The ability to cope with loss is one of the most important life-skills we need as we age.
Bluntly put, either we die or those around us will die. If we go first, it doesn’t really much matter (at least to us). Yet that’s not the preferred option. Therefore, the longer we live, the more loved ones we will lose. If we cannot cope, we shrivel.
I don’t need to tell you that, especially in a year like this one.
Although you and I might appear to follow different trails, we’re actually traveling the same path. You’ve had losses. I’ve had losses. It’s a sad part of the universal human experience. With life, comes death; ain’t no way around it. Said new-thought singer Jana Stanfield in her song I’m not lost, I am Exploring, “All of us are headed for the same destination/ So why not blaze travel that’s got imagination.”
I’m now closer to 100 than I am to 30, and this is not as old as I plan to be.
So, I must look ahead and plan for what those future days will be like.
To do so, I – most likely as do you – look for inspiration from those with wisdom; in action, thought, or deed. My preferred role models have altered over the decades. When younger, with life stretched out in front of me, an unending highway vanishing over a far-away horizon; I sought career advice from those successfully earning their way in my field of choice, radio. Wanting a relationship, I took a seat at the feet of many successful in their pairings, querying them as to how they met, how they knew they were right for each other, and what kept them together.
In order not to live in fear at this age, I’ve now taken to looking for older role models; men who are healthy and active well into their later years. Over time, I’ve been inspired by Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks, George Bush Sr., and Jimmy Carter. (The difficulty I’m running into woefully is that the older I get, the fewer men I can find who are a few decades older than me.) Politics aside, these men show(ed) zest for life continuing to appear to welcome in each morning. By the way, they lead their lives, they sweep away doubt and fear for those who follow. They’re not perfect. They’re probably not fearless either. But it doesn’t matter. As Jack Nicholson said to Helen Hunt in As Good As It Gets, “You make me want to be a better man.”
Last week, one of my local role models, Everett Henkle, passed on.
Right up until he passed, Everett remained active. He had to be ordered to rest. Even in his eighties, he kayaked; worked to clean up our local highways, and volunteered at every event we conducted at the Center for Spiritual Living. He was first in line to move tables, sweep floors, mow lawns, or just hang with you and talk. Energizer bunny? Meet your human counterpart.
But it’s not just about how much one can accomplish. I was drawn to his joie de vivre — he was upbeat, aware, and engaging. (He also had great taste; he loved to read this column.) Finally, although he and his wife, Ruth, were a couple of decades older than my wife and me; seeing them together inspired us because we saw that “getting up there” didn’t mean romance must end.
I don’t want to paint a false image. Everett and I didn’t get together for coffee or go out to a movie or march in protests together. Truth be told, outside of events associated with the Center, the only other times I saw him were accidental; maybe if we bumped into each other in the store or something similar.
See, but that’s the thing. One doesn’t have to hang out with one’s role models in order to learn and be inspired. It’s their energy, the way they approach their lives, it’s their attitudes that speak to us. Being around them lifts us up.
Everett did that for me. I am more than I was and I am more hopeful because I knew him.
Possibly the saddest thing is on a Sunday morning when I’d greet him at the entrance to the Sanctuary, he’d say, “Another good column Scott.”
I hope I did you proud Everett. Thank you for being in my life.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and founder of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com, where he can be contacted for coaching, consulting, and presentations. During this social distancing period, he is conducting monthly on-line workshops on setting goals and getting past what holds you back. You can find out more at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com/intentions