“I’m looking forward to going there!”

When my predecessor the late Raymond A. Jamieson QC lay ill in his hospital bed at 96 years of age and I told him in response to his question “What’s the news?” that funeral director John H. Kerry was building a chapel attached to his funeral home, Raymond replied with a glint in his eye (the only one he had), “I’m looking forward to going there!” And in case you’re wondering, Raymond lost one of his eyes as a child at age 13 on the 13th day of the month while playing with some toy. It was a fortuity which subsequently inspired him to wantonly dispose of any $1 bill he happened to have in his pocket in addition to $12. It was the only suspicion I knew him to counsel.

As I remarked to an ancient friend of mine only today it pleases me that many of the monuments surrounding our own at Auld Kirk Cemetery on Ramsay Conc. VIII are for those of former clients of mine.  Granted it is a mournful celebration but nonetheless oddly sociable. It captures as well the further reality that neither of us is, apart from the artistic contribution of the monument, likely to go there.  We’ve both signed those consent forms for disposal of our remains with hospitals for either transplant donation or what is more likely considering the predictable decomposition of our carcasses, educational purposes as cadavers. Otherwise it will be in spirit only.  Or perhaps a token addition of ashes when no one’s looking! Both of us have in any event chosen the Auld Kirk Cemetery to mark our putative last resting place because we owe so much to Almonte and the people whom we’ve known and worked for here. Whenever we return from our winter sojourns for example it’s always with the ineffable call of home.

When I casually looked into the mirror this afternoon to adjust my windblown hair following my return from a routine afternoon drive, I uttered to myself, “I’m pushing 80 years of age. Who cares!” And, yes, I know 73 (rapidly approaching 74) is not exactly there quite yet but it’s getting more than ignorantly close. This proximity instantly inspires in me two theses: One, screw appearances! And, two, do whatever it takes to get on with it!

I’ve done the best I can to this point to prepare myself for T. S. Eliot’s final bang.

“The Hollow Men” (1925) is a poem by the modernist writer T. S. Eliot. Like much of his work, its themes are overlapping and fragmentary, concerned with post–World War IEurope under the Treaty of Versailles (which Eliot despised: compare “Gerontion”), hopelessness, religious conversion, redemption and, some critics argue, his failing marriage with Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot. It was published two years before Eliot converted to Anglicanism.

The trick is to avoid the hollowness; that is, not only to avoid infamy or praise but also to avoid watching others move on into the afterlife from the Infero. It’s but a small compliment for disregard of the more immediate mandate; viz., getting up and making your bed each morning. There is – depressingly for some – no simple answer to the appreciation of life. There is however one element which is certain; and that is each of us can contribute to our well-being and happiness if we try. For example, it matters not to me how old I am. To threaten me with the expiry of time is but a fiction. I have no intention to elongate the remaining moments of my life ruminating upon either its exigencies or causes for disappointment. If it shortens my life to have a good time, to make the time pass quickly because I’m enjoying myself, then I’m Okay with that.  I qualify the allure only to remark that, as in any expedition, critical choice of imperatives is never a bad idea.  Make certain you choose your path with a pattern that responds to whatever instinctive thoughts percolate within. You’ll never escape them.  Don’t waste time – not unless you’re looking forward to going there.