Saturday, February 11, 2017

We killed a bottle of scotch.



It's just a cup,  a plastic juice cup used in hospitals around the world. This one was stolen from St. Boniface Hospital palliative care the night before my father died. We killed a bottle of Scotch that night, a 24 ouncer of Balentine. We had been working on it for several days, but truthfully it wasn't our first bottle. We bought the first one on New Year's eve and kept the bar stocked to the end.

We killed the last bottle together on January 31, 2000 and I have the cup.

We sipped in silence and watched the sun slide below the yardarm of 1999.  I remember the fireworks and the warmth of the scotch. Mostly I remember the moment of quiet contemplation where silence spoke volumes. Love was in the air. Words were not necessary.  I think we were both overwhelmed with life, with just being. Scotch and silence became a panacea for the moment. As far as deaths go, it was perfect, fairytale-like my sister would say.

I'd arrive every day at 4:30 to the same greeting "Mike's here! Let's have a scotch." and we did, and we talked, and we sat in silence. And we apologized for past errors of judgement and laughed at the senselessness of life. We tossed around the meaning of life and finally agreed it is the pursuit of wisdom. That settled, it was time to let go, time to die.

The morning my father died I was with him, alone. He had passed and a nurse entered to fiddle with switches and knobs as I sat by his side. I spoke gibberish, telling her the light was bothering my father and if she could just turn it off he would be more comfortable. She was the mother of one of my students so I was trying to pull it together and be professional.  She approached me and dimmed the lights and then, unexpectedly she hugged me warmly and held me tightly. My gibberish turned to sobs, long guttural uncontrollable sobs.

And she held me.
And she held me.
And she held me.

I told this story to a friend this morning on a 20 km run through bush trail and side streets.  I'm not sure why, but in that moment it was the perfect story. When we run the talk turns existential as we question white light, theories of meta-physical existence and the human condition. As we run we develop incredible friendships based on trust and a willingness to let your guard down and show long shadowed vulnerabilities, flaws in character, hopes and aspirations, regrets and dreams.  We become human, we become at peace with ourselves.

Today was a sublime day to be alive.

Mike