An attentive reader of this blog will recognise the name Paul Jarrett. Paul was my friend. He died last week aged ninety-nine years and eleven months. We had known each other by email for ten years. By the time we met in the flesh Paul was ninety-four. We were together in the flesh but thrice, and spent but five days in each other’s company. Yet his friendship enriched me. So long as my mind knows the truth Paul Jarrett will be with me.
Every day Paul sent out numerous emails to his friends and family, who numbered about eighty souls. I became one of those fourscore followers. By the time we became
e-friends Paul had retired from Surgery, he’d ceased piloting aircraft, he was living alone with his memories and his collection of ragged stray cats. The TV news fed his active mind, which would turn often to past world events. He’d recall those as well as people from his private life, teachers, relatives, colleagues, friends, and most keenly of all, his deceased wife Beverley. Paul would send emails, four or five or six in number. I read them all.
I came to know a man who believed in God, who attended his Methodist church every Sunday, who voted Republican, who supported gun ownership, who disliked Obama and who loathed Hilary Clinton and who loved cats. Paul described himself as a conservative. He said, I’m to the right of Barry Goldwater and he showed me a photograph of the two, taken around the time of Goldwater’s run for the Presidency. Goldwater was far to the right of any US president of my lifetime (with the exception of the present incumbent, whose position can only be the fruit of daily conjecture and of analysis of the tea leaves of his Twitter account). Characteristically Paul never mentioned to me that Goldwater intended to appoint him to his Cabinet as national chief of Health.
I was none of those things that Paul was, yet a friendship grew. Paul and I both entertained a veneration of our late fathers and mothers that bordered on ancestor worship, we both loved Medicine, we cherished old friendships, we preferred the burnished past to the distasteful present, and we could smile at human error and laugh at ourselves. I’d read Paul’s emails and I’d enter a different world; I learned about earlier eras, I met remarkable people, I was challenged with novel viewpoints (frequently opposed to my own), I relearned Medicine I’d long forgotten. I knew I stood in Paul’s shadow but he saw me in my own light. I’m sure I felt flattered that such a man would treat me as his equal.
Paul and I shared a real friendship. I’d challenge him when his politics got up my nose and, unoffended, he’d defend his position. Paul’s penultimate year was spent grieving for the America he loved. He detested the Democrat candidate and felt offended by the Republican. He knew duty would call him to cast his vote. In his distress Paul’s agony was spiritual in its intensity. He would not shirk his duty. He must serve his country. Patriotism, that quality that cynics dismiss as the refuge of the scoundrel, burned brightly in my friend and he suffered for it.
Let me share with you some of Paul’s very many letters.
August 2, 2015
My mind returns to the days when I would, by my mood and demeanor, sour a bowl of honey.
Beverley, who was acutely attuned to my moods would pinch my cheek, give me a pixyish
smile and say, “Be Happy”!
At first this would annoy me, then I realized that she never acted like I did, so there must be some choice in presenting a foul mood.
Some of us pull an ill disposition around us like a protective blanket.
Not Bev. She was as careful about her demeanor as she was about her appearance.
August 11, 2015
I am not sure where the admonition to, “Feed My Sheep” ends and Backshish begins.
Never have I seen such a drive and competition for charitable funds nor such a constant demand for our attention so that we can be hit-up. By phone, by mail, by door to door solicitation, through the Media and other advertising. The sheer volume makes one suspicious that such an army of petitioners can not contain only those with charity in their hearts.
And all of this attention is not devoted toward appeal for charitable donations. The phone just rang. It was a canned message. It said, “How are you? Good. Can you hear me all right? Good. (I had not said a word.) Congratulations are in order, you have just won a vacation trip with two guests, all expenses paid, all you can eat—“ At this point I hung up. That automatic dialer will call me back tomorrow. Hopefully my automatic answering machine will converse with their automatic dialing machine and transcription.
Saturday I received 5 pieces of regular mail, 4 of which were appeals for money and one an advertisement for a Mexican Restaurant.
I will admit that I could be a more cheerful giver, but in addition to wanting to hang on to my money, I am beginning to question whether or not I am getting my money’s worth?
We are living in times that can only be described as “Devious”.
“Now the Day is over, Night is drawing nigh. Shadows of the Evening steal across the sky”.
And what a day it was. The temperature hit 117 in the shade, and to add to the disasters brought in by August, Beverley’s Grandmother clock jammed the chain on the weight that powers the clock itself when it ran down. My vision is not sufficient to fix it any more. It has happened before and I have been able to get it going again, but my vision is no longer capable of accomplishing this. Her clock was amazingly accurate, and I enjoyed hearing it chime the hours and quarter hours, during the day and through the night.
I have eaten a frozen dinner prepared for me by Ann, and am about to settle down in front of the television and nap before time to go to bed. This is the daily routine.
A gracious good evening to all of you.
August 16, 2015
It promises to hit 117 again this afternoon.
The poor cats do not have refrigeration, but they have cool spots under the shacks
and have thrived in this heat for many years. Sylvester as spokesman for the Etudiants,
scolds me for not permitting them to come inside where it is cool, but this falls on deaf ears when I consider the life of Riley they lead, and the amount of fur they leave behind.
I try and keep the bed outside the Breakfast Nook moist when it comes into the shade in the afternoon, which is the only air conditioning they are going to get.
When you stop and think about it, it takes some temerity to lecture me about the weather, and Sylvester may be spending some time in attitude modification in the near future. He has lost a lower right canine tooth (if cats can have canine teeth), but I have observed no loss of appetite. They are eating me out of house and home.
I worry about them though when I am called to my reward (whatever that may be).
August 29, 2015
I was thinking about some unusual surgical cases I found myself involved with without adequate training or experience. A surprise after opening the patient.
Having no other source of help in the urgency of the moment I prayed urgently and silently.
That ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things with God’s help, I can affirm.
October 11, 2015
I received a call from Bob and Dianne at the Cabin with Nikki this week-end.
Bob has the knowledge and ability to provide Satellite telephone service up there, and it works well.
They have had a lot of rain, the Pack Rat problem appears to be under control and the weather is nice with Fall in the offing. Bob reports that the road up to the Cabin is in need of repair from rain damage, and he will be able to do that with his new tractor. I think they return tomorrow. There are some apples that are ripening and they will bring some for me.
Those Western Delicious yellow apples from Stark’s Nurseries are the best I have ever tasted, although late freezes make them available about once in ten years.
It is warm here, although comfortable. We have what my Mother would call a “Buttermilk Sky”. Little sun, a slight breeze and a great day to sit on the Patio and smoke a cigar.
It looks as if I may be around another Christmas, and I am making plans to prepare envelopes for my Family to insure their delivery.
The cats have made me a present of the head of a Roof Rat which they laid out on the Patio door mat. I discarded it because I have no recipe for Roof Rat heads, although I appreciate the gesture.
Paul Jarrett has died. America has lost one of its big men, a patriot, a man of substance and integrity. Medicine has seen the passing of the last of his kind. A congregation has lost a faithful worshipper. We who were Paul’s friends have lost a wise man, a sort of prophet. Phoenix has lost an ornament. But whatever his greatness in the wide world, it was in the little corners of life where I saw Paul Jarrett’s meaning writ clear. It might be seen in his solicitude for the unpromising cats he succoured, in the empathy and in the respect he extended to those battered living things. Born into an era where males were born to rule, Paul esteemed women higher.
Paul was the son who honoured his father and his mother; of two brothers Paul treasured and measured the greatness of the one, and cherished the second in his deformity. Paul was the husband who never ceased to love and to sing the praise of the wife he outlived for so many lonely years. Paul was the father proud of those stalwart sons, adoring of that dandled daughter; Paul was the grandfather who inspired grandson Benjamin to follow him into the guild and bond of medicine; Paul was the Methodist whose whole heart could celebrate his great-grandson’s bris. The measure of the man, Paul Jarrett, was the honour he paid to those he loved.
More than once Paul wrote, “Great was the celebration in Heaven when Beverley arrived.” Such was the simplicity of Paul’s faith. Mine differs. But it gives me pleasure to imagine how great might be the celebration for that good and faithful man.