My father-in-law, Al Cooley, died yesterday at the age of 87. Al was born a few days before the end of WWI. He was almost precisely my age (and I'm no longer young) when Nixon was beating Humphrey and Wallace for the presidency. That is a long life, but, for his family and friends, there is never a day when it is really "time enough" to lose a loved one.
Al had been ill for a long time and had reached that point where its common for people to say that passing is a "blessing." That statement might be trite, but it is no less true for that. Still, even in an impaired life, he remained, in important ways, there for those who cared for him. And, while thankful for this release, we still grieve that loss.
Al died surrounded by his wife and children who, and I say this as one who was more observer than actor, went to extraordinary lengths to make his final weeks comfortable. If it is a measure of a man's life to know that his family loved him, then Al really did pile up treasures on Earth. But these are the type that I think you can take with you. His family can take solace in giving him that final gift.
I wasn't present when Al died and I am not about to share the details of that private moment now. But suffice it to say that it would be very hard for those who were there (a group that included his wife and three of his children) to ever again take a mechanistic or fatalistic view of death. It would be nearly impossible for any of them not to think that whatever it is that constitutes the essence of a person is never completely gone. That was Al's final gift to them.
That's a life. Let the Irish wake begin.