His greatest fear was of his body dying around his youthful, dynamic and brilliant mind.

At 73 my father could still not accept old age. For every year he was meant to retire from his job as professor, then later solicitor and judge, he would respond with frustration, shoo’ing us away with the promise of “next year”. His intellect was as zealous, tantalising and probing as that of any young academic, and his job defined every part of his being. He was also still actively playing sport nearly every day, be it tennis, swimming or cycling. Having survived heart surgery and cancer, he was more full of life than most 20 year olds I knew and he always seemed indestructible to me.

It was the 31st January 2008. I was sitting at my desk at the conveyancing law firm where I had just got a job and was sneakily reading my emails before getting on with the daily photo-copying, when an email popped up from my older sister in Germany. All it said was “Ring me”. It was too short a message to be good news, too abrupt to be anything trivial. As I phoned the number to my home in Germany, the one I had rung a thousand times all my life, I had no idea what was to come.

Papa is dead. He went to bed last night and didn’t wake up again this morning.

Continue reading