Monday, March 18, 2013

Five Minutes


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
Photo Credit:  © javarman - Fotolia.com

39 comments:

  1. Your friends sounds like an amazing person and I'm so sorry to hear he has passed. I hope that I can be so interested in life and enjoy life as I age the way he did. You wrote a beautiful tribute to him JJ and I know he's smiling from heaven. Hugs my friend!!

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  2. I'm so sorry for the loss of your wonderful friend, Joanna! What an inspiration he was and how beautifully your tribute brought him to life for us. You were so blessed to know him and to love him -- and what you shared with him will be with you always.

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  3. SG sounds like a wonderful and unique individual. I'm sorry for your loss.

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  4. What a beautiful tribute to your amazing friend. So sorry for yur loss,, but you were very lucky to have known him and had him for so long.

    I am 85 and am working toward 103.....you are so right when you cite his interest in things as helping to keep him alive and vital.......I eep looking for and finding ne3w stuff to excite me and get me up in the morning.

    Blogging is one of my joys.....hummingbirds are another.

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  5. i am sorry for your loss...but SG was a remarkable person...and i am sure you 8 minutes did well...though you left out a lot...smiles...cherish the memories....

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  6. I am so sorry for your loss. SG obviously lived life to the fullest, and he is an inspiration to me! Thank you for sharing him with me. :-)

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  7. condolences




    ALOHA from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral
    ~ > < } } ( ° > <3

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  8. Just wondering did anyone pickup that cake?
    Just being silly. This sad stuff makes me want to lighten people up a bit. I would really like a friend or family member to get up and tell a joke at my funeral. Life just gets too serious too often.
    All the best and I bet there a memory of him that will make you laugh.

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  9. He was a wise a fortunate man and you were fortunate to have had him as a friend. I hope with some time your sadness and shock can give way to the loving memories and lessons he left you with.

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  10. I remember that birthday post. So sorry for the loss of your friend.

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  11. I'm so sorry for your great loss, Joanna. Your tribute to SG is very beautiful. Just imagine how many lives he touched so lovingly in 103 years. Hugs to you, J.

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  12. So sorry for your loss, it was untimely, even though he was 103.

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  13. Wonderful tribute...SG sounds like he was an amazing friend.
    I am so sorry to hear of his passing.
    Hugging you
    SueAnn

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  14. ((Hugs)) Joanna! I´m so sorry for your loss and hope he will stay in your memory as a "light" in how to grow older.
    He sounds like a wonderful person and I´m sure you will miss him dearly.

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  15. So sorry for your loss. And what a lovely tribute.

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  16. What an amazing man! And how wonderful for you that you got to know him so well. I am sorry for your loss. There seems to be so many happy memories here for you; I'm sure you will be smiling as time heals your heart. Thank you for sharing such a warm and inspiring tribute to a very special person!

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  17. It sounds like he brightened the lives of everyone around him. That is a great testimonial for the life of too few people. Aren't you glad that he was in your life?

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  18. Wretched thing to lose a loved one. Hugs to you.

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  19. JJ, as I read about SG, I remembered how your eyes lit up when talking about him. He had your complete admiration and I am sure that he knew that. I know that he has touched so many people's lives. I didn't know him but I so wish I had. He would be the kind of person that I would've been privileged to know. What you shared in 8 minutes was enough because in time, that may be the beginning of writing a book about SG's life.

    I just got discharged from the hospital last night so it gave me hope that SG lived as long as he did so there is plenty of hope for me.

    Thinking of you, my friend.

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  20. I would say this is heart breaking but it sounds to me like this old guy, who tugged at everyone's heart strings...me included after reading about him...lived life the way he wanted. And for me this is a story of seizing opportunities and making the most of life! Thank you for another inspiring real life story.

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  21. He sounded like a very special friend that loved life and all that came with it. Thank you for sharing a piece of him with us. I hope in time the fond memories will add a smile to your face. xo

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  22. Dearest I'm so sorry for your loss...and five minutes yes so limited..but what a wonderful wonderful man you've known...that interest in life...that curiousity...and good health...and what a perfect way to go...in one's sleep at the age of 103. Treat yourself kindly darlin...these big changes in our lives deserve quiet gentle contemplation and kindness to self...my love to you.

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  23. Condolences on the loss of your friend. He sounds like a charming fellow. Falls scare me too. My husband fell and broke his hip. Scary business at any age but worse when you are older. Dianne

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  24. Awe, I am sorry for you loss. SG sounds like a person anyone would be blessed to know. I'm sure you did a wonderful tribute in the 8 minutes.

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  25. I'm so very sorry for your loss, Joanna. Your description of your friend makes me wish I could have known him. Big hugs...

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  26. Touching post. My great aunt recently died at 103, she wanted to go in her sleep and though she had nothing physically wrong with her...it didn't end that way. She did leave on her own terms though, just as she had always lived jer life. She laughed at the "...what is the secret to..." but told me once, "Just do whatever you want to." I have taken her advice, but I'll never see 100. I ran her DNA, of 7 kids, she was youngest and only one never to marry/have kids. In her genes she had only one bad gene, one that would have only been passed to her children and it was for a rare, deadly disease. Wow. Her DNA is in a data base here in my city and if they ever find a longevity gene, my aunt will have helped with that.

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  27. Oh, I am so sorry to hear of your friends passing... But I enjoyed reading this passionate post, honoring your friends life.
    I believe that indeed, our inner happiness is what make us lead healthy, long lives. What fuels that happiness is very individual.
    Have a lovely weekend,
    xoxo

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  28. Ah, my! I wish I could have known this marvelous person! You were blessed with his friendship. Sending you hugs as you mourn your dear friend.

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  29. JJ I'm so sorry.....I've heard you talk of him before and he sounds amazing...what a life and spirit...we can all learn from his life how to live and enjoy each day! ((hugs))

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  30. Oh, Joanna, what an incredible man. How sad he lasted on this earth only 103 years. Just imagine, though, the hearts he touched in that time. You wrote so beautifully of him and I know you eulogized SG in the same way. I wish I had someone so special in my life. I've many wonderful friends...a few people who have occupied that space for fifty years. Sadly, though, we don't get to see each other that often. The internet and skype have made it easier to keep in touch, thankfully.

    I am sad for your loss but happy that you had such wonderful times with SG. What treasured memories you have.

    Sending you love and a warm hug.

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  31. So sorry to hear about your dear friend leaving this life but his life is such an inspiration to us all. I know his gal pal is missing time with him too and having to adjust daily plans as well as mixed emotions. UCLA is a great school, my grandson is in his second year there and I pray he grows into a man of high ideals and love of life like your dear friend.

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  32. What a remarkable man, and how lucky you are to have known him and have those memories. So many of us forget to truly live. He knew the secret - but didn't keep it a secret. Thank you for sharing him with us! Sending a hug!

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  33. wow....what a fabulous tribute to an amazing life, lived so long and full.......he will live on in you and your words!!

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  34. He sounds amazing! I'm so sorry for the world's loss when he passed. :(

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  35. What a beautiful tribute to a friend. Thanks so much for posting it!

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  36. I am very sorry to hear of your friend's passing. What a wonderful man he was and what a wonderful attitude he had. I am sure he will leave a big hole in the lives of many for some time to come. He was much loved and it sounds like he lived a full life. What an example he has set for many. You have written a wonderful tribute to him and I am sure your eulogy was lovely. Take Care.

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  37. A beautiful story, JJ. Your friend sounds like he had a wonderful and long life. Hope you are well, my friend.

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  38. How precious this friendship was. You were both so very blessed.

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