I was going to write about James Gandolfini passing. It’s the same old story. While I was watching much of that series, I was sick as a dog going through chemotherapy, countless surgeries, radiation and the like. He seemed so alive, so strong, so vibrant. I bought the box set and continued to watch it, pretty much on a continuous loop, through the ten or so years I was going through my health issues.

I am sad tonight but, trying to focus on this. My mom has said before, when I am in a dark place and can’t imagine that I will make it to old age because either I will recur or just because of all the trauma that my body has gone through. Anyway, in those moments, my mom often says that if you asked her years ago, after she had been diagnosed, who would live longer, her or Princess Diana, she would have bet the farm that Princess Di would outlive her. Well, as I was swollen from the steroids, with a stomach that felt like the water churning on a windy day on the Atlantic, with my bald head and my mouth sores, I never, in a million years, thought that I would outlive Tony Soprano.

But, such is life.

His death also makes me want to talk to people who have had recent heart issues and come through the other side. A lot of these people feel scared, hopeless, lost. I get it. But, what they really should be focusing on is the second chance that they were given. Mr. Gandolfini didn’t have that choice. It sounds like, with the little information that we are getting fed to us by the press, he just pretty much had a heart attack, possibly a stroke, and it was over as quickly as it began. I’m sure he would have given anything for a second chance.The only comfort to me is that it sounds like it was quick. I pray he didn’t know what hit him.

And, once again, here we are talking about the frailty of life. I bet if you had asked James Gandolfini who would have lived longer, the actor who played Junior Soprano or himself, he would have put money on himself.

We just never know, folks, when our time will be up. We pray for a long and healthy life but, the bottom line is, we just don’t know.

The moral is, and I don’t want to sound like I am preaching, that we have to be grateful for what we have, the time we have, the health we have, the things we are able to experience, both joyful and sorrowful. Because it is in these experiences, the good and the bad, that we are truly alive.

Al and I took a trip to Bermuda last week. It was a great week, full of relaxing, good food, and more relaxing. One day, while laying on the beach reading one of the five wonderful books I was able to devour while away, I heard a rat a tat tat sound next to me. I looked up, shielded my eyes from the sun, and found myself looking up at an old man – a very very old man. He had on little black shorts and was walking with a cane. It looked like his son and daughter in law were with him, although I can’t know for sure. In any case, they walked down to the water and I turned away to give them some privacy. It turns out, when he was walking back up a few moments later, he was still dry and made a motion to Al as if he was frustrated. He had been trying to get into the water and was just unable to do it. Well, about an hour later, here he comes again. Rat a tat tat. I didn’t look up, as to not make him self conscious. About ten minutes later, I looked towards the sea. There was the man, sitting at the edge of the rough surf, knees up, hands behind him, leaning back. His son and daughter in law were there for support but, damn if that wonderful man wasn’t letting that beautiful sea water wash all over his body. It was in his face, his eyes. It would move him a bit – again, the water was rough – but, he would adjust himself (with a little help) and let it wash over him again. It touched me in a way I can’t explain.

On the way back to his blanket, a woman behind me, probably in her fifties, told him “God Bless You”. The man’s son (or so I’m assuming) told her that they took this trip for the man’s 91st birthday. 91. After the woman wished him a “Happy Birthday” he proceeded to rat a tat tat all the way up to his chair, under a nice big blue umbrella, where he dozed for much of the day. He also read a book, ordered lunch and at one point, I noticed him putting his feet in the beautiful pink sand.

Unlike Mr. Gandolfini’s short 51 years, this man had had lots and lots of time. Who knows what his story was? Perhaps he lost his parents at a young age, maybe a child? He could have had cancer, or heart trouble, or money troubles his entire life. Maybe his life was charmed, and there were no real troubles that he had to deal with. Again, you just never know. You know what, though? I doubt it. Realistically, we all go through hard times. However, even at 91, he was living. Really and truly living. Not feeling sorry for himself because it took him twenty minutes to walk twenty feet, or because the only way he could get in the ocean was to sit down. He didn’t care who was watching. He didn’t care how he looked. He was happy to be alive.

So, Mr. Gandolfini, I hope that you lived the life you had to the fullest. I hope that you took full advantage of the things your celebrity and wealth could afford you. I hope you smoked cigars, and ate good food. I hope that you were proud of the work that you did and that you were proud to have left the legacy of Tony Soprano. I hope you slept with lots of women and drank good wine with your loved ones. I hope that your Italian home was like mine, filled with love, laughter, loudness and insanity, at times. I hope you showered that new baby of yours with kisses and hugs in the short time you had with her because, she will remember. I hope you lived like that old man.

I am a work in progress. I am doing my best to practice what I preach. I am trying to not sweat the small stuff but, to be inspired by all of the crazy, wild things this life throws at me. I hope I have as much time as the old man in the sea but, I could just have as much time as Mr. Gandolfini. In either case, it’s not a hell of a lot of time.

In the words of another great character from the twentieth century, Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”

Don’t miss it.

Happy Birthday, Old Man. You are an inspiration.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Gandolfini. Thanks for everything.