On Saturday, I attended a close friend’s Life Celebration, a man who lived a very full 91 years. I knew George for over 20 years when he met and fell in love with my close friend. They shared a beautiful life together and she was there with him the evening he peacefully passed. The four of us traveled, enjoyed many wonderful weekends and holidays together over the years.
Over 200 people gathered on the beautiful sunny, crisp California afternoon to share stories, hugs, tears, humor, and his favorite foods prepared beautifully by his amazing, talented chef-daughter. When family and friends gather for a Celebration of Life, we often learn several surprising things about that person, since we only saw them from our own perspective and experience.
George’s beautiful smile was on every table and in the video and collages. His daughter shared that years ago George decided he was going to smile at least to 5 people every day. A commitment I am sure he kept.
His younger sister told us when they lost their father at a young age, George became the man of the house and assumed that responsibility in a loving way with no resentment. He also proudly served his country in the military. This was how he lived his life.
I had no idea he was the athlete he was—competitive tennis, baseball, golf, running, etc. Although I only saw him in his less active years, I should’ve known. Until his last few days, he tried to keep moving, determined to be as active as his declining, tired body would allow. He simply refused to accept his limitations, however apparent they seemed to the rest of us. With his spirit of adventure, he traveled up until near the end with the amazing support of his lady-love.
George was very active in the community. He generously supported many people and organizations in need with his time, talents, and money. He was a lifelong member of the Lions Club, cooking and volunteering until shortly before he passed. A world-changer in his quiet consistent manner.
George loved being around younger people, especially the guys on summer evenings outside smoking cigars. Several younger men shared how they appreciated his personal interest in their lives and how much they loved him and respected his opinions. He was a wonderful role model of being a man, life partner, father and step-father.
I heard how he was always kind to friends and strangers alike. At the celebration, all generations were represented by lifelong and more recent friends. George never stopped adding people to his life.
Seeing George through the lenses of his friends and family made me realize how interesting and varied his life was for those nine decades. He continued to embrace life enthusiastically, following his favorite sports teams (Giants and Warriors), reading and learning until the end of his days.
I drove away with new insights about my dear friend. His life inspires me to be kinder, listen more, smile at someone at least 5 times each day, keep moving, never stop learning, and keep making friends.
Rest in peace George. I love you.