During the many years I have been writing these columns, by far the hardest have been the ones relating to the loss of loved ones.

During Easter, a much-loved aunt of ours passed away, and the loss was all the more poignant in our house because she didn’t have children of her own, and my wife was the closest she had to a daughter.

Jean, the lady in question, was a lovely, kind, generous person, who carried on smiling through adversity, including seven years as a widow.

She was a pleasure to know, and as she was in her 97th year, there was inevitably talk of her having had “a good innings”.

It’s a common way of consoling ourselves, but the fact is: the longer someone lives, the more you expect them to go on forever.

Jean survived hypothermia following a fall at home, and after moving to a care home, and despite the superhuman efforts of the wonderful staff there, she tested positive for Covid-19, earlier this year.

Miraculously, however, she did not develop symptoms, and was able to be vaccinated, only to eventually succumb to a different infection that not even the saints and angels of the Great Western Hospital could help her overcome.

Incidentally: just when we thought we couldn’t have any greater respect for the staff at GWH, we are in even greater awe because of their handling of Jean’s last few days and hours.

Nothing is more important than protecting and strengthening the NHS, our best ever invention and our greatest friend, and neither should we rest until its heroes receive a proper reward for their commitment and professionalism, instead of cheap platitudes.

Meanwhile, amid all the emotions that inevitably come with any death, our new bereavement has brought a new experience.

Jean was the last of her generation in our family, and the realisation quickly came that my wife and I were being handed a baton. Our generation is now the older generation.

How ironic that on one of those momentous days in your life, when time seems to stand still, you are still dealt a reminder – as if you needed one – of just how fast your own clock is ticking.

In the same instant that we realised we would no longer be caring for our older relatives, however, we felt our duties and responsibilities shifting to younger generations.

As one of her lovely nurses pointed out, Jean came from a generation blessed with an inner strength. They were certainly made of stern stuff, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that younger people will need to be just as resilient.

The good news is: they are – and we can also be certain that many younger people also possess many other priceless qualities, including a compassion that some older people are somehow proud to have rejected.

If you need a shot of humility or hope, just wait until the next time you or your loved ones are in the hands of the NHS and its staff.