by Lenny Cacchio
A long life might be considered a blessing, but then I look at my Dad. He’s almost 92 years old, and in a way he’s the last man standing. He’s the only one left from his World War II unit. None of his old buddies are still alive.
I thought about this when I contemplated how many of my friends who, just over the last few years, have either passed or have suffered from chronic ailments of one sort or another. Solomon was on to something when he wrote, “Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man. The living will take it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). While we might not like to think about such things, wisdom that comes from the experience of life will shake us from the frivolity of our youth.
As one who has longevity genes in my DNA, I have been forced to think about what it might be like to be the last man standing. Would it be a lonely time or a fulfilling time? Will it be a blessing to others or a burden? During the years that intervene between now and then, what should I do to make those years most profitable? Some ideas:
1. Walk alongside your contemporaries through good times and bad. Comfort them, listen to them, party with them, rejoice with them. Learn to be strong as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death with them.
2. Develop friendships – real friendships – with those from the generations behind you. Be the type of person they want to be around. Keep your sense of humor, a childlike sense of wonder. If you become the last man standing, they will never let you be lonely.
3. Mentor those who are in the generations behind you. To do this you must first develop friendships. (See number 2). When they realize you are past the point in life where you are trying to claw your way to the top, they will begin to avail themselves of the opportunity to learn from the voice of experience.
4. Give back to the country and the community that made your success possible. When it comes time to retire, don’t. Leave your paid position if you wish, but stay involved in the affairs of life. Place yourself in the public square, whether through volunteer work, or local politics, or even random acts of kindness.
I have saved for last what really should be close to first. You might have dedicated yourself to a life of giving regarding your friends. Before you do so, rededicate yourself to your family.
And then there is what should be first. With this everything you do will have deeper meaning and deeper impact. While Ronald Reagan convalesced from the gunshot wound suffered just weeks after his inauguration, a clergyman offered that “the hand of God was upon you.” Reagan responded, “I know. I have decided what time I have left is for Him.” Go back and read the list again with Mr. Reagan’s thought in mind. Doesn’t it give them all more meaning. especially if you are the last man standing?