I am getting ready to leave Canada’s capital city of Ottawa where I have lived and worked for the past four years.
As I prepare to leave, there are many farewells with friends. More subtle, however, is the occasional realization of having attended my last mass in a certain church, of having had my last coffee at a certain cafe, and of having brunched for the last time at a certain favourite restaurant.
Yes, I could be back here one day. But for now, I am saying goodbye and it’s uncertain whether or not I will ever be back to these specific people and places again. A lot of change happens year to year and the people who adorned your life in one season may not be there in the next.
This, I think, is one of the challenges of uprooting oneself or even of being uprooted due to some necessity.
But there is also something beautiful about it because, as I prepare to leave, my heart fills with gratitude and a sense of the preciousness of all of these particular encounters.
If there were not a last time for certain experiences and visits, there would not be the same sense of their value.
Perhaps this is partly what is meant by Augustine’s meditation on the Psalms: “He begins to leave who begins to love.”
Photo: The Shipping Container Coffee Shop Little Victories on Bank Street
If you died today, how would people find your office, your bedroom, your bookshelves?
What would happen with your email, your social media, your bank accounts?
Who would you have wanted to forgive? To pay back? To return to with gratitude?
Many people cannot die well because of leading lives that are not yet in any meaningful order.
Before I take a trip, I often organize my bedroom and office so that – were I to die during the trip – my possessions would reflect my priorities and the order in which I had them would (hopefully) be a reflection of my soul when I had left them.
“Putting our affairs in order” has become an idiom for a one-time event when, in fact, we are all meant to put our affairs into order each day.
Augustine even described peace as “the tranquility of order.”
And so, if we want to eventually rest in peace, then we’ll need to live our lives in order.
Today I am remembering Fr. James V. Schall – Jesuit priest, longtime professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University, and the author of more than thirty books. He died around this time two years ago.
I had heard that he had given a Last Lecture at Georgetown entitled “The Final Gladness,” but I only listened to it for my first time this evening.
Here is the video of the lecture and below are some highlights in summary as well as some brief thoughts on the value of a last lecture.
Thomas Aquinas died on this date 747 years ago. Accordingly, I decided to see what came up first with a quick search about Aquinas on death. I was led to the Summa Theologiae and, specifically, to Question 69 on “Matters concerning the resurrection, and first of the place where souls are after death.”
During his lifetime, Thomas Aquinas considered many questions that most people would never consider at all. Take, for example, Article 4 of Question 69 in which he asks: “Whether the limbo of hell is the same as Abraham’s bosom?”
I had not heard (or didn’t particularly recall hearing) of “Abraham’s bosom” but a detailed Wikipedia article discusses the concept as it appears in the Bible, Jewish and Christian history, and religious art and literature.