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Commentary: The finite side of life
Published on July 12, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean H Charles

My father has just celebrated on 28th June his 102nd birthday. I have the privilege of being his caregiver in Haiti, as all my five brothers and sisters had to continue their nomadic lives in the United States. I am watching a proud man (he was Chief Civil Court Judge in Port au Prince Haiti) losing his abilities to be self-sufficient in his daily chores. Between bouts of reciting complete poems of Virgil or Athalie of Jean Racine, there were times when he did not know who I was and when he wanted to receive no visitors.

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: and followed for past essays at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti
I came back on Saturday, July 5, from the national funeral of Professor Lesly Manigat, the former president of Haiti, a moving ceremony when President Michel Martelly, paying homage to the widow of the late president, urged the Haitian people to bury the hatchet to work for a Haiti that shall become hospitable to all in the spirit dreamt all his life by Lesly Manigat.

My daughter of 24 years old has just received a surprise party for her birthday. I remember as if it was yesterday when she was a baby, holding her in front of a painting because I had read this exercise would render your child very smart.

These three vignettes all lead to my elaboration of the concept that life is finite while the patrimony, the children and the good works constitute the indefinite part of life. This essay is an ode to the class of 2014 as it is being sent off to a new path in its journey on this earth.

The days pass but they are part of a continuum that will lead one to a death certain, which is the finality of each one of us. Having been created in God’s image, we aspire to being eternal, yet mortality is our lot since the transgression of Adam and Eve in eating the forbidden fruit.

The story of my father and the death of the Professor Lesly Manigat indicate that life is short; we have to take advantage of each day to root a family that will prolong our lives on this earth. The patrimony transmitted by the parents must be enlarged before it is bequeathed to the next generation and the accumulation of good works must be accelerated because, after all, time is ruthless with those who procrastinate.

The trilogy of prolonging our lives through our children, enlarging the received patrimony and multiplying good works should be the business of each one of the graduates.

I remember while in graduate school of social work at Columbia University, the students who were mostly women wanted to succeed in their professional lives before settling into matrimony. My empirical survey 40 years later indicates that most of these women did succeed in their professional lives but have failed miserably in forging a family.

Lesson one for the young ladies (as well for the young men): build your family as soon as you can. I have made the empirical observation that those women who have children early in their lives look younger later as they age. The building of a genealogy requires a next generation made by the children of each member of the family or the grooming of the nieces and the nephews by those who are childless.

The patrimony is the accumulation of assets transmitted by the parents and enlarged by the children. I have seen parents and children of today competing to deny each other the strength of the multiplication of the human resources and the full energy of the young and the wisdom of things seen and done by the old.

The concept of patrimony is the roadmap to wealth creation. When a family stands together behind the legacy of the grandfathers, abundance arrives early because each link of the chain stands to offer a guaranty to the other link as such the swimming in the raging sea will ride with the waves; thereby creating a family tableau worthy of framing.

Finally, graduates of 2014, according to one of the best futurists that I know, by the name of Emil Vlagki, the future in the world will be a bleak one, unless you endow yourself with the best education possible, beyond your college degree as such, graduate school should be one of your objectives; armed with your higher degree, practice creativity and flexibility: abundance and satisfaction will be your lot for the rest of your life, enriching yourself and your nation.

Life might have a finite sense but following this path will lead you into infinity in this earth and certainly beyond, fulfilling the goal set for you by the Creator. “Bring me the sacrifice of your time and watch to how abundantly I bless you and your loved ones” Psalm 73-23.24. “Continue this intimate journey, trusting that the path you are following is headed for heaven.” Numbers 6:24
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