Wednesday 30 November 2011


I had a brown envelope in the mail this morning and my heart sank.  Brown envelopes = bad news.  More tax to pay? a parking fine? or even worse, another wretched speeding ticket! But no, this one was unusually good news.  Notification of my £200 winter fuel allowance.  It got me thinking.  I'm in a very fortunate position in asmuchas through sheer hard work and insanity I don't really need this money but I have no way of refusing to accept it.

Recently many high profile people have tried to send this payment back but  there is no mechanism for doing this, which is mad. Admittedly this money can, and I'm sure will, be sent off to good causes, but wouldn't it be better to have the ability of opting out in the spirit of  "ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country".  Maybe the better off could also have the option to opt out of receiving family allowance and the state pension too! 

And wouldn't it be fun if CEO's opted to reduce their massive salary and bonus payouts, or if some of our public servants declared "you know what, I'm not short of a bob or two, I consider that it's my civic duty to do this job for a modest fee", or if Trade Union leaders said "no £100,000 + exenses is too much to take out of the kitty, pay me less", etc. etc. 

Let's start a campaign.  Instead of demanding "what's in it for me" lets ask "what can I do to help?"  One of the key by products of this might be to take personal responsibility for making our leaders more accountable. And wouldn't it be good if pigs could fly? They don't call me polyanna for nothing you know!

Tuesday 29 November 2011


A few weeks ago I wrote about an article to be featured in Woman's Weekly about my around the world without flying Oz-Bus trip . Well here it is and for those of you who can't buy the magazine here is what it says. That's Davy and me in the bottom right hand corner!

It was Christmas Day and the house was filled with love, laughter and family. As Ann and Davy‘s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren played Secret Santa downstairs, Davy slept upstairs, the sound of laughter wafting up from below.

‘The house was packed! My grand-son-in- law said it was like being in The Waltons,‘ laughs Ann. ‘Even the district nurse said she’d never seen such a large family, but it was good to have life in the house again, after so much sadness.’

The last three months had been incredibly difficult for Ann and Davy. After 27 years together, the last two spent fighting cancer, Davy was dying, and Ann was determined that he should have his final wish; to die at home. With help from Marie Cure nurses, ’ our angels‘ as Ann described them, they’d somehow pulled it off.

But now, Christmas Day 2009, it was clear that their time together was running out.

‘Davy was fading, but he could hear everything, including the children's laughter,’ says Ann. Everyone had time to sit with him and say goodbye. Our newest great-grandchild Leyton, who was only five days old, visited too, which was perfect because Davy adored his grandchildren.’

He also adored Ann. The first time they met, in a pub, Davy, who was a bricklayer, had impressed her by spouting passages from Homer’s Illiad, in between pints. ’ It was love at first sight!‘ says Ann, who was a secretary. ‘He knew how to woe a lady!

‘We had both recently come out of a failed marriage with four children between us, Davy had a son and daughter in Scotland and I had two daughters living with me, times were hard but we both believed in seizing each day by the throat!‘

In 1989, Ann had an idea to start her own business; a hotel information service. ‘I thought Davy would think it was daft but he didn’t, he encouraged me to do it. He always had more faith in me than I ever had in myself,’ she says.

Ann’s business Infotel became a phenomenal success, and Davy was soon working alongside her. 'Over the years we laughed, fought and cried but most of all we thanked God that we had found each other. He used to say that we were two people who made one whole person. I think that just about summed it up.’

Upbeat to the end, Davy learnt to rollerblade just a few months before he died, and told Ann she too must continue to, ‘seize every day’ after he’d gone. ‘Davy knew I’d always wanted to travel. He told me I should see the world but I couldn’t bear to think ahead …‘.

On Boxing Day morning, while Ann and her daughter Sara sat with him, Davy passed away.

‘I don’t remember much about the next few weeks, it was surreal,’ says Ann. ‘But I remember dividing out the £2 coins Davy had been saving for the grandchildren, he’d wanted us to share them out at Christmas. I knew I had to honour the wish.’

After Davy’s funeral (attended by 350 people) Ann felt utterly lost. ‘The family were wonderful of course; my granddaughter Georgina, her husband and four children (including baby Leyton) even moved in with me. It was absolute chaos - just what I needed! But it couldn’t last forever.’

Then nine months later, remembering Davy’s wish that she should have the trip of a lifetime, Ann heard, quite by chance, about a coach trip - with a difference.

‘A friend told me about it and it sounded so exciting,’ says Ann.

Without hesitating, Ann paid a deposit, then allowed herself to panic. ‘I got terrible cold feet,‘ she admits. ‘I thought, ‘I’m far too old for this! It’s ridiculous! Part of me hoped that not enough people would sign up, and it might be cancelled.’

Anne’s worries were understandable. For the ‘coach trip’ she’d just booked wasn’t your average two week tour of the UK, or Europe. It would last three months and take her round the world starting in London, finishing in New York and visiting 16 countries in total - including Russia and China!

Nor would it be luxurious. To keep costs down, sleeping accommodation was in hostel dormitories, under canvas, or on the coach itself! As for what to take, Ann would only be allowed one rucksack, and it had to be light enough for her to carry herself.

On paper, it certainly sounded like a trip for someone a few decades younger…

‘The idea of roughing it did not appeal. But the idea of seeing all these places I’d never be able to see otherwise, definitely did. So I tried not to think too much about the other stuff.‘

She also decided to ask people to sponsor her, so she could raise money for those Marie Cure ‘angels’ who had helped Davy so much.

Were her family horrified? ‘Not at all,‘ Ann laughs. ‘They know what I’m like once I have an idea, and were probably glad to see the back of me!’ Or maybe they were simply relieved to see that Ann was feeling more like herself again.

After a surprise farewell party, thrown by her step-daughter Kimberly, Ann’s adventure began. On March 27 she boarded the a coach in London, along with 21 other passengers, feeling ‘numb with nerves.’

Fortunately the coach was spacious enough to allow each of them a double seat each, and for the first few days at least Ann relished the solitude. ‘It became my own personal space, a place to sit and think.’

Of course her thoughts were never far away from Davy. ‘He was never out of my head,’ she says simply. ‘It was as if he was travelling with me. But he would have absolutely hated the first part of the trip. I remember arriving at our second hostel in Heidelberg, Germany, dragging my rucksack up three flights of stairs to a cramped dormitory and wondering, what am I doing ? I knew exactly how Davy would have met this first ‘challenge’ - with an airline ticket straight back to Britain! Davy liked sleeping in his own bed and would never have tolerated it!’

But Ann was made of sterner stuff. Besides, although the accommodation was sometimes grim (especially the filthy, freezing hostels in the Baltic states) her fellow travellers were anything but. Very quickly, they became as close as any family.

‘I formed great friendships with Sirin, a 34 year old German woman, Johnny from London and Jono from Australia.’

Ann had take a laptop with her and kept a daily blog so that family and friends could see she was

fine. ‘I called my blog Retired and Crazy because that’s exactly how I felt!‘

Ann’s 92 day trip tested her in many ways. As well as seeing all the places she’d dreamed of - Red Square, the Great Wall of China, Terracotta Warriors, Niagara Falls - she also experienced nine night on the Siberian Express, endured ‘pit toilets’ (simply a hole in the ground) and camped in Yellowstone National Park, USA, renowned for its grizzly bears. She also discovered it was quite possible to wear the same three sets of clothes for three months…

But by far her most memorable and poignant moment was crossing Lake Baikal in Siberia, the world’s oldest and deepest lake. ‘We’d intended to drive over it, which is perfectly safe in winter when temperatures reach minus 19! But we arrived at the wrong time of year, the ice was starting to thaw, and we had no choice but to walk,’ says Ann.

‘I slipped and slid my way across, feeling afraid, but the solitude was magical. I felt so close to Davy and so at peace with the world. On the way back, the ice was even thinner and my friend Jono held my hand all the way, to stop me falling. Davy would definitely have approved of that.’

Her trip ended in New York, where Ann had an emotional reunion with step-daughter Kimberly and granddaughter Georgina who had flown over to meet her. ‘They told me I was glowing with happiness, which is just how I felt.’

‘I didn’t go on the trip to escape,’ Ann adds. ‘I went because it was something that Davy encouraged me to do. It certainly was the trip of a lifetime and I loved it, but it made me realise that I also love the life that I have here. Davy taught me how to live, and I’m not going to give up on that.’

Ann crossed 16 countries, three continents, 14 US states…without a single flight!

She travelled by coach through Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, China . From China she sailed to Alaska, (with visits to South Korea and Japan) then travelled by coach again into Canada and the USA where she visited Seattle, Yellowstone Park, Chicago, The Great Lakes, Niagra Falls and New York.

The total trip cost £6,999.

Ann is raising money for Marie Cure Cancer. To find out more go to her blog


Monday 28 November 2011


I had my knuckles rapped by Lewis, the student who is the sole instigator of  The Thought Report  mentioned in my last blog.  I erroneously stated that there were19 other students involved in the project and that the date of publication would be 5th December which is the article deadline. The actual date of publication is sheduled for 13th December. Sorry for that. 

I have also asked Lewis how he intends to gather the Charity donations.  I'm assuming that he will use an organisation like Just Giving. I can't see any mention of this on  his site, but.............I am not good at following instructions so can anyone else tell me how this works? Have I missed something?

Now on to my rant!  Public sector workers!! 

Let me tell you a story of how an private sector company works.  In December 2007 two major credit card companies took their payment from our bank six days earlier than usual. They were entitled to do this, but it took us completely by surprise.   Within weeks we had a double whammy - clients were delaying payments.  We went from having six weeks operational costs in the bank to needing an overdraft.  And this was months before the "credit crunch" was being publicly talked about! We were very concerned and immediately froze recruitment and purchases while the situation was assessed.

Our first step was to reduce management salaries by 20%. That helped but it still wasn't enough and by the autumn things had got so bad that we were having to plan redundancies.  It was one of our bleakest, blackest moments but one that we knew had to be faced.  How do you tell your loyal and committed workforce that you have to lay some of them off?  People that have worked beside you for years and, on the strength of their jobs, taken on financial commitments.

It came to the dreaded day when we were to make the announcement.  As fate would have it the previous evening we won a Business of the Year award! During the night I knew that I didn't have it in my heart to take this step without one final throw of the dice.  I spoke to my fellow directors and we decided to lay the facts out, honestly acknowledge that we were facing redundancies, but offer one final solution - a temporary, across the board, 20% wage cut or reduction in hours. 

The staff were brilliant.  Client budgets had been cut, but volumes were growing and they already knew they were working harder to only to stand still. Things had to change and they had been anticipating redundancies.  When we threw this lifeline it was grabbed with both hands.  No-one wanted to be without work.

It was agreed in open forum that everyone would be interviewed in confidence and anyone suffering extreme hardship would continue as normal but the survival of the company depended on the majority voluntarily selecting one of the two alternatives.   Thankfully most were able to pitch in. 

We were eventually able to restore the Status Que but still continue to have a wage, recruitment and spending freeze. In other words, we watch things very carefully. 

Around this time a health worker that I know was complaining bitterly that they were only getting a 2% wage rise.   He was banging on about the need to take action.  It was at a social gathering and I behaved myself and managed to keep my mouth shut.  It's unreal.

To change the subject ever so slightly, but not a lot, this morning they were saying that statistically, due to lack of cover, you are 10% more likely to die if you are admitted to hospital at the weekend.    The TV doctor hit the nail on the head.  He said that the problem could easily be solved if doctors were paid less and there were more of them.  Boom, boom!

In a nutshell, public sector workers in general and health workers in particular have massively swelled in numbers and enjoyed high wage rises over the past decade, outstripping private sector workers.  And now they strike? Get real! It wouldn't be so bad if efficiency had improved. Quite the reverse, some of them seem to actually think they are demi gods.   . 

This inequality has to be addressed if we are to avoid serious conflict.   My hard earned taxes are paying for their militancy and I'm fed up with it.

We were lucky, but we bought about our own "luck" by being honest.  And again, "luckily!" our staff believed us because they trusted us.  Who is to be believed and trusted now?  You certainly can't believe the politicians or the banks. This is the crux of the matter isn't it? Dear God, where do we go from here?

Saturday 26 November 2011


One of my favourite bloggers, Reluctant Memsahib, has just dropped a bomshell.  She made a sudden decision to move from her home in the wilds of Tanzania and now she's gone.  After five years her descriptions of life in Outpost have come to an end.  She doesn't explain what prompted this or where she is going, which leads me to wonder what sort of trauma could have caused her to take this decision.

Her life has been so different to anything that I ever experienced and her descriptions so graphic.  When I was housebound with my beloved Davy a couple of years ago she lifted me out of his illness for a while and gave my mind the freedom to roam in her land of sunshine. I read her sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always interesting stories from this far off land and her words always lifted my spirits What an gift she has for words.

It was amazing to me that she could be so remote and yet share with us by simply posting a blog.  I'm sure that I'm not alone in wishing her the very best.   

So, I ask myself, why blog?  Why do we do it?  I have again found myself doubting the wisdom of sharing my thoughts with cyberspace.  What's it all about?  My rants bore me and I'm sure they must bore everyone else, so why bother?  I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that I have made many friends and received great empathy and uplifting comments in times of need.  So here I go again!!!

A while ago I was approached by a college student who, along with 19 other students,  had the bright idea of inviting 12 bloggers to submit articles for an online book with proceeds to go to charity.  We were asked to select and write about 12 major events of the past year.  I elected to write about Steve Jobs and Ophra Winfrey. The chosen charity for 2011 is the Bulembu project.

Based in a small town in Swaziland, Africa, the Bulembu project is an inspirational mission to transform an abandoned mining town in the only country in the world with a negative population rate, into a thriving town and beacon of hope in a country ravaged by HIV/AIDS.

By taking in orphans and rejuvenating an eco-friendly and close knit community, the Bulembu project hopes to bring life back to an otherwise doomed area.

Visited by a team of 19 16-year-old's in 2010, the Bulembu project has been chosen as the charity for 2011 for a variety of reasons - not only is it an innovative and necessary project with a glowing heart at the centre of it, the Bulembu projects motto - Learn, Engage, Give - reflects much of the spirit behind TTR - learning from others, engaging in a project and giving to a worthy cause.

It is anticipated that the cyber book will be available from 5th December.  Read all about this project at

Monday 14 November 2011


And for my next trip?  After christmas I plan to visit my grandson in Australia.  I will be going with my grandaughter and two great grandaughters but I may not be coming back with them.  I am hoping to be pursuaded to go on an extended road trip with my grandson and his girlfriend.  Wouldn't that be amazing?

Apologies, my friend sent me this terrible joke, but it is so, so funny and I think that we all need brightening up to counteract all the gloom.

After having their 11th child, an Irish couple decided that that was enough, as they couldn't afford a larger bed. So the husband went to his doctor and told him that he and his wife didn't want to have any more children ...

The doctor told him there was a procedure called a vasectomy that would fix the problem but it was expensive. A less costly alternative was to go home, get a large firecracker, light it, put it in a beer can, then hold the can up to his ear and count to 10.

The husband said to the doctor, "B'Jayzus, I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I don't see how putting a firework in a beer can next to my ear is going to help me with my problem."

"Trust me, it will do the job", said the doctor.

So the man went home, lit a cracker and put it in a beer can. He held the can up to his ear and began to count:

"1, 2, 3, 4, 5," at which point he paused, and placed the beer can between his legs so he could continue counting on his other hand.

This procedure also works in Australia, Tasmania and Greece .

Monday 7 November 2011


I recently read that you shouldn't write a blog unless you have something to say.  My problem is I have too much to say!  I hear the morning news and off I go, asking questions, wondering why, solving problems.  I don't understand why everyone isn't like me.  Why am I so different?

This week I have been out to lunch (twice), dinner (once), theatre (once), received a proposal or marrriage from some random guy on facebook, received my first Chrismas present (15 bottles of wine), had two great grandaughters and then two grandsons on sleepover, progressed my proposed plan to build a house and on Thursday I'm going to the cinema. And this has been a quiet week.  No wonder I have opinions on things.

I also have a wonderful variety of friends who send me pointlessly funny news items from all over the world.  This is the latest.  I think I have heard this one before, but it still makes me howl with laughter.

Subject: Government Investigates Rancher

The Montana Department of Employment, Division of Labor Standards claimed a small rancher was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to investigate him.

GOV’T AGENT: “I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them.”

RANCHER: ”Well, there’s my hired hand who’s been with me for 3 years. I pay him $200 a week plus free room and board.

Then there’s the mentally challenged guy. He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here.

He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night so he can cope with life.

He also sleeps with my wife occasionally.”

GOV’T AGENT: “That’s the guy I want to talk to - the mentally challenged one.”

RANCHER: “That would be me.”

Friday 4 November 2011


Four rules:

1. All existing IMF & ECB loans to EU Member states (not limited to the EuroZone!) should be ring fenced and renegotiated to reduce interest rates and extend the loan period. This would give everyone “wiggle room” and haul troubled countries out of a default situation.

It would also reward best performing countries, giving them breathing space to strengthen without having to spend precious resources propping up ailing and feckless countries. Survival of the fittest. The best performers would thrive and survive.

2. Countries with a shocking fiscal record should be told categorically that if they ever, ever want to borrow money again they would be stringently audited and a condition of loan would be to get their fiscal act together. NO ARGUMENTS.

3. Any person or business that has a genuine debt crisis would also have the opportunity, should they so wish, to renegotiate their loan in the same way. Without having to prop up rogue states the money would be available to help on this level, which is where the pain is being felt most and where recovery will ultimately come from.

4. Any person, business or country that has obtained credit fraudulently, (such as Greece fudging the figures to get into the Euro Zone), should be black listed – as in - no more credit extended EVER.

Where are you Maggie when we need you? Herein endeth the lesson.

Thursday 3 November 2011


Mona Simpson is a novelist and a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. She delivered this eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs, on Oct. 16 at his memorial service at the Memorial Church of Stanford University

I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people.

Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother. By then, I lived in New York, where I was trying to write my first novel. I had a job at a small magazine in an office the size of a closet, with three other aspiring writers.

When one day a lawyer called me — me, the middle-class girl from California who hassled the boss to buy us health insurance — and said his client was rich and famous and was my long-lost brother, the young editors went wild. This was 1985 and we worked at a cutting-edge literary magazine, but I’d fallen into the plot of a Dickens novel and really, we all loved those best. The lawyer refused to tell me my brother’s name and my colleagues started a betting pool. The leading candidate: John Travolta. I secretly hoped for a literary descendant of Henry James — someone more talented than I, someone brilliant without even trying.

When I met Steve, he was a guy my age in jeans, Arab- or Jewish-looking and handsomer than Omar Sharif. We took a long walk — something, it happened, that we both liked to do. I don’t remember much of what we said that first day, only that he felt like someone I’d pick to be a friend. He explained that he worked in computers. I didn’t know much about computers. I still worked on a manual Olivetti typewriter. I told Steve I’d recently considered my first purchase of a computer: something called the Cromemco. Steve told me it was a good thing I’d waited. He said he was making something that was going to be insanely beautiful.

I want to tell you a few things I learned from Steve, during three distinct periods, over the 27 years I knew him. They’re not periods of years, but of states of being. His full life. His illness. His dying.

Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Everyday. That’s incredibly simple, but true. He was the opposite of absent-minded. He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures. If someone as smart as Steve wasn’t ashamed to admit trying, maybe I didn’t have to be.

When he got kicked out of Apple, things were painful. He told me about a dinner at which 500 Silicon Valley leaders met the then-sitting president. Steve hadn’t been invited. He was hurt but he still went to work at Next. Every single day.

Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was. For an innovator, Steve was remarkably loyal. If he loved a shirt, he’d order 10 or 100 of them. In the Palo Alto house, there are probably enough black cotton turtlenecks for everyone in this church.

He didn’t favour trends or gimmicks. He liked people his own age. His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.” Steve always aspired to make beautiful later.

He was willing to be misunderstood. Uninvited to the ball, he drove the third or fourth iteration of his same black sports car to Next, where he and his team were quietly inventing the platform on which Tim Berners-Lee would write the program for the World Wide Web.

Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him. Whenever he saw a man he thought a woman might find dashing, he called out, “Hey are you single? Do you wanna come to dinner with my sister?” I remember when he phoned the day he met Laurene. “There’s this beautiful woman and she’s really smart and she has this dog and I’m going to marry her.”

When Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored. None of us who attended Reed’s graduation party will ever forget the scene of Reed and Steve slow dancing.

His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic. I try to learn from that, still.

Steve had been successful at a young age, and he felt that had isolated him. Most of the choices he made from the time I knew him were designed to dissolve the walls around him. A middle-class boy from Los Altos, he fell in love with a middle-class girl from New Jersey. It was important to both of them to raise Lisa, Reed, Erin and Eve as grounded, normal children. Their house didn’t intimidate with art or polish; in fact, for many of the first years I knew Steve and Lo together, dinner was served on the grass, and sometimes consisted of just one vegetable. Lots of that one vegetable. But one. Broccoli. In season. Simply prepared. With just the right, recently snipped, herb.

Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans. When a family member called him at work, his secretary Linetta answered, “Your dad’s in a meeting. Would you like me to interrupt him?”

When Reed insisted on dressing up as a witch every Halloween, Steve, Laurene, Erin and Eve all went wiccan.

They once embarked on a kitchen remodel; it took years. They cooked on a hotplate in the garage. The Pixar building, under construction during the same period, finished in half the time. And that was it for the Palo Alto house. The bathrooms stayed old. But — and this was a crucial distinction — it had been a great house to start with; Steve saw to that.

This is not to say that he didn’t enjoy his success: he enjoyed his success a lot, just minus a few zeros. He told me how much he loved going to the Palo Alto bike store and gleefully realizing he could afford to buy the best bike there. And he did.

Steve was humble. Steve liked to keep learning. Once, he told me if he’d grown up differently, he might have become a mathematician. He spoke reverently about colleges and loved walking around the Stanford campus. In the last year of his life, he studied a book of paintings by Mark Rothko, an artist he hadn’t known about before, thinking of what could inspire people on the walls of a future Apple campus.

Steve cultivated whimsy. What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?

He had surprises tucked in all his pockets. I’ll venture that Laurene will discover treats — songs he loved, a poem he cut out and put in a drawer — even after 20 years of an exceptionally close marriage. I spoke to him every other day or so, but when I opened The New York Times and saw a feature on the company’s patents, I was still surprised and delighted to see a sketch for a perfect staircase.

With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun. He treasured happiness.

Then, Steve became ill and we watched his life compress into a smaller circle. Once, he’d loved walking through Paris. He’d discovered a small handmade soba shop in Kyoto. He downhill skied gracefully. He cross-country skied clumsily. No more.

Eventually, even ordinary pleasures, like a good peach, no longer appealed to him.

Yet, what amazed me, and what I learned from his illness, was how much was still left after so much had been taken away.

I remember my brother learning to walk again, with a chair. After his liver transplant, once a day he would get up on legs that seemed too thin to bear him, arms pitched to the chair back. He’d push that chair down the Memphis hospital corridor towards the nursing station and then he’d sit down on the chair, rest, turn around and walk back again. He counted his steps and, each day, pressed a little farther.

Laurene got down on her knees and looked into his eyes. “You can do this, Steve,” she said. His eyes widened. His lips pressed into each other. He tried. He always, always tried, and always with love at the core of that effort. He was an intensely emotional man.

I realized during that terrifying time that Steve was not enduring the pain for himself. He set destinations: his son Reed’s graduation from high school, his daughter Erin’s trip to Kyoto, the launching of a boat he was building on which he planned to take his family around the world and where he hoped he and Laurene would someday retire.

Even ill, his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held. He went through 67 nurses before finding kindred spirits and then he completely trusted the three who stayed with him to the end. Tracy. Arturo. Elham.

One time when Steve had contracted a tenacious pneumonia his doctor forbad everything — even ice. We were in a standard I.C.U. unit. Steve, who generally disliked cutting in line or dropping his own name, confessed that this once, he’d like to be treated a little specially. I told him: Steve, this is special treatment. He leaned over to me, and said: “I want it to be a little more special.”

Intubated, when he couldn’t talk, he asked for a notepad. He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He re-drew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. And every time his wife walked into the room, I watched his smile remake itself on his face. For the really big, big things, you have to trust me, he wrote on his sketchpad. He looked up. You have to.

By that, he meant that we should disobey the doctors and give him a piece of ice.

None of us knows for certain how long we’ll be here. On Steve’s better days, even in the last year, he embarked upon projects and elicited promises from his friends at Apple to finish them. Some boat builders in the Netherlands have a gorgeous stainless steel hull ready to be covered with the finishing wood. His three daughters remain unmarried, his two youngest still girls, and he’d wanted to walk them down the aisle as he’d walked me the day of my wedding.

We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.

I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us.

What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died. Tuesday morning, he called me to ask me to hurry up to Palo Alto. His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.

He started his farewell and I stopped him. I said, “Wait. I’m coming. I’m in a taxi to the airport. I’ll be there.” “I’m telling you now because I’m afraid you won’t make it on time, honey.”

When I arrived, he and his Laurene were joking together like partners who’d lived and worked together every day of their lives. He looked into his children’s eyes as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze. Until about 2 in the afternoon, his wife could rouse him, to talk to his friends from Apple. Then, after awhile, it was clear that he would no longer wake to us.

His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful. I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before. This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it. He told me, when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place.

Dr. Fischer gave him a 50/50 chance of making it through the night. He made it through the night, Laurene next to him on the bed sometimes jerked up when there was a longer pause between his breaths. She and I looked at each other, then he would heave a deep breath and begin again.

This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude. He seemed to be climbing.

But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.

Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.

Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.

Steve’s final words were: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

Had I the talent I could have written similar words about my own husband who died two years ago this Christmas-- except Davy didn't wear black polo necks he wore white tee shirts!  They marched to a different drummer and their drives, loves and eventual death were uncannily mirrored. 

He was mentor to so many but to me he was also my love and my life. I miss him every second of every day, and have never ceased thanking God for the day that we first met. He taught me and so many others how to live.