What an amazing life this continues to be, now 74 years on this planet earth, life extended through the donated gift of a heart in that heart transplant back in October of 1994 for yet 23 years so far.  In growing up, someone who was 50 was ‘old’ and even as a young parent visiting aging relatives I saw some who in their mid-50’s were retired, spending their days sitting in a comfortable chair, watching TV.  Life for them was just waiting for that final date with destiny, death.  In those days use of the word ‘cancer’, for example, was avoided, instead it was the ‘Big C’ at had only one outcome, death.

How different life is today, at least in my personal experience, having overcome prostate cancer, skin cancers and even kidney cancer (and a recent concern for pancreatic cancer that after many extensive tests they could never find despite symptoms!) thanks to modern medicine and the blessing of great support teams who watch over my medical issues, taking care of each event as it comes with advancing age.  Who would ever have foreseen living to their mid-70’s from the perspective of our busy lives in the past decades.  Both for myself, and in conversations with family and dear friends, this is a common reaction of surprise when we stop and realize, “Wow, how did I get to this age?”  Even 75 is no longer seen as being old as we continue living active lives, even when those advancing years come with changing perspectives on what is no longer easy  or possible as the body begins to show signs of wear with those year of service.

It was in this context that recently I was set back on my heals when my wife reacted to something we were talking about with “Well, you may live to be 90.”  “Ninety?”  “Ninety!”  What a new and shocking thought.  At 74 now, I did that quick arithmetic and realized that ninety wasn’t all that far away anymore.  “Wow!”  Never had I stopped in my busy days to ever consider such a possibility.

Florence at 100

With Florence celebrating 100th birthday

Yes, we had family and friends who lived to ripe old 90’s and even 100’s, but others died or are facing death even today while in younger 70’s or younger.  I have always accepted the fact of life, admitting in public presentations even, that “When I was born I realized that I had only one guarantee and that was that someday I would die.”  Simple fact – nothing to worry about – never losing a moment of life worrying about that eventuality.

Trina 2016

Heart transplant in ’94

Over the years I have actually come face to face with my own death many times, and lived to tell about it.  At 18, almost killed in a truck crash, at 50 almost died of a failing heart while snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef off Australia (had an interesting laughing conversation with God during that event), then there was the heart transplant in ‘94, and most recently, even though I didn’t know its severity at the time, of emergency gall bladder surgery this past February with all the complications resulting in a 9 day hospitalization and a dire medical forecast given to my wife that “Jim probably will not leave this hospital alive.”  Not knowing that last forecast while I was hospitalized, I just kept living each day to my best and today am fully recovered, feeling younger than I have in years with a knee and hip replacement that makes pain free mobility possible again.

Jim Gleason at the river

“My mind (and heart) remain open to the possibilities . . .”

90!  I honestly don’t know what to make of that thought.  I continue to live each and every day to its fullest, so even reflecting on the daily challenges put forth in the book I am reading, “One Moment to Live: Thirty Days to a No-regrets Life”  But that eye opening moment of my wife’s comment keeps coming to mind.  What would you do different if you knew you only had 30-days to live, the theme of that book, doesn’t give me moments of regret.  I look back on a very blessed life lived fully, from childhood through to today, and accept the unknown of a tomorrow as yet another exciting adventure, an opportunity to serve and enjoy the many wonderful people in my life.  What more can one ask for in life.  When I see the trials and challenges those around me are facing, I count my blessings and am thankful to a loving God for these many gifts.

TGA 2012 Jim in pool thumbs up

Today and tomorrow are yet more examples of how I feel each day in rising, as I repeat my favorite mantra: “Wow, another day above ground.  This is going to be a great one!

In closing, I pray and wish that for you too, a new day of love filled living, coming closer to reaching your fullest potential.

Bless you for your role in my wonderful life.  Thank you for being YOU!  As Oscar Wilde has said: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”