2011-07-01 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

The Measure Of A Man
Commentary By Dr. Nancy Gahles

I had my schedule perfectly planned to see my morning patients and then sit down to an inspired session of writing my column. My last patient of the morning informed me of the passing of a mutual friend’s husband. I was grateful that I had the time to attend the service although the thought did cross my mind that I might miss my deadline.

As Rabbi Margie said, one of the Mitzvots that Jewish people do is to honor the dead. My Dad used to echo the same sentiment, albeit in the hushed, somber tone of the Army. He would say, “We must bury our dead.” The implication was that we ushered them out with deep respect and honor. In essence, we stand by the family in support and we comfort them. That’s another Mitzvot, as we were told by the Rabbi. We comfort the mourners. We also call that compassion. It is instinctual for most of us.

I didn’t know Paul Schulman. I know his wife, the inestimable Myra. Myra Cohen, that is. A rare human being. So, apparently, was Paul. There is always the smattering of people who get up to speak at a funeral to extol the virtues of the deceased. This funeral was exceptional because there was a giant of a man to be spoken about. He had character, many talents, a Renaissance man from all accounts. What stood out to me was that he was a man of virtue. Virtues are those “things” we hear about in religion. The fact that we don’t hear that word bandied about in ordinary daily conversation is because there are precious few people that exude virtues that we can emulate.

Here was a man whose three grown daughters adored their father. They adored him because he was an example of living life to the fullest, of fulfilling your potential, of challenging yourself to go that extra mile when life and people say that you can’t. In fact, his physical therapist recounted how, just before he died, he walked to the Boulevard and then played the harmonica for an hour, with ¼ of a lung.

People got up to speak about a man they admired for the courage of his convictions, who loved with a depth that changed one’s life.

A love that challenged you to do the same. A love that came, saw and conquered. I was aware of who this “larger than life” man was through his wife, Myra. When I would see her walking and inquire as to Paul’s state of health, I would always conclude by saying, “He is living on love.” This was true. And it can and should be true for all of us. We can all consider the question, what is character? What is virtue? What are those qualities that we would want to emulate? What would you want people to remember about you? How can we put those qualities to work in our relationships so that we leave the world a better place than we found it? How can we live our life so that we make a lasting impression on our children?

That, my friends, is the measure of a man. That he stands tall in his own boots, secure in his own skin, faces life’s challenges with dignity and a sense of humor. And loves hard and deep. And laughs loud and maybe cynically. And shares his many talents with others. And leaves the world a better place. And leaves his children wishing for one more day with him.

I didn’t know Paul Schulman, but I knew a man just like him. My Dad. There are precious few men who can measure their accomplishments by the people whose lives they transformed.

So, while I hope I didn’t miss my deadline, I did follow the Rabbi’s instructions to talk about the deceased after they’ve gone and I hope that these words are a comfort to the mourners.

My final wish is that we are all touched in a way that inspires us to live our lives with character, virtue and integrity. It’s what makes the world go ‘round.

May The Blessings Be!

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