My father died in the early hours of Palm Sunday. The previous day he had been going about his usual routine for a Saturday morning, including walking down the steep driveway to collect the weekend newspaper. It had been raining. Somehow he lost his balance and fell heavily, incurring a severe head injury. He succumbed to this injury some eighteen hours later, without regaining consciousness.
Many of us – his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren – were fortunate enough to have spent time with him in the weeks preceding his death, and our memories are of a vigorous (though frail), interested, engaged, elderly patriarch of a large, loving family, enjoying his life and each day as it came.
Being the well-organised man that he was, Dad had written a memoir in the months after Mum died, in August 2018. You can read the story of his remarkable life and some tributes below.
Dad (a lifelong Liberal voter) concluded his memoir with a story about Mary Easson, a politician who served a term as a Labor member in the last Keating government. In 2009 she suffered a serious illness, spending 70 days in intensive care and six months in hospital. To cope with this protracted recovery she gave herself a sense of purpose outside of herself. The journalist Greg Sheridan recalls that she said to him, “‘I tried to say to myself: If anyone comes into my room today – be it a cleaner or a nurse or anyone – I will try to make their day better. You can feel sorry for yourself. I find if I get to the point of saying: How can I help others? I cope better myself and it’s what God requires of you anyway.’ Then Mary looked straight at me and said: ‘What is required from you, man, is simply this – act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God.’ [Micah 6:8]” Dad then concluded with the comment, “I think that is comforting for anyone seeking to serve God, but whose age or state of health limits what they can do.”
Beyond a piece of very wise advice, that passage is also an elegant summary of the life and character of Neil Dutney. He acted justly, He loved tenderly. And he walked humbly with his God throughout his long and fruitful life.
You can view the video of Dad’s funeral service here: https://youtu.be/py6TLmBUhwc
Greg Vickery’s tribute https://www.qlsproctor.com.au/2022/05/andrew-neil-dutney/