When I celebrate my birthday later this month, I won’t dwell on what my hairdresser knows for sure or how many wrinkles I have. I won’t even put a certain Beatles song about my age on my Facebook page.
What I will do is think about Adeline Cohen, a woman who spent nearly every waking moment of her 92 years spreading her wisdom, her joie de vivre and her desire to do good. She had no time for complaining about aches and pains or being envious of anyone. She believed that the secrets to longevity are to live with a purpose, to embrace age and to keep paying it forward. She reasoned that if a person goes into his or her senior years with the idea of living every day meaningfully, there is no time to worry about the trivial things. Instead, she spent that time bringing people together, enlightening them and empowering them.
Adeline was involved in everything – the, JCC, the Bureau of Jewish Education, Jewish Family Service (now part of Jewish Federation & Family Services), the Leisure World Federation, JFFS Women’s Philanthropy and B’nai B’rith, as well as tutoring immigrants, participating in job training, connecting young people with senior citizens and more. When she made a statement like, “I’m here for good,” you knew she meant it. You wanted to join her in whatever she was doing, and she inspired many people in the community to do just that. She had a master’s degree in psychology, attracted interesting people who wanted to make a difference and took great pleasure in connecting them with one another.
Along with more than 100 other women, I had the opportunity to reminisce about and pay tribute to Adeline at an Inspirational Women’s Luncheon held at the Merage Jewish Community Center on October 1. Fittingly, the speaker was Jerri Rosen, founder and director of Working Wardrobes, an organization that empowers people (both women and men) to find suitable employment by feeling good about themselves inside and out. Working Wardrobes was one of Adeline’s many pet projects, and people were invited to bring purses, shoes, accessories and scarves to donate to the organization.
Adeline’s daughter, Joanne Hanik, talked about how Adeline lived on in her and in each one of us. Even though she lived to be 92, we were all shocked at her death last year. In fact, it came just about a month after she was honored by the JCC. Elegant and eloquent as ever, she gave a beautiful speech that expressed her joy at living and giving. We all felt her presence in the room and knew she was smiling down on us when the video of the speech was played at the luncheon in October.
So here’s my promise to you, Adeline. Just as you inspired me, I am going to look for ways that I can pay it forward. Just as you forgot your pain in the hope of using that time and energy to help others, I am going to try to minimize the kvetching and maximize the doing.
My baby boomer generation might think it has found the fountain of youth in a variety of pursuits, but, Adeline, you found it in your own important way: Live each day to the fullest and be happy that you have something to give.
The phone number for Bubbe & Zayde’s Place was incorrectly listed in the October issue. It should be (714) 928-5030. Orange County Jewish Life regrets the error.