What can you say about a friend in five minutes-- a close friend that you've cherished for more than 20 years? I was faced with that challenge this week and it broke my heart. My sweet 103 year old friend, SG, passed away very unexpectedly and writing his eulogy had me at a loss for words.
We celebrated SG's 103rd birthday February 5th and it was joyful and happy and a very healthy birthday for him. He was a guy that never looked a day over 85! Seriously-- he looked the exact same all these years, only a little shorter as time passed. And birthdays, he loved them and brought together his family and a few of us lucky enough to be part of his extended family to celebrate with him. It was a great night and he happily brought home the leftover birthday cake to put in his freezer for his next visit with his great-grand kids.
Two weeks after his wonderful celebration, I got a call from his grand daughter with shocking news. SG and his lady-friend were leaving a classical music concert and for some unknown reason he decided to bypass the elevator and took the escalator instead. It was a decision he later called "foolish" because when SG stepped onto the moving escalator he missed the step and went flying, head over heals from top to bottom, landing in an ugly crash.
But that's not what he died of. Not in the least. SG did not have a single broken bone in his body! He didn't even break his eye glasses. He was, however, bruised and had horrible wounds that made one think he'd wrestled with a mountain lion before he fell off a cliff, but remarkably, he was actually mostly okay. And by that I mean his brain was fully functioning, he was able to walk and talk, and through the nearly 2 week hospital stay the only pain medication he had was two Tylenol. Two!
We spent a lot of time together while he was in the hospital and I marveled at how kind he was as a patient in a teaching hospital--Every blood pressure was taken by three different nursing students, there never seemed to be a quiet moment to actually sleep, and the hospital television didn't get the PAC12 Network so he couldn't watch UCLA basketball. But he was a champ and took it all in stride.
I marveled at SG's spirit. Although his ego was a bit bruised, he never, ever, complained and always looked forward to getting back to his home where he lived independently. And he would have, after a three week stay in a skilled nursing rehab facility which was necessary because his wounds were deep and needed tending to three times a day, and since he'd spent so much time in bed at the hospital, we wanted him to have some physical therapy to straighten his arms and legs.
Believe it or not, SG enjoyed rehab! He was so impressed with the staff and the residents and the food! He worked hard and was well on his way to being back to his home in time for Passover (March 25th).
But that was not the case. He passed with no fanfare, peacefully in his sleep last week. It's hard to be stunned when someone 103 years old dies, but stunned is what all who knew SG feels. He was, for lack of better words, simply "not ready yet" and had the very full calendar to prove it!
For starters where was a big UCLA basketball game the morning he passed away at 11am that was televised on national TV. He'd made a date with his galpal to watch it together. He had Passover plans, many, many concert and lecture tickets, great grandkids' soccer games, lunch dates, and we were already working on the plans for a big party to celebrate his 105th! Truly, he was not ready to go.
I think that might be why I'm so sad. SG's life was fuller and happier than his wildest dreams and he wanted to keep living it. I asked him at his 100th birthday what he'd like and he answered simply "20 more years".
In our many years of friendship, I've studied SG and tried to figure out the secret to his long, healthy life. He said it was his parent's good genes but I've come to realize a couple of lessons my beloved friend taught me.
First and foremost, SG lived in the present with an eye towards the future because I believe he was genuinely happy with his life. That is something that I think people sometimes forget and let go of along the way as we age.
The other lesson, one we all know but SG drove the point home for, was staying interested in life. The best example of this is when I overheard the Physical Therapist ask him if he had any hobbies. Without hesitation, SG answered UCLA (University of California at Los Angles). He said there was always something to see, and do, and lean, and that was his hobby. As the Therapist smiled at his answer, SG mentioned that he'd graduated from UCLA 83 years ago.
My days went from a whirlwind month with SG's fall and hospital stays to now his funeral. It is very quiet here. Life has slowed and I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to do with myself. I miss my friend terribly. Eventually I'll pick myself up but I'm not quite ready yet of open my calendar with our lunch dates together already scheduled.
Oh, and to answer my opening question-- Five minutes isn't nearly enough time to remember a friend. At SG's funeral I talked for 8 minutes but barely touched on how meaningful he was to so many people.
Welcome to www.TheFiftyFactor.com - Joanna Jenkins
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