19 MARCH 1988, Page 36

Last Page

If it's true the miracle of life's sustained solely by God's attention, then something has distracted Him from me. My sins, perhaps? The kindly man who came and left hell's brochures propped beside my bed would say so. Hosannahs of the damned mingle with the buzz of flies. I watch one batting against the window pane, again and again, an inch below inviting open air. A parable of obdurately spurned salvation? Too late, if so, for me.

My little sins are all my company these days. What happened happened. Happiness accrued (or didn't). And even will and power combined can't take away a happened happiness.

The body rots, but what it did does not, though memory is our only after-life. We're not programmed for infinity.

Eternal torments? Who could make them up, or titillate the torturers' interest through millennia? And Paradise? Absurd. God's love — the Beatific vision - would burn us up like so much insect trash. As well say nuclear fission 'loves' mankind.

Something loves me, certainly. Superintendent angels rattle the dice of pain relief. I pray for double six, but will not cheat and make them give it me.

I cannot move, or feel my waste's slow ebb.

I cannot taste my food, or smell myself.

The light will dim to silence soon.

Whisper of crepe-soled shoes on parquet floors, a stifled cough, a brief caesura in an empty room.

And then they'll come and strip my bedclothes off.

Simon Rae