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Larkie Loon's saddest day

Then came the signs. First the pain, then the x-ray, then the result ? it was negative. Joyfully my father announced ?it?s a fraud? and threw himself even more forcefully into the fray. Then the pain returned more acutely. There was a further x-ray. Then the diagnosis. A tumour. Terminal illness. He took it calmly, told my mother she would have to take control alone and be able to ?lay her hands on everything?.

?When the band begins to play?, he said, ?we?ve all got to dance to the music.? He secured a locum; a lady, Dr Kerr. She got his lists of calls at the bedside. She administered the pain-killing drug. What it must mean to a doctor to know the end is approaching and to recognise every advance of his fatal disease!

My mother used to send me up to read to him, sometimes from the Bible. Wanly he smiled at my earnest elocution. We children, however, were kept unaware of the critical situation, though we could see our father fading. It was so strange to see the one who was ever active now unable to leave his bedroom. When would things return to normal?

To us the end was sudden. Jessie, the maid, who had been so long with us and was a second mother, took me into the room and removed the cover from the face. This was not my vital father. He had gone to another place.

The funeral was private and modern. Most funerals brought out the black horses with the black plumes and polished carriages. Ours was going to the family burial-ground in Glasgow and so made concessions to modernity. We had a motor hearse and a motor car following. Opposite the house a huddled group of women stood weeping. They had come to say farewell to the doctor though the funeral was private. We noticed the group as we entered the car, Dr McCallum, lum hat on knees, in front, the three oldest boys behind with two uncles and the family lawyer. Slowly we moved off, gathering speed at the outskirts of the village. Soon we were in Glasgow at the Southern Necropolis. Then a brief service took place. Earth to earth, dust to dust. David, the youngest of us there, broke down. He was only eight. Ian and I kept stiff upper lips. It was all so stupefying. There seemed to be a dulling of the senses. And so we moved away, and as we did so I noticed the inscription at the foot of the tombstone, ?Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints?. The Psalmist, as always, said it perfectly.

There wasn?t much daylight left when we returned from the funeral. I slipped off to bed and sobbed myself to sleep. My mother found me there in the darkness and called me for tea.

Post Script:

Larkhall Parish Church                11th January 1928

Dear Mrs Caldwell

I am instructed to send you the following excerpt from the Minutes of the meeting held this night.  Yours faithfully, John Paterson, Session Clerk.

"The Kirk Session deplore the death of Dr John Miller Caldwell at an early age. He had been most faithful in his attendance at Church and fulfilled his duties as an elder with diligence, consideration and kindness. As a medical man he was greatly respected in the Community, his singularly upright and Christian life making his professional visits often more than that of a healer of the body. He was a deeply religious man and bore his long and painful illness in the Spirit of a true Christian. The Kirk Session mourn much his loss and pray that divine consolation and guidance be vouchsafe to his widow and young family."
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