On Friday, February 10, an acquaintance of mine died in Florida. Chris Eberspacher was only 62 years old, and he was hit by a car while out jogging. He was one of the best lawyers I knew when I was in active practice, and in fact he had been a judge for a few years before returning to private practice. His daughter was an associate in his law firm, and he had another child still at home. His death is a grievous loss to his family, of course, and a loss to the legal community as well. He will be missed.
Chris was an unmistakable presence in the courtroom. As he approached counsel table when his case was called, he would boom out with his mellifluous voice something like, "Let the record reflect the appearance of Chris Eberspacher, of Dove and Dove, P.C., for the defendant!" I used to tweak him unmercifully for this affectation, telling the judge something like, "It's always gratifying to hear an attorney stand up on his hind legs and bellow his unqualified support for his client, but if we can get down to the facts and the law I think the Court will agree that counsel has more style than substance going for him today." Chris never took it personally, but he never changed, either.
Taking a deposition with Chris was an experience, as well. At the beginning of a deposition, which is just a series of questions to a witness in a case, recorded verbatim by a court reporter after placing the witness under oath to tell the truth, there is certain information that must be recorded: the name of the case, who is present, who is taking the deposition, and so on. Chris would go on for what seemed like half an hour, making sure every detail was recorded exactly the way he wanted it to be. Come to think about it, Chris's brother David, also one of the best lawyers I knew while in practice, does exactly the same thing. Maybe it's genetic. There was absolutely nothing wrong with what Chris did; it just seemed a little pompous and unnecessary to most of the rest of us, including the court reporters who have seen it all.
Chris's death got me to thinking about my own. Not that I'm planning it any time soon, but, as Hamlet says, if it be not now , yet it will come. And my attitude is also Hamlet's: the readiness is all. After all, you never know when you're going to get hit by a car while out jogging. Or clipped by a drunk driver. Or hit with cancer. Or whatever.
Of course there is ready and there is ready. In a general way, I've been ready since 1970. Just before I started my doctoral program I was hospitalized for some minor surgery. They used a general anesthetic and a muscle relaxant. Wouldn't you know it, I turned out to be allergic to the muscle relaxant (who knew?) and almost died on the table. Naturally, I was out at the time and never knew anything about it. I remember waking up in the recovery room with lots of doctors and nurses hovering around me, cotinuously taking my blood pressure and pulse. I thought, wow; they really take care of you here. Afterwards, Carol told me what had happened, and how my surgeon stormed in and demanded to know what drugs I had been taking, It was 1970, after all.
The point is, I could have died, and almost did, and I never knew anything about it. That event changed my attitude about death. It was not so frightening any more. It remains so to this day. So in that sense, I'm ready.
But in another sense, I'm not ready at all. I've got miles to go before I sleep. Also, my father and step-father are still going at 86, although both have slowed down, and my maternal grandfather made it to 80. I'll be pissed as hell if I don't make it as far as that s.o.b. did.
Incidentally, I harbor no illusions about what comes next. Nothing comes next. There's no reward, no punishment, no rest, nothing. I want whatever of my body that can be used to be used: transplants, research, anatomy lab, you name it. I want the rest burned. And I don't care what you do with the ashes.
But not just yet.
This world is all that there is, and what we do is all that matters. Who did we help, and who did we hurt? That's what we should be remembered for. I have more to do.
I've told Carol that if I die before she does (highly likely, from what I understand), and she thinks a memorial service would be nice, I would like someone (preferably someone with a voice like Chris Eberspacher's) to read e e cumming's "anyone lived in a pretty how town." That's one of my favorite poems, and it says more about life as I see it than any other. If she wanted to toss in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," that would be okay, too. Just no "Rage, rage, against the dying of the light!" That's not me.