When I woke up this morning, I first opened the newspaper to the obituaries section (a morbid lifelong habit of mine). I was stunned to see the obituary of Jack Finlay.
Jack and I had been extras together in the FSU Film "Tosca." We were a couple attending a swanky party prior to an opera. We criss crossed the room a whole bunch of times, making silly small talk each time. In between takes, I learned that he had gone to school at Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Puerto Rico, as I had (different years); that he had been in a "real" film with Corey Feldman who was very down to earth; and that he had great suggestions for pursuing extras work. I had recently "friended" him on Facebook, and was looking forward to picking up where we had left off in the foyer of Bradfordville First Baptist Church (where Tosca was filmed).
Jack, 50 years old, died unexpectedly of a cardiac-related issue while auditioning for a part at the film school on September 20. One of his friends shared the last email Jack had sent the friend on Jack's Facebook page. It was full of support and positivity, including this line (written from 50 year old Jack to the 27 year old recipient): "What's weird is that I'm not really sure what 50's supposed to be, so you have become a great peer for me, not a 27 year old kid."
From a life perspective, Jack "timed out" before he could "age out." From the small amount of time I spent with him, I am pretty sure he didn't feel like "you are supposed to feel when you are 50" -- he felt alive and engaged.
When I think about another person who is older than me but lives her life in a way devoid of "supposed to's," I think of Margarete Deckert. Margarete is almost twice my age (76 to my 44). She and I are frequently in the same general vicinity of each other at races, and my family loves to remind me that I am getting "beat" by a 76 year old. Here's the thing -- the race times don't lie -- I have never crossed the finish line ahead of Margarete. But she did something for me in January 2009 following the Billy Bowlegs 5K that motivates me every single day: she handed me her "age group" award as she passed me in the parking lot. Here it is:
I hung Margarete's award up where it is one of the first things I see when I wake up every morning. Every time I look at it I feel that I have something to live up to; Margarete didn't pass along that award just to decorate my bedroom; the goal was to decorate my "drive" to improve my running times.
She's not aging out or timing out; she's on the "ultra" plan.
Several friends who are older than me frequently say something along the lines of "I don't feel [insert age number here]." I usually feel like saying, "well I feel ten years older than I am." And that usually leads me into the "supposed to's."
At every race, Margarete helps shoo those "supposed to's" off the course.
And for me personally, she and Jack appear to have been reading from the same script -- even if you are chronologically older, when you treat younger people as peers, no one "ages out."
Rest in peace, Jack.