When I was practicing law it was common for me, at the end of the day and the beginning of the cocktail hour, to look back upon things. Normally it was just a humdrum and wildly abbreviated recapitulation of the business transactions of my clients to confirm that everything was organized; perhaps to remind myself of an outstanding issue to pursue with my legal assistants or the other law office involved in the deal. Given that the process was conducted either over the kitchen counter or while pouring myself a highball, it hardly qualified as a critical examination of events but it nonetheless satisfied the percolating psychotic necessity to summarize and restate the main points. Thus sated I was at liberty to remove myself from the kitchen into the drawing room where Jane Austen and I as regularly convened to muse upon life’s ambitions and fates over the frozen rim and before the blazing hearth. My French bulldog Monroe – likely having been served his monotonous evening meal – reposed contentedly upon a nearby sofa. Life was good! And I was happy!
This afternoon when conducting my equally repetitive and solitary automotive constitutional, for what reason I have no inkling, I caught myself summarizing my late father’s life and concluding that he died a happy man. The whimsical glance at his life amounted to a relieving and highly gratifying epiphany. We had never been overly close. My assessment was that upon his death at 95 years of age on April 8, 2014 (inconveniently my sister’s birthday) he was at the apogee of the pyramid of his entire immediate family – wife, 2 children (and their life partners), 2 grandchildren (and their life partners), a distinguished professional career, ideal friendships, good neighbours, enough money to harbour in excess of $200,000 in a chartered bank chequing account (non-interest bearing) to avoid unwanted sharing of even a particle thereof with Canada Revenue Agency, a 200-acre forestry spread in New Brunswick (where coincidentally many other family members persisted), a lovely home in the nation’s capital and an endearing full-throttled Buick Riviera with a front hood for days! He died a happy man!
Naturally I have no certainty that my father viewed matters as succinctly or similarly. He was a quiet man though pointedly you never left his wreath unclear of his opinion. The other truly compelling collateral of the apparition – that is, apart from the welcome insight that my father died a happy man – was the burgeoning philosophy within me that I too may have the privilege to die a happy man. This is not entirely an awakening or a realization but it is a reaffirmation no question.
I have forever been gripped by the Freemason’s ritual assertion that “Nature teaches us how to die”. It is for me a settling conclusion to things as we entrust ourselves to the unforeseen mysteries of the Universe. Or, as my father was accustomed to say, before we “go into space”. Characteristically I am wont to “ride the wave” with the redolence it requires, the fragrant and sweet-smelling vapour of a rich and worthwhile life. This idle navel-gazing has not escaped my imperative. Seemingly I calculate my sufficiency each moment of the newly unfolding day; something about the beginning and the end, about the circle of life (the “Magus”), about the consequence and inconsequence of big and small. Mine is not a mindless devotion but rather one of calculated and estimable quality. It were simpler if the poles between contentment and grief were demarcated along the road but they are not. One may inspire delight or quell a thirst; another may invoke a wrenching of the heart; some have the buoyancy of a drunken party; still others are laced in the ephemeral capacity of youth and desire. Dreams abide, distant stares over the horizon; the allure of the ocean rolling back and forth; and life’s inescapable fortuity wresting alternately like the magnetism of the planets above.
The enthralment of the sonata of life is not for everyone a microscopic creation. Nor indeed do I imagine that any one of us ever sees the complete story. Whatever stimulates my acquaintance with my past; whatever compels me to review and assess; whatever motivates my unrestrained awe of the sprawling yellow soy fields beneath billowing white clouds; or the camouflage of serendipity; or the blessing of loved ones; whatever the elixir, I concur!