When I look back at my life it doesn't seem to be one answer. I always knew I was medically vulnerable because of my genetic background. My parents died very young and I later found out that mostly everyone in our family was all in that same position; bad genetics.
It is easy to say I took command of my life and moved forward from there. It had to be a process. In the early days all through the 40's I delighted in my body and what it could accomplish. I had come through the Army with one year of actual combat. I had 5 major battles as a combat medic. I am sure I had 9 lives living through that experience. That taught me how valuable life was. It was so easy to lose it,so you better take care of it.
It wasn't until I was in my early 50's that I began to go through the process to best take care of myself. Diet and exercise began an integral part of my life.
Again you have to think of the individual. How does she or he handle stress? How does he or she live every day? I think that was one of the things that carried me over. First of all I was always busy, not only with my work but with my community outreach. I devoted a great deal of time to the community beginning with my Temple, American Heart Association and the black community. This literally gave me little time to brood whether I was over doing or not doing enough.
On occasion there may have been spots where I did stop to think about the way I was living but I didn't intend to change. I just continued on every day. The thing is, I never got up in the morning without greeting each day joyfully except for Christmas when I was required to work as much as 100-120 hours of the last week of Christmas.
Life was fun and I had a lot of laughs except for the face of a tragedy here and there. I believe you have to have a purpose otherwise your life doesn't count too much. Besides you have to love people and be tolerant of them. No man can be an island to himself. He or she needs people to connect.
If I had only lived for myself I don't think I would have been as happy as I was during the whole span. As you well know everyone goes through ups and downs in their life - it is what you make of it. That is the telling factor.
When the chips are down and everything looked grim and dim my wife was there to support me. That is an important issue. You need support. That is the number one asset that you need. Secondly you have to have the will to live even in the face of defeat.
I can give a good example so you really can know how I feel. I was doing a volunteer job for my synagogue for many years. I was to visit the home of people who had just lost their love ones as a representative of the synagogue and to offer condolences. On this particular day the weather was absolutely beautiful. I was driving down one of those magnificent streets in Beachwood or Pepper Pike. The sky was blue and the world looked so rosy. I looked up into the sky and said "Don't take me know I want to stay for a while, I love it here".
So that was a sample of the way I always felt. I love life. I believe there is so much I can do to make life better for some others. I don't know what it is but I do know there is something out there watching over me to take hold.
And it just so happens that there always seems to be another project I can venture into. So an answer to your question How do you feel entering into your 100th year? I am grateful most of all. I have always been grateful and expressed it in many ways. You have to believe in the superior being that will take you to where you need to go.
A long time ago I put myself in his hands. I said "I will do whatever you ask of me no matter what without question" That is the wonderful way I've lived. So these are the extra years he has added to my life. I am ready for whatever is to come.
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Cleveland Seniors columns