When Keith was in his late 90s, I asked him if he was excited about the prospect of reaching 100, and his response was pretty typical:
"You know Caro, I'm not all that fussed about it, but so many other people think it's important, so I suppose I should make an effort!"
When he did indeed reach the ton, his daughter and son-in-law threw a huge and joyful party to celebrate. There were many people there from various eras of his life, and numerous speeches paid tribute to the different aspects of his life: the footballer, the serviceman, the journalist and the churchman.
When I was about to leave for Melbourne, just after he turned 100, I gave Keith another challenge. Since he had made it to his century, I told him his next goal was to aim to be around for my ordination, in 4 years' time. He chuckled, and said,
"I think that might be a bit optimistic Caro".
Nevertheless, every time I have seen him since then, we have continued the countdown.
The last time I saw him was in February this year, and as we realised it was only a year to go, and that he might actually make it, we gleefully started making plans to book a maxi taxi to get him from the nursing home to the church for the ordination service.
Well, it's now three and a half years since I issued him with that challenge, and although he didn't quite make the distance, he came so close- so maybe there's something to be said for optimism after all.
Vale, old friend, enjoy your rest, you deserve it.