Oarlocks and Beatitudes
Two years ago, at our summer home in Nova Scotia, I came across an old oarlock in a box of random metal items. My late father had collected all sorts of things that might come in handy one day.
I had a use for it: as part of a support for a large, battered old sign – the outline of a 25-pound lake trout carved into a broken section of a rowboat. This was my father’s fishing trophy from many years earlier. (His buddies thought the fish ought to be mounted by a taxidermist, but he preferred to eat it.)
All I needed was a second oarlock. I looked around. Then I asked around, and was told “Go ask Amos Hagar.”
Mr. Hagar had been a fisherman all his life. And his barn was renowned for the vast array of items that he had collected, yes, because they might come in handy one day.
Sure enough, he had one spare oarlock and gave it to me.
This past summer Amos Hagar died. Although he was in his late 80s, it was still a sad shock. He was one of those hospital-mistrusting people who had been vigorous all his life. Then an odd growth appeared on his arm and he was gone in a month.
Mr. Hagar was highly regarded. Like the oarlock, he was not fancy, just dependable and as steady as can be. He responded thoughtfully to anyone who cared to engage with him; never verbose or flowery of speech, what he said was considerate, articulate and kindly, even when opinions differed.
My wife and I attended his graveside memorial. The United Church minister, Rev. Beverley Burlock, said that she could not choose between two readings. She first read the story of Jesus telling Peter and his brothers to go fish again.
After that, I expected something else with fish, maybe Jesus feeding the five thousand. But no: Rev. Burlock read out the Beatitudes.
I was thunderstruck. Yes, Rev. Burlock knew that Mr. Hagar had fished all his life. But what was he really, most deeply? She saw him rightly as someone who was kind and just, humble and merciful, a man of peace….
I could not stop thinking about this. In the last analysis – and we all undergo a last analysis – is my life about the biggest fish I caught? some other trophy achievement? or about who I have been? And if the latter, what are the dimensions or criteria?
Thinking again and again about Mr. Hagar and the impression he made on me and all the others who spoke of him, I came to realize that being a blessed person should be our goal, and the Beatitudes are the job description of the blessed person.
After the memorial I finished mounting the oarlocks. They’ll remind me of what Amos Hagar and the author of the Beatitudes have taught me.