We hold nothing back in this column, dear friends. Sometimes you get told stuff that not even my own family knows about, and this week we bring you such a disclosure. I am about to reveal what my final words will be on my death-bed!

I had a good friend in Spain, the late Joe Varden, of a well-known Galway family. Joe was a hugely successful pharmacist and was married to the equally special Josie Tynan from Mullingar. Joe was one of life’s great characters who excelled in the art of debate and conversation. He was gruff, always got straight to the hub of the argument, and he possessed the most incredible sense of dead-pan humour.

Joe had a serious heart attack before he handed over the reins of business to his family and retired to Spain. In telling me about the heart attack which convinced him to adjourn to the quiet life in La Zenia, these were Joe’s words; “I knew I was in trouble when I woke up in a hospital and the two men sitting by my bedside weren’t a priest and doctor, but a solicitor and an accountant!”

Joe and Josie had a few great years in Spain, until, sadly, Josie lost a battle with Motor Neuron. Joe’s health began to go downhill and after a couple of years on his own, the family persuaded him to return to where they could keep an eye on him back in Ireland.

I was one among a legion of friends who attended Joe’s funeral in Newmarket-on-Fergus. The priest who officiated told of Joe’s last words to him as he lay dying. The missionary priest, a friend from college days, had come home to be with Joe at the end. The story he told of his last chat with his old classmate and the words Joe said to him are pure class.

Like we said, Joe had a great brain and he always wanted an answer for every unanswered question. Every time his friend had come home on holiday he called to see Joe, who pursued debate on religion, theology and the life hereafter. Joe demanded answers!

Joe was in a coma when his old school pal came in to administer the last rites. Just then Joe opened his eyes, locked them into the gaze of his reverend friend, before announcing; “over the next couple of days, I’ll have all them answers!”

We have written here previously about famous last words. Forgive me for repeating this particular gem, but it tickles me every time I picture the scene. This is a true story, which was told so eloquently by the late Mickey Duffy.

An eccentric old writer and playwright was dying in a London hospital. The main thing is that this particular patient refused to believe that he was gravely ill. He accepted that you would die and I would die … but he couldn’t envisage it happening to himself. Late one night a friend came to visit and our hero overheard his visitor ask a nurse how he was doing; “He’s sinking fast and I don’t think he will make it through the night.” With that, the man in the bed opened his eyes wide and in a voice laden with shock and surprise, uttered these last three words; “Well …. F**k me …!”

Chances are that I’ll be lying there in some similar hospital bed. The family will be gathered around …. whispering to each other and looking at their shoes and watches. A young nurse will tip-toe in and out; the sort of girl who would once upon a time be mad to dance with me … but will now only touch me when wearing a rubber glove. The undertaker lights two candles. The doctor arrives in and checks my pulse. Grim-faced he turns to the assembled and announces apologetically; “It isn’t working, there is nothing further we can do.”

You will notice that nobody in the room has bothered to ask for my views on the direction this thing is taking – and me being the principal player? This is the moment where I decide to speak up for myself

“Try turning me off and then back on again … it works for everything else!”

My brother Sean is a dandy on electrics, brother Camillus a computer genius and brother Fehin … well, Fehin knows everything. I know nothing, so I have to phone a brother every time a compliance gives up working. No matter what it is, or whichever brother I’m speaking to, the advice is always the same; ‘have you tried turning it off and then back on again’. This trick works so well that I am now in the business of advising others if they have a gadget on the blink.

That’s the advice I’ll be giving to my doctor when all else fails: ‘try turning me off and then back on again!’

Don’t Forget

Appreciate what you have before you haven’t.

Bernie Comaskey Books