First she wanted me to have a totally separate examination by a lung specialist of great reputation. He said that it was the worst case of neglect he had ever seen, and that his diagnosis was the same as the hospital surgeon’s. By now five different doctors, surgeons or radiologists had given the same opinion. A week later I set off for the hospital, as arranged.
On leaving my house, I called in at the Royal Ocean Racing Club to have a farewell drink. Talking to some of my friends at the bar there, I felt intensely lonely. The thought of being cut off from my friends, added, I suppose, to fear and dread, turned my bones to water and already I seemed isolated in unbridgeable space. I did not say where I was going; no one wants a spectre at a feast.
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When I was a boy at home, I used to hear my father pray every Sunday, ‘From sudden death, good Lord deliver us.’ This had always puzzled me; sudden death seemed a fine way to go out. Now the meaning seemed clear; the prayer should read, ‘From death before we are ready to die, good Lord deliver us.’
On the way out of the club, I paused and glanced at the notice board in the lobby. I saw a notice proposing a singlehanded race across the Atlantic, signed H. G. Hasler. I thought briefly, ‘That would be a terrific race,’ and passed on, thinking that the only other race I was likely to take part in was to race old Charon across the Styx.
I was resigned to my fate. Not so my wife; she was now really in a fighting mood, and went into action. She asked for an interview with the head surgeon. ‘I don’t interview the relatives of patients.’