I saw that larger than life parliamentarian Cyril Smith had died yesterday. He was a big big man. I think I heard he peaked at 29 stone. I was a little surprised to hear he made it to 82, just goes to show being a gourmand won’t necessarily kill you.
What struck me though was the report of his memorial service. How he had spent his last days planning exactly how it would be – including hand written notes to people he cared for to catch them by surprise and delight them after he had gone. A warm hearted joker to the last [albiet subsequent reports in 2014 strongly suggest otherwise].
I’ve often thought mistily about death and the final taking stock of my life I will do. Who will be there smiling at my rosy faced cheeks. But reading about the actual reality of death as I did in Anti-cancer made my heart race, my chest tighten and my anxiety levels rise. David Servan-Schreiber sets out the most common fears, it will hurt, I will be alone, my story will be unfinished, important things will be left unsaid etc. These are very real fears for me. He also writes that some people close on the moment with grace and tranquillity.
Our dog is dying. He has a big and growing lump on his side which will surely kill him in weeks not months. He’s had a good long life and I’ve noticed he’s sleeping more, I can see he’s chasing bunnies – he is running in his sleep, catching and mouthing and happy. A friend told me his dog walked slowly out into the garden one day curled up under a tree and gently floated away.
Much of my attraction to eudaimonia or flourishing (and the ancient Greek version of ‘happiness’ as the product of a life lived) is tied up with this final account. But on my bike this morning it came to me that maybe it will hurt, maybe it will be sudden, maybe it will be banal, maybe I won’t get to write handwritten notes. So the time to achieve the eudaemonia is here and now and the right moment to assess my happiness is today and every day.
Achilles left no handwritten notes.