To quote Ernest Hemingway, “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”
Sitting down to write this column, I have learned – hours before – of the death of a dear family friend. This man was a regular visitor to the Scoles household here in Indiana, and every single stopover involved the telling of many, many, many marvelous and varied stories.
Thankfully, those stories did not die with him.
As he would sit in our home and share his adventurous experiences, hours would often pass as he talked with great detail about some of the most entertaining, laugh-out-loud moments from his multilayered life – several of which, I suspect, were embellished along the way. No matter.
It was easy to fully visualize his predicaments and episodes, precisely because of the detail with which he remembered and recounted each scenario. He didn’t just say, “I went fishing once and caught an old tire.” He started with how he planned out his trip, choosing just the right pole, bait and fishing spot, and continued, with him taking great care to include even the most pint-sized of details, until at the end, listeners were entirely engaged in the moment with him as he discovered the whopper he thought he was reeling in was a Firestone.
Did this man live an extraordinary life? Not really.
But the details of every life are.
The fact his life is now over will not diminish those details, either, as friends and family members will inevitably find great solace and joy in remembering together those narratives over the coming weeks, months, years. I know this family believes its loved one lives on elsewhere. He also lives on here, thanks to the preservation of the details he loved to impart.
There is as much comfort in one as in the other, at times.
How lucky are we when our loved ones share the fine points, minutiae, particulars, specifics and technicalities of their journeys through this life, so we can hold on to them when they are gone from us here?