There’s something quite Dickensian about this story. A man is shown his fate by a friendly ghost in a pub over a whisky soda or two. It transpires that he has not yet died, though he is on the cusp of it. For one thing he has considered suicide. But the ghosts Ralph Bain and the Canon don’t bother showing him the mistakes of his life, instead they engage him him metaphysical discussion.
I don’t know enough of Kirk’s writing to know where he stood on Christian dogma. By instinct he was a Catholic and spiritual so he definitely believed in a spiritual dimension and from this story we might guess that at the very least he had a hope of an afterlife.
There is something reminiscent of Henri Bergson, the French philosopher’s ideas on time and duration. Timeless moments!
It is quite comforting to think that we can go back to that cosy pub on Christmas Eve and listen to the church bells peal in as they have done on that night since time out of mind. And we drink our whisky sodas and enjoy a wonderful sense of conviviality. Of course I’d be drinking IPA.
The Canon tells Finlay that this eternal moment in the Cross Keys pub (I wonder whether he chose the Cross Keys as the name because crossed keys are associated with the church?) is a sign that he may experience grace in death.
But the story has a moral purpose. The message, like Dickens’s message to Scrooge is, I think, don’t give up on life. Keep on going while you have it because things that appear not to be worthwhile can turn out to be rewarding with a little persistence and effort.
Something might be accomplished however, given will, given spirit, given grace!
A bit like this Podcast maybe!
At the end Finlay has his choice sleep in the restful bed for eternity or struggle through the cold night in the hope, but not certainty, that he will accomplish something and not let his wife suffer alone.
I think I know which choice we’d all make.
Anyway, enough of that. More Christmas Stories to come before Christmas.
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