I found this journal entry from 23rd August 2019.
This morning we visited Jim and Kit Packer. Jim is working on what he believes to be his last book, his “last long haul”, a book on the Anglican contribution to theology that he was cowriting with Don Lewis. He is realistic and not sure if he will have the time to finish it. I reminded him that he had a capable cowriter but of course that wasn’t the point.
Kit shared about her health struggles.
I asked what happened to their plan to relocate to the north of British Columbia. Jim said there was a “whisper from above” that they were to remain in Vancouver. Bernice and I were glad. We didn’t know all that was involved but we thought they would receive more support in Vancouver.
Jim referred again to his struggle with macular degeneration. He was frustrated that it affected his ability to focus. Both he and Kit also referred to the fact that his memory was failing.
I said that memory may go but what remains are character and relationships. I was trying hard, maybe too hard, to encourage him.
I said it was a special bonus, a special treat, for Bernice and me to see them again. Jim said we must make it a point to come again and that we will meet, “here or there”.
I reminded Jim of our common interests in jazz and mystery novels.
All too soon, it was time to go. I was surprised that Jim asked us to pray for them before we left.
(In recalling that moment I am still blown away.)
I was affected and felt very sad as we left. I wasn’t sure why. Didn’t feel the same level of sorrow when we left after a similar visit the year before. And it wasn’t as though he was very strong then. This time something was different. Some premonition that it was our last visit this side of heaven? I also remember feeling very low the week he passed away before I got the news of his passing. Christians grieve but we grieve with hope (1Thessalonians 4:13–18). Indeed, if we don’t meet here we will meet there.
I was pleasantly surprised when Bernice reminded me that she had videotaped a short clip of part of my last conversation with Jim. I watched it again. Two things stood out.
One, commenting on his teaching, Jim said: “It’s like pepper and salt. My stuff tastes a little different from the way other people’s stuff taste.” Then he turned to me and said: “Well, you know. You have suffered it all.”
I replied that I learnt so much from him, many lessons ingrained in my heart and mind. (It’s interesting that at such moments you don’t talk about things like infant baptism. He is Anglican. I am Baptist.)
And the last line from the short clip.
Jim: “One of the results of my teaching I hope is that people are more realistic about life under God than they were before.”
They are, sir, they are. Thank you for showing us the way.