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The Dash

Reflecting on the poems read at his father’s funeral, ICAEW Chartered Accountants Croydon President Andrew McKenzie-Smart challenges readers to live a full and valued life.

Andrew McKenzie-Smart

December 2018

Sadly, recent events have caused me to reflect long and hard about my circumstances. Some of you may be aware that my father started his own accountancy practice some 40 years ago, and that he had a four year battle with bowel cancer.

At the end of the summer that battle began to be lost, his condition deteriorated and resulted in his death at the beginning of October.

While this has caused great sadness, we were lucky as a family that we were able to spend time with him where we shared memories. Dad had lived a long life which was full of many activities, interests and relationships.

His death when communicated to those who knew him resulted in an enormous number of emails, cards and letters. These have greatly assisted us with our grief, as it has been shared by so many, but obviously it is still tough for those who knew him the best.

His detailed funeral and memorial plans have meant that we were able to ensure that his wishes were largely able to be met. It has also meant that possible family disagreements were minimised and much was put in place in advance. It allowed us to re-establish friendships and contact with family members long since lost.

At the crematorium I read through a poem “Not how he died, but how he lived”. Subsequently at the memorial service, my daughter Fabian read “The dash”. Both of these wonderful, powerful poems focus not on the sadness of someone dying, but on the time that they spent during their lifetime – the “dash” between when they were born and when they died. For us as a family it is now about re-establishing relationships now that a unique unifying force is missing.

I was able to reflect on the career my father had where he put the people in the businesses he advised first, leaving his fees to be a function of the success he helped foster. He developed a large number of chartered accountants who have gone on to develop their careers.

This approach meant he was trusted not just by his clients, his staff, but also his contacts, family and friends. He gathered an enormous number of people who valued him as their adviser, whether it was paid for or not.

As a family we were able to share our memories and reflections with almost 300 people across the crematorium and memorial services in November. The words of the two poems were truly something my father lived by.

However, they have led me to also consider whether my lifestyle is something that needs to be amended. Hopefully my “dash” will not be a short sprint to the finish, but a longer more sedate affair.

As accountants it is easy to spend ever more increasing time on the “numbers”, be they tax returns or accounts, and to lose a positive work/life balance. So, at a time when we are thinking of our new year’s resolutions, my simple task is to delegate more and to carve out some spare time for me and my family, otherwise there is a danger that my dash will be spent largely at my office desk.

My query for you is whether you will make a resolution and stick to it. Moreover, whether your family and friends when reflecting on your “dash” will be able to say that you had lived a full life and been valued by those who know you in the manner that my father did.

Andrew McKenzie-Smart is President of ICAEW Chartered Accountants Croydon.

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