Jim Flaherty and Ruminations on Mortality

The photo accompanying Jim Flaherty's final tweet after announcing his resignation as finance minister in March 2014.

The photo accompanying Jim Flaherty’s final tweet after announcing his resignation as finance minister in March 2014.

You have likely already heard of the sudden passing of Jim Flaherty, Canadian finance minister from 2006 until March 18, of a massive heart attack this Thursday afternoon.

You have already seen dozens of people on social networks, newscasts, and elsewhere discuss Flaherty’s legacy as one of the figureheads of two of the most important conservative governments this country has had in my lifetime (Mike Harris’s Ontatio PCs and Stephen Harper’s federal Conservatives). Those governments, for better or ill, created/are creating a legacy that will last for at least a generation.

You’ve heard politicians of all levels and political ideologies offering condolences to his friends, wife Christine Elliot, and sons Galen, John, and Quinn. You’ve heard and seen how shaken they are at the news, particularly NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Toronto mayor Rob Ford. If you’ve watched television coverage, you’ve seen how comfortable, how natural a smile came to him, and how he was a “gentleman brawler,” someone who’d pummel you professionally and offer you a friendly, respectful handshake when the time came to clock off.

I want to instead talk about mortality. The country has today lost Flaherty, suddenly. Last month, my Great-Aunt Mitty died after falling and breaking her hip (though, in imitable style, she apparently decided to have lunch before deciding she had to go to the hospital). She was 99 years, 11 months. Earlier in March, Dave McCaffrey, someone I graduated from Kennebecasis Valley High School eight years ago, was shot by police during a domestic dispute and died of his wounds. He was 27.

Death is sudden. Most of us won’t get the choice of when it comes into our lives, few of us know when it will take someone close to us. Tempus fugit, and all that. It is imperative, for our own sake and the sake of others, to cherish life and share as much of ourselves with others as possible.

We must do things we enjoy in life, be that public service like Flaherty or a game of cards with a nice sandwich like Aunt Mitty. We must try to have as positive a role in the lives of our family and friends as possible, with a helping hand, tough but necessary criticism, or even a quiet smile and laugh. We must not be afraid to take risks, to let others into our lives even if we risk being hurt by their leaving.

We must embrace to the time we have alive to the fullest but, more than that, we must embrace the time we have with others to the same extent. The effect it will have on ourselves and on others will be incalcuable.

Apologies for the self-indulgence. Go, live.

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