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Friday, August 09, 2002

Stewart was a gentleman. There are increasingly few of his kind around. We did not disagree often but, when we did, we simply agreed to disagree. However, we agreed on many more things – the indispensability of good art, the importance of literature, the necessity for good company and the restorative value of good wine, for example. My last two meetings with him were joyful: drinks in my garden and dinner at a local restaurant. When people die unexpectedly, it is fortunate if one’s last memories of the departed are pleasant. Too often, people are prised from us after a 'difficult occasion.’

The funeral was at a Russian Orthodox Church. The order of service was unfamiliar to me: it was held ‘in the round’ and the choir sang beautifully and almost incessantly. The priest, (who, with his long, flowing white beard, could have stepped straight from a painting of the beneficent and benevolent God), led the choir and the congregation outside as the coffin was borne off in the hearse. I have seldom been so moved.

To Stewart’s family, and those closer to him than I was, I send my deep condolences. If your experiences of him were anything like mine, you were fortunate indeed. Stewart died in Kiev, a place he loved so much. We can be confident that, while he was away from us, he was happy.

At Easter this year Stewart, in a typically spontaneous gesture, sent me a very detailed reproduction of an icon (he had several, beautiful originals) with the message ‘Christ is risen’. I shall treasure it and remember him often. If everyone were as kind, gentle, thoughtful, and generous as Stewart, it would be a better World.

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