… a time to die
The following story is one of many my Aunt Thekla, oldest sister of my Dad, told when I was old enough to appreciate some of her experiences as co-owner of the vintner-supply business she ran with her husband in the Ahr Valley, in Ahrweiler, Germany, a region known for producing good red wines.
The old vintner, Henry, had finally come to the end of his days. He had grown his vines, tended to them, growing and harvesting the grapes, squeezing every single one of them, so not a drop of must would be wasted.
Henry had quite literally worked his heart out, producing some of the best wines any connoisseur could have hoped to taste, while his faithful wife of most of his years, Mary, had stood by his side and squeezed every nickel, so as to make sure it would not be spent frivolously.
Between the two of them, they had done well.
Now Henry lay on his death bed. The village priest had just left, after performing the last rites. Now there was nothing left to do but wait, wait for the grim reaper.
“Henry,” said Mary, “is there anything I can do to make you a bit more comfortable before you meet your maker?”
Henry responded, “Yes, Mary. Do you remember that award-winning “’37” of which you always saved those nine bottles for a special occasion? Do you think you could go to the cellar, fetch one of those bottles and let me have just one glass of it? I sure would enjoy that. It would be a great way to go.”
Reluctantly, Mary went to the cellar and got one of those treasured bottles of the ’37 vintage, skilfully extracted the cork and lovingly poured a glass for Henry. She carefully helped him to sit, so that he could drink all of it in comfort and without having to worry about spilling even a single drop of the precious liquid.
Then she helped him to lay back and sat back herself. Silence settled for a few minutes, with the clock ticking away the time in the quiet room.
Mary spoke up, “Henry, is there anything else I can do for you?”
Henry asked for another glass of the ’37 vintage. Mary poured one for him and carefully helped him, so not a drop of it would be spilled.
Henry settled down again and said, “Ah, that was good. It sure was worth the hard work producing it. No wonder it won first prize.”
Then, after a long silence and more waiting, Mary asked, “Henry, is there anything more I can do for you?” Henry replied, “You saved that wine for a special occasion for all those years. I am glad you did. Surely this is one of those occasions. Let me have another glass of that wonderful wine.”
Mary said, “Okay, Henry, I’ll pour another glass of that wine for you, but then it is time to die.”