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Live till you die

Published October 05. 2009 02:55PM

There's an old song that's been rattling around in my head this week, "I'm Gonna Live Till I die."

Originally written and recorded in 1954, Frank Sinatra made the song famous with his stylized version and classic radio stations still play it today.

When I was younger, I thought the song was "catchy" but the words didn't make sense.

"I'm Gonna Live

Till I die.

I'm gonna laugh

Instead of cry."

When I was young, I got the part about laughing instead of crying. But live until you die? Duh, What else can you do?

Now that I'm older, I understand the words much better.

"Until my number's up,

I'm gonna fill my cup,

I'm gonna, live, live,"

Live until I die.

Living fully is a choice and it's not one that everyone makes.

Some "die" years before the need to call a funeral director. Because of physical or emotional reasons, some simply stop living a full life. And some never start living fully at all because they never embrace life for the extraordinary gift it is. They fail to gasp that there is more to life than merely existing.

I've met people like that and I'm sure you have, too.

Sometimes, we also meet someone who does live fully in a wonderfully inspirational way. And that brings me to Ginger. She radiates a love of life that makes people want to be around her.

I watched her this week as she walked into the Elks looking like a photo from Glamour Magazine. And I watched the reaction of people as she walked by their table with her typical upright posture and dazzling smile.

When people see Ginger walk by, they light up as if someone put on an inner light in them. It must be reflected light from the positive aura of Ginger.

I watched as some diners stopped eating and rushed to hug Ginger. Even the band director acknowledged her presence with a smile.

"Ginger's here!" he announced. "Now I know I have to play a line dance because I know she'll have everyone on the floor dancing."

Sure enough, Ginger led the line dance, moving her body in a smooth rhythm and swaying her arms with the grace of a trained ballerina. Beside her, other dancers look like lumbering elephants.

I usually dance the Electric Slide but I stayed in my seat to watch Ginger with total fascination, admiring her long black dress, her perfectly groomed hair and makeup, and most of all, the broad smile that never leaves her face. She dances with the joy of life.

Now that I've painted a picture of Ginger, you probably think she's some young glamour gal. But what I didn't tell you was her age.

Ginger is 88, soon to turn 89. And she is so visually impaired from macular degeneration that she cannot see detail, just broad outlines. She recognizes people by their voice.

I wonder how she can always be so perfectly groomed. I thought perhaps she spends a lot of money on clothes and a lot of time at the beauty shop. But her best friend said she doesn't have the money for that. She buys her clothes at thrift shops.

Six years ago, Ginger's husband died. With failing eyesight, the usual aches and pains of aging and an inability to drive, Ginger could have let herself be sidelined, lonely and blue in her apartment.

Not this woman. She's truly going to live until she dies, making the most of every day.

"I'm alone, but I don't have to be lonely. I call people for a ride and they are nice enough to take me with them when they go out. I believe in rejoicing for what I have and what I am able to do. not feeling sorry for myself for what I don't have," she says.

I'm telling you, I want to be like Ginger when I grow up.

The night after I saw Ginger, we went dancing at our favorite recreational center and enjoying being with another inspirational couple, Val and Bill. They, too, make quite a picture on the dance floor as they dance with remarkable energy and ability. People like watching their unique moves.

What few people know is that Bill is on constant oxygen when he's at home. He's also recovering from a stroke that left him unable to speak clearly.

Nor do people know that Val spent the past seven months in a hospital, undergoing one surgery after another and battling a serious Staph infection. She never tells anyone.

When people come up and ask how she is, she smiles and tells them she's wonderful and so is life.

She reminds me of my former TIMES NEWS colleague Joe Boyle. No matter what was going on in his life, he had one answer when someone asked how he was doing: "Wonderful, wonderful!"Some people, like Ginger, Val and Bill, and the late Joe Boyle, are larger than life. They shine with an enthusiasm for life that's an inspiration to the rest of us.

With their example, I'm singing the words to that old song:

"Ain't gonna miss a thing,

I'm gonna have my fling,

I'm gonna live, live,

Live until I die."

The song is not grammatical but it sure offers words to live by.

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